(L-R) Libby Boschen, South Australian Minister for Health Jack Snelling, and Kurt Larsen
By Helen Carter
South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling is considering an option to increase the number of optometrists working in the state’s hospitals.
He has confirmed his team would talk to the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion about how they may be able to collaborate to enhance the South Australian Spectacle Scheme (SASS) to significantly increase access by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients to the scheme.
Mr Snelling said there was no money in the current budget to improve the spectacle scheme but he had not ruled out including a budget submission in the future.
He revealed the possibilities during a meeting in February with Optometry South Australia CEO Libby Boschen and president Kurt Larsen, and the department’s Director, Service Development, Lynne Cowan.
Ms Boschen and Mr Larsen reiterated that the SASS was unworkable, and a subsidised spectacles scheme needed to be quick and efficient to administer with real-time on-line claiming, and reflect contemporary products and prices.
Ms Boschen said 54 per cent of vision loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients was due to refractive error that could be corrected with spectacles.
‘The cost of spectacles is the biggest barrier stopping these patients from visiting an optometrist,’ she said.
‘A successful scheme in Victoria has led to a significant increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients visiting their optometrist for glasses, with the added benefit of a surge in the early detection of eye disease such as diabetic retinopathy.
‘This empowers the government to effectively implement cost-savings via preventative health strategies and provides positive outcomes for patients.’
Optometry South Australia reaffirmed optometry’s ability and readiness to complete diabetic retinopathy assessment efficiently in the community and to accept GP eye-related referrals, managing the presentations or referring them on to the most appropriate ophthalmologist for tertiary care as required.
‘We recognise that many GPs automatically refer eye health issues to ophthalmology when it would be easier, quicker and cheaper for the patient if they referred to optometry in the first instance,’ Ms Boschen said.
The delegation also expressed its strong opposition to a proposal to create a ‘super board’ by merging nine existing registration boards including the Optometry Board of Australia.