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IDEAS Van merges with St John Ambulance to tackle ‘tyranny of distance’

The IDEAS Van has joined forces with St John Ambulance Queensland, which will now operate the mobile ophthalmic facility across the state and in other regions.

The first ophthalmic treatment facility of its kind in Australia was established eight years ago with a grant from Queensland Health. Since then, it has delivered outpatient services to thousands of remote and rural patients in Queensland and Victoria and involved more than 35 voluntary optometrists, ophthalmologists and orthoptists.

The 19-metre, three-room treatment facility is fully equipped with advanced ophthalmic technology to deliver bulk billed services.

Under the merger, St John Ambulance Queensland will now operate the IDEAS Van.

“The last eight years have been spent refining operations of our mobile outpatient facility, the first of its kind in Australia,” IDEAS Van founding CEO Ms Lyndall De Marco said.

“It has been an extraordinary journey, with over 7,000 patients treated, mostly complex cases, receiving their specialist services by our world-class ophthalmologists, completely bulk billed to Medicare with no out-of-pocket expenses.

Bundaberg ophthalmologist Dr Isabel McLean preparing a patient for an eye injection.

“Patients have been treated in Victorian and Queensland communities, close to home, and in collaboration with Emerald and Gladstone hospitals [in Queensland] which have utilised the IDEAS Van to conduct their ophthalmic outpatients’ clinics since 2019.”

With St John Ambulance – a charitable, non-profit, humanitarian organisation – having saved many lives and tackled issues such as isolation and disadvantage, De Marco said it was an ideal new home for the IDEAS Van to continue and extend its outreach program.

St John Australia has been active for more than 130 years and internationally is part of a global organisation with a long and honorable history. One of its pillars is ophthalmology, with St John establishing the world’s first eye hospital in Jerusalem in 1882 that still operates today.

Mr Stephen Porter, CEO of St John’s Queensland, added: “We are delighted for the opportunity to build on the success of the IDEAS Van which has developed an extraordinary partnership with the medical, corporate and public sectors.

“St John Ambulance is dedicated to enhancing the lives of all those in regional areas, with a renewed focus on resilience, wellbeing and community. This outstanding facility will make it possible for more ophthalmologists to bring their expertise to people that are marginalised due to the tyranny of distance and access. It will enable Australia’s most vulnerable communities to address the issue of avoidable blindness.”

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