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Optometrists Applaud Cataract Funding Plan

3 May 2005

Optometrists Applaud Cataract Funding Plan

Primary eye care practitioners say increased funding for cataract surgery will greatly improve access to cataract assessment and surgery in New Zealand.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and Health Minister, Annette King, have announced that the Government will spend an extra $17 million over the next three years in providing a total of up to 7500 more cataract operations.

Dr Lesley Frederikson, national director of the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO) says the funding boost will mean that patient care pathways being used overseas can now be adopted in New Zealand, allowing optometrists to provide cataract assessments and follow-ups to patients in their local communities.

"This will make the process far more accessible and will mean many more of our older people will have their vision restored, leading to greater independence in their daily lives," says Dr Frederikson.

Today's announcement - made while Helen Clark and Annette King viewed a live cataract operation beamed into the Health Minister's Beehive office from the mobile surgical bus in Kapiti - was welcomed by Kapiti optometrist, John Grylls.

Mr Grylls is helping provide local follow-up services for Wellington surgeon, Steve Mackey, who carried out today's operations. Patients have the choice of a trip to the Wellington Hospital Eye Department for follow-up or a visit to their local optometrist.

"Cataract surgery makes a huge difference in a person's quality of life and it is wonderful to see the change in a patient after they undergo the operation," says Mr Grylls.

The NZAO is currently working on new initiatives under the Healthy People - Healthy Eyes strategy which it hopes will improve eye health services for a number of potentially blinding conditions.


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