Plan to restart eye-clinic service
IT’S hoped the Royal Newcastle Centre’s eye clinic will reopen by “mid-year”.
The Hunter New England Health District has revealed it has finalised discussions with local ophthalmologists and is working on a plan to begin the service again.
The clinic quietly closed towards the end of 2012.
This left public patients needing treatment for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetes with no choice but to see a private specialist or go to Sydney Eye Hospital for an initial consultation.
Hunter New England director of operations, acute networks, Todd McEwan said the re-establishment of the service was contingent on the support of ophthalmologists.
‘‘[We are] developing an action plan that will improve patients’ access to complex and tertiary services and reduce waiting times,’’ he said.
“Implementing clear referral pathways that provide patients with a number of options for their care will be central to this.
“Once final, this plan will be presented to local ophthalmologists to garner their willingness and support, with the aim of re-establishing eye clinics mid-year.
“HNE Health will then communicate with patients, GPs, optometrists and ophthalmologists to advise them of the services available.”
Mr McEwan said the waiting list for ophthalmology outpatient clinics had gone from 869 in October last year to 389 people in January.
At present, patients can still have surgery at the John Hunter Hospital but have to see a private specialist as a public patient for consultations.
The Newcastle clinic lost its training accreditation with the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists in 2012 because of dilapidated equipment and lack of staff.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said it was disappointing to see Health Minister Jillian Skinner promoting Sydney’s new resources when Newcastle continued to suffer.
“I was floored to see the Liberal minister strutting around down in Sydney – when her closure of the John Hunter facility in 2012 has left hundreds of eye patients stranded on waiting lists,” Mr Robertson said.
“You couldn’t get a clearer case of a state Liberal government treating the Hunter with absolute contempt.
“Barry O’Farrell opens eye clinics in Sydney – in Newcastle he barricades them shut.”
Ms Skinner rejected claims her government was forgetting Newcastle, pointing out The Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation provided $1million for its new eye clinic.
“This is yet another example of Labor playing politics with patients,” Ms Skinner said.
“Hunter New England Health District continues to work with local ophthalmologists to improve patient access to services.
“It is a complex matter and one I know the health district is working hard to resolve for the benefit of local patients.’’