By Philip Ritchie
George & Matilda Eyecare has reopened its Liverpool practice in New South Wales with more resources dedicated to expansion, equipment and training.
The premises have doubled in size. ‘We’re really happy with the way it turned out. We started from scratch with a clean sheet of paper eight months ago,’ George & Matilda CEO Chris Beer said.
The Australian-owned acquisition group now has 40 practices across Australia. Mr Beer says each practice stays mostly independent but represents the wider goals of the company.
‘Optometry hasn’t taken a big enough role in the practice designs that we’ve seen pretty much anywhere in Australia or New Zealand,’ Mr Beer said. ‘When you look around the world, they’re all pretty similar: a small optometry practice at the back and a big retail space. What we wanted to do is create more balance between optometry and the retail environment.’
The Liverpool practice expanded from one consulting room to two, together with retail and pretesting areas. Mr Beer says the resources dedicated to reopening the Liverpool practice included the provision of additional equipment and staff training.
An owner of the Liverpool practice optometrist Margaret Lam says it represents the practice’s move away from mostly supplying spectacles to expanding the scope of health care for patients. Ms Lam is head of professional services at George & Matilda Eyecare.
‘The scope and capacity of what we need to be able to handle as optometrists will increase naturally with time,’ she said.
‘There has been a big change in the equipment. The practice now has an optical coherence tomographer and a visual field analyser, so we can work more closely in collaborative care with ophthalmologists for the management of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.’
Ms Lam says she’s also working more closely with general practitioners and ophthalmologists in the area to comanage macular degeneration and myopia. ‘With the new equipment, we are better able to continue to manage more complex conditions,’ she said.
‘Previously, as with most practices, we had a Humphrey FDT visual field device, so we were doing visual fields, but you need to have the same equipment across ophthalmology practices and optometry practices, so the test results are compatible. That’s going to become more consistent across a lot of comanaging relationships between the two professions.’
Ms Lam says long waiting lists to see ophthalmologists at public hospitals played a part in motivating the practice’s expansion. ‘We have the potential to improve outcomes for patients in a very profound way in terms of seeing them much sooner, implementing care and treating them before loss of sight.’
She says the practice has the same staff members as it had before the reopening and they’re undertaking training to use the new equipment. ‘We’re diagnosing patients earlier and saving them multiple trips. Now we have the right tools to test, with more authority, and make sure we have evidence of glaucoma earlier and treat it earlier,’ she said.
‘We’re discussing with local schools now about a vision screening program to donate our time to screening every child at public schools in the local areas, to ensure there are no children who fall through the cracks or experience learning difficulties due to vision-related issues.’
According to Mr Beer, George & Matilda’s next step is to reopen its flagship store in George Street, Sydney, in February or March next year. The store is expected to have a design similar to that of the Liverpool practice.