21/10/2016 - 13:55

Turner’s vision becomes reality

21/10/2016 - 13:55

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The Lions Outback Vision Van has treated about 1,500 patients across 16 regional communities since it first hit the road six months ago. 

Turner’s vision becomes reality
VISIONARY: Angus Turner (right) conducts an eye examination as part of the Lions Outback Vision program. Photo: Alan McDonald

The Lions Outback Vision Van has treated about 1,500 patients across 16 regional communities since it first hit the road six months ago.

The 20-metre van is a mobile eye healthcare service that aims to provide care to the most isolated people in Western Australia.

Entrepreneurial eye specialist and 40under40 winner Angus Turner, who established Lions Outback Vision in 2010, said the van delivered ophthalmology clinic-based care for all major eye conditions.

“The van has had great success in its first year and the communities have been really supportive,” Dr Turner told Business News.

“A great part of this year’s Vision program has been the increased rate of attendance; we’ve had much higher numbers than usual for our outreach trips.

“It must have something to do with the visibility of such a large truck coming to town.”

According to the Lions Eye Institute, specialist coverage is as much as 19 times lower in remote parts of WA than in the state’s urban areas, with residents in isolated areas far less likely to have visited an ophthalmologist.

There is a big gap between outback eye health service provision and that in the metropolitan area," Dr Turner said.

“While most vision loss can be corrected overnight, 35 per cent of indigenous adults have never had an eye examination.”

Of the almost 1,500 patients treated by the specialists in the van, 661 have been Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders. Dr Turner said the team had worked closely with Aboriginal Medical Service sites as well as with existing health facilities where larger surgery procedures had been required.

“The vision van visits twice a year with optometry visits on more regular occasions so there is continuity of care," he said.

“Telehealth has been a really important addition to what we’re doing with the vision van; I spend a lot of time speaking to optometrists on telehealth and do internet consultations.”

“So patients are saved multiple trips to see a specialist … they just come once to our van.”

Dr Turner and his team have run 75 clinics from Albany to Kununurra, with specialist staff experienced in rural and remote health benefiting from the van’s facilities, which exceeded the capabilities of those in some tertiary hospital facilities.

Dr Turner said the van’s first year had been successful and hoped it would continue to deliver on its goal to lead greater equity of access to specialist eye health services across WA.

The van was made possible through support from the WA Department of Health, McCusker Foundation and Lotterywest, and Dr Turner said the plan so far was to keep the van running as a five-year program.

Dr Turner and his team have three more towns to go for 2016 as part of the van’s twice-yearly tour around the state.

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