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Ophthalmology more than cataracts - RANZCO

Thursday, 20 July 2006

Ophthalmology more than cataracts - RANZCO

Ophthalmologists have welcomed the news that more people than planned have received cataract surgery. Health Minister Pete Hodgson announced today that 330 more cataract operations have been carried out in the 11 months to 31 May than had been planned.

The New Zealand Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists says this is good news for patients. Ophthalmologists are the medical practitioners who perform eye operations.

However, ophthalmology is not just about cataracts, says Stephen Best, Chairman of the New Zealand Branch of RANZCO.

"We fully support the Government's initiative and are impressed that the Government has recognized the need for more cataract surgery. Ophthalmologists support the initiative, and this is reflected in the greater than planned number of operations.

However, ophthalmologists do not want the cataract surgery initiative to be carried out at the expense of patients who have diseases which can cause blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Cataracts do not cause permanent loss of vision.

"Counting numbers of cataract operations is a bit like the police counting speeding infringements. They are both easy to measure, but just as policing is a lot more complex than catching speedsters, there is more to ophthalmology than the number of people having cataract operations."

Dr Best says the Government plans to launch a revised prioritization system for cataract operations (CPAC - Cataract Prioritization Assessment Criteria) in Queenstown Friday week (28 July). The NZ Branch of RANZCO believes it is vital for any priority system to ensure that the people most affected by cataracts (ie those who are unable to drive) have appropriate priority.

"Ophthalmology is not just about ticking off the numbers, the most urgent cases of both cataracts and other eye diseases need to be seen first," Dr Best concluded.


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