Indigenous, Local, News

Close the Gap Day: RANZCO commits to more Indigenous ophthalmologists

As Australia marks National Close the Gap Day, RANZCO has reaffirmed its commitment to increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ophthalmologists.

The college is supporting the national awareness campaign – held on the third Thursday in March each year – which aims to send federal and state governments a clear message that Australians value health equality as a fundamental right for all.

Queensland-based Dr Kris Rallah-Baker (a Yuggera and Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggera man) became the nation’s first and only Indigenous ophthalmologist a few years ago and the college has confirmed no trainees currently identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

But RANZCO CEO Dr David Andrews said the college’s commitment to increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ophthalmologists in Australia “is stronger than ever”.

He said RANZCO has developed measures to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors to enrol in its Vocational Training Program. These include scholarships for doctors to attend training and participation in conferences and workshops organised for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

Andrews added: “RANZCO’s Reconciliation Action Plan framework commits us to activities towards achieving equitable access and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We are continuing to build collaborative partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the health sector, seeking to further enhance our organisation’s cultural awareness and cultural safety practices.”

RANZCO states that it appreciates the challenges that arise with delivering appropriate and effective healthcare to communities. It supports a genuine partnership approach to work with governments and communities to enhance service delivery, strengthen regional networks and support Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to further embed eyecare in their service delivery models.

As a result, the college is calling on the government to:

  • Commit funding to support the implementation of Strong Eyes, Strong Communities, a five-year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision 2019-24;
  • Commit to providing adequate and long-term financial resources to achieve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality;
  • Invest in real partnerships, including increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and control around health service delivery; and
  • Address critical social issues of housing, education and self-determination that contribute to the health crisis affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“RANZCO is proud to have signed the Close the Gap Pledge and will continue to work towards improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to close the gap in eye health,” the college stated.

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