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No end in sight for patients on waiting list

Media Release
11 November 2003
For immediate release


No end in sight for patients on waiting list

Blindness is taking hold while New Zealanders wait for specialist eye treatment.

At last week’s Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists conference, ophthalmologist Dr Gillian Clover expressed concern about the number of patients with diabetic retinopathy that are waiting for eye treatments around the country.

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and causes a progressive degenerative disease of the retina. It results in blurred or patchy vision and eventual blindness if left untreated.

A lack of resources has meant that some people are left waiting for up to nine months for eyesight-saving treatment.

Dr. Clover stated: “People are sitting on waiting lists going blind, and that is unacceptable”.

The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) fully supports Dr Clover’s concern. To the RNZFB, this situation is certainly unacceptable.

The RNZFB’s Blindness Awareness and Prevention Division has been lobbying the government for funding for preventative treatment programmes for people who are at risk of diabetic retinopathy, due to the rapid increase of diabetes in New Zealand.

About 30% of people with Type 2 diabetes will have some form of diabetic retinopathy, which in its most severe cases can cause people to go blind. However, if detected in its earliest stages, loss of vision due to diabetes can be prevented with laser surgery.

The RNZFB’s own membership figures indicate that the number of RNZFB members with diabetic retinopathy has increased 169% since 1995. This data indicates that unless some kind of effective preventative measure is taken in the next ten years, diabetic retinopathy and consequently RNZFB membership, is set to increase at rates that the Foundation simply cannot cater for effectively.

Chris Inglis, RNZFB divisional manager, Blindness Awareness and Prevention, says it is crucial that the government shows its support of blindness prevention initiatives by allocating funding to alleviate the current backlog of New Zealanders requiring treatment.

“Diabetic retinopathy is a ticking time bomb, and the possibility of sight loss is hanging over the heads of far too many New Zealanders. It is essential that government provides the resources to lessen the effects of diabetic retinopathy on the eyes and most importantly remove the waiting lists for treatment,” says Ms Inglis.

“This is definitely one issue where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The RNZFB supports Diabetes Awareness Week (18 - 24 November) and is urging all New Zealanders to get their eyes checked, particularly if they have Type 2 diabetes.


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