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Cataract blitzes not long-term solution

Cataract blitzes not long-term solution
Photo: Cataract blitzes not long-term solution
Surgical blitzes to treat eye disease don't fix long-term problems in Indigenous eye care, say experts.

Surgical blitzes to treat cataracts might make investors feel good but indigenous Australians urgently need ongoing eye services, say ophthalmologists.

"Australia should be leading the way in showing how to deliver eye care, rather than consistently showing how not to," said the Medical Journal of Australia article.

Professor Hugh Taylor, Indigenous Eye Health chair at the University of Melbourne, and his coauthors said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a sixfold greater chance of blindness than non-Indigenous Australians.

"They have 12 times higher rates of cataract blindness, but receive seven times less cataract surgery," they said.
The surgical blitzes started in the 1970s, when an Australian Army field hospital team worked for a week at each site, carrying out sight-restoring eye surgery on about 100 Aborigines.

But the authors say there is a need for ongoing sustainable local services, noting the continuing blitzes in rural and remote locations seem to provide a quick and rewarding solution.

"Blitzes usually receive government and private funding, so the investors feel good that something is being done and they obtain positive publicity.

"But the patients who turn up the next week do not feel so good.

"They do not know how long they will have to stay blind while awaiting another blitz."

Surgical blitzes may be justified in developing countries, but Australia has none of their resource constraints.

"Australia in 2015 has a sophisticated health system with the capacity to provide the services required."

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