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04-23-2007, 01:10 PM
The Commonwealth Government will spend $184,000 over the next 12 months to develop an improved model to deliver eye care for people in Central Australia.

The funding will employ an eye health program manager as part of a broader government-community eye-health partnership in Central Australia, Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott, said today.

"The eye health program manager will work to better co-ordinate existing eye-health service delivery arrangements. One of the objectives will be to cut waiting lists for eye surgery in Central Australia. This will include additional sessions of eye surgery at the Alice Springs Hospital," Mr Abbott said.

The partnership includes the Commonwealth Government, the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, and the Eye Foundation.

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation will work with the hospital to ensure Aboriginal patients throughout the region are appropriately cared for before and after the necessary surgical procedures.

Brian Doolan, CEO of the Fred Hollows Foundation, said the partnership had adopted "a no-nonsense approach, the way Professor Fred Hollows did things - practical solutions to health problems in Central Australia.

"All the parties have come to the table and are keen to identify and knock over obstacles. There are certainly more difficulties for people in places like Docker River to get access to good eye health services than there are for the residents of Double Bay in Sydney. Those difficulties are exactly what we have joined together to overcome."

The program covers an area of 1.6 million square kilometers of Central Australia, making it geographically one of the largest integrated eye health programs in the world.

The Northern Territory Minister for Health, Chris Burns, praised the Fred Hollows Foundation for this new chapter in its long history of improving eye health in Aboriginal people.

"This project contributes to the very worthy work of Fred Hollows himself," Dr Burns said. "It represents an important partnership between the government and the non-government sector to improve Aboriginal health. The Territory Government is proud to support this initiative with more than $86,000 in theatre consumables and office space, and the expertise of an ophthalmologist from Alice Springs Hospital."

The eye conditions most common among people in Central Australia are refractive error, cataracts, trachoma and diabetic retinopathy. Seventy per cent of people awaiting eye surgery in Central Australia require surgery for cataracts.

www.health.gov.au