The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists responds to today’s article in The Australian on specialist training places for certain medical specialties, including ophthalmology (24 March 2018 ‘Students are scared’: Med limits hurt. The Australian).
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) welcomes any news that raises awareness of the importance of adequate training posts for medical specialties such as ophthalmology.
RANZCO is keen to train as many new ophthalmologists as required to meet the current and future needs of the Australian (and New Zealand) population, which is why the number of new ophthalmologists has in fact increased in recent years (from 28 in 2010-11 to 42 in 2015-16).
In particular, RANZCO is concerned about workforce maldistribution, with limited access to specialist services for people living in remote and regional areas meaning these people are more likely to suffer avoidable blindness.
With this in mind, RANZCO continues to call on governments, at both federal and state level, to facilitate and fund additional specialist training posts, with a particular focus on regional and rural areas. RANZCO has developed a regional training model to address the current maldistribution issues and we are calling on government to facilitate that by allocating additional training places in these areas.
In metropolitan areas, where waiting lists for surgeries such as cataract are unreasonably high, RANZCO continues to push for public hospital funding to meet demand. The problem in these areas is not a lack of ophthalmologists, but a lack of public hospital funding.
One Sydney based ophthalmologist explained that “There are ophthalmologists in public hospitals ready and willing to operate. Every week at Westmead Hospital, one ophthalmologist is told they cannot operate for a lack of funding and is asked to take annual leave instead.”
RANZCO President Associate Professor Mark Daniell explains that there needs to be a concerted effort to address maldistribution. “This is why we have a focus on training ophthalmologists who will work in regional and remote areas and on developing systems to facilitate that. We need government to facilitate additional training places in these regional areas to help meet demand.
“In addition, we need to ensure that we make proper use of the ophthalmologists who are available, and that means ensuring that public hospitals are adequately resourced, with theatre time made available for ophthalmologists to provide surgery for those people waiting.
“It is essential that we keep the needs of the patient at the forefront of healthcare planning, particularly as timely access to ophthalmology services can mean the difference between saving a person’s sight and them suffering irreversible blindness.”
For more information or to arrange an interview contact Emma Carr or Josie Faunce at RANZCO on 02 9690 1001 and firstname.lastname@example.org