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Indigenous People’s & Eye Health – Aboriginal Health Services during COVID-19

Published: 10.08.2020

Hello everyone, so since my last update in 2017 it has been a busy few years.  I am still honored to be able to work closely with Aboriginal Health Services in NSW.   I am now Head of Australia Programs, so I am learning quickly about the Northern Territory and working with out team based in Darwin and Alice Springs to provide comprehensive eye examinations and glasses to approximately 55 rural and remote communities.   I am still coming across many Aboriginal Health Practitioners who as I said last time are the true champions on this International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

I am so very proud of how the Aboriginal Health Services have adjusted to the global pandemic COVID-19.  The Brien Holden Foundation team had to suspend all Visiting Optometry Services in NSW and NT.  The wonderful primary health care workers have stepped up to the plate and ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients have glasses, if a patient presents with an eye complaint, they are calling our optometrists at the Brien Holden Foundation for tele-optometry services.   We are happy to be slowly returning, back to communities to provide essential eye health services with strict COVID protocols in place.

Emma Dargin (right), the Condobolin AHS Eye Health Co-ordinator, who saved a patient’s sight by recognising proliferative diabetic retinopathy, pictured with Frith Semmens, Condobolin AHS nurse, with their retinal camera)

The Brien Holden Foundation in partnership with the Western NSW Eye Health Partnership funding by NSW Rural Doctors Network adapted our face to face training with an online zoom webinar this year due to COVID travel restrictions – The Role of Primary Healthcare Workers in Eye Care. We had 46 participants stay online for the 2.5 hours session.   It was great to receive such positive feedback at the end of the training, especially these ones:  ‘Training more health workers in this field would be very essential. Prevention in better than cure.’ and ‘Thank you this course has given me the additional knowledge to aid in my job as a nurse practitioner in the emergency setting in rural and remote settings. 

The Provision of Eye Health Equipment and Training project continues to roll out to primary health care services across Australia that predominately provide services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.  We will have 162 Retinal Cameras out in the field shortly with to-date 953 primary health care workers trained to take retinal photos and triage patients.  This project has recently received an additional $1.6M from the Australia Government to roll out Slit Lamps across Australia as part of this project so the next 12 months will be extremely busy working with local Health Services, Optometrists and Ophthalmologist to ensure they have appropriate slit lamps to continue and expand comprehensive eye examinations and treatment across our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

I am extremely proud to be part of the Brien Holden Foundation team and to have the privilege to work with so many talented health practitioners.  Please visit the Brien Holden Foundation website to find out more about the services we provide in Australia and Internationally

Disclaimer: The views, ideas, technologies or policy positions in these blog posts belong to the authors and do not necessarily describe IAPB’s position or views on these matters.