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Australian College of Optometry extends clinic network

The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) has established a public health optometry clinic in a new state responding to unmet eyecare needs in both the general population and disadvantaged communities.

Ms Amanda Vanstone, former Minister and Senator for South Australia, officially opened the clinic, located in the northern Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth, last week at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The opening marks significant milestone for public eyecare in the South Australia.

Elizabeth Eye Care will offer bulk-billing for all patients, with no out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging services. The clinic will also provide comprehensive referral pathways and low-cost spectacles through the state government’s GlassesSA scheme.

ACO CEO Ms Maureen O’Keefe said the clinic was opened following a comprehensive review of Australian states that identified uptake of eyecare services in South Australia was below the national average across both the general population and in disadvantaged communities.

“The ACO has established a public health optometry clinic in Elizabeth towards helping provide accessible and affordable eyecare for South Australians, and as a base for developing an outreach program for disadvantaged and vulnerable people and remote communities,” she said.

The ACO, a not-for-profit that has traditionally operated clinics across Metropolitan Melbourne alongside a comprehensive outreach program, has fitted out a former medical building with four consulting rooms in Elizabeth. Optometrist Mr Tristan Glover and a dispenser are currently employed at the clinic, with plans to expand the service in the future.

As part of its service, the ACO states it is committed to providing culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as asylum seeker and refugee communities, people with disabilities and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

“We are about filling the gaps, and would like to see an increase in the number of people in the community who are accessing eye care. We are not looking to provide services where they are not needed,” O’Keefe said.

The clinic’s referral pathways will be linked with GPs and ophthalmologists. It will also explore opportunities to co-manage patients with local public hospitals, building on collaborative care models that have been established with the Victorian public health system.

O’Keefe said the clinic would eventually offer outreach services that would have a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“The real public health value-add is through outreach because that’s a model that reaches the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.”

ACO director of clinical services Mr Neville Turner said: “Our aim is to work with other healthcare providers in South Australia to increase the number of people having their eyes checked so as to prevent the risk of avoidable blindness and vision loss, which is an increasing risk as the population ages and with the growing incidence of chronic disease including diabetes.”

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