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RANZCO responds to Southern DHB ophthalmic incidents review

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) welcomes the publication of the Review of 34 ophthalmic (eye) incidents in the Southern DHB (SDHB) identified in the period 1 July 2015 to 30 September 2016 by Dr James Stewart and Kate McIntyre. It is important that we understand exactly how and why such a large number of Serious Adverse Events in ophthalmic care were able to take place. Southern DHB should therefore be congratulated for commissioning this review to shine a light on the failings that allowed this to occur and for taking positive steps to try to ensure that this terrible situation is not repeated in the future.

RANZCO also joins the reviewers in extending condolences to all the patients affected and their families/whānau.

RANZCO supports the recommendations made in the report, particularly around the need for increased capacity in terms of clinical staff; support staff, including management and coordination staff; equipment and physical clinical space. RANZCO has in the past highlighted that there is increasing demand for ophthalmology services in New Zealand, due largely to improvements in sight-saving treatments, rising levels of diabetes and an aging population. Without additional capacity, it is impossible for clinicians and staff to meet the needs of the increasing number of patients who require ongoing care to prevent vision loss and blindness.

RANZCO also particularly supports the recommendation that there needs to be a national strategic approach to eye care, including a discussion on ophthalmic priorities, with avoidance of blindness being a key priority; national reporting of overdue appointment statistics and systems to ensure adequate funding for major new healthcare technologies that can have a substantial positive impact on people’s eye health.

Dr Brian Kent-Smith, Chair of RANZCO’s New Zealand Branch, welcomed the review, “This review examines the causes of serious adverse events in ophthalmology in Southern DHB and makes a range of recommendations for actions, at both regional and national levels, to help prevent more patients from being adversely affected in the future. It is essential that DHBs recognise where problems lie and take decisive action to rectify any failings.

“It is also essential that the government takes a strategic and long-term approach to ensuring there is capacity across all DHBs to ensure that demand for ophthalmic services can be met now and in the future. RANZCO is working with DHBs and the government to ensure that action is taken to address issues at both regional and national levels to ensure capacity. RANZCO is keen to assist with strategic planning and coordination of ophthalmic service provision to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet patients’ needs and prevent avoidable blindness in the future.

“The Ministry of Health has commissioned a report looking at the model of care for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and we expect that report to be published in the coming weeks. RANZCO has worked closely with the Ministry of Health; bodies such as Macular Degeneration New Zealand and EY, the report’s authors, in the development of this model. We expect the final report to provide a workable model for the early diagnosis, care and treatment of people with AMD. We look forward to continuing to work with government to ensure a smooth implementation of those recommendations and we hope that this strategic model of care can be adapted for other ophthalmic disease groups to create a sustainable approach to eye care across New Zealand.”

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) is the medical college responsible for the training, examination and professional development of ophthalmologists in Australia and New Zealand. We seek to improve eye health across Australia and New Zealand, as well as further afield, by providing best quality education, training and continuing professional developments; by promoting eye health care and the work of ophthalmologists; and through collaboration with others involved in the delivery of eye health care.

For more information, please contact Emma Carr, General Manager of Communications, RANZCO, at or on +61 2 9690 1001.

Last updated: April 8, 2019

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