The Lions Outback Vision Kimberley Eye Hub in Broome has been officially opened in a ceremony celebrating the progress being made in treating eye disease in the sparse Kimberley and Pilbara regions.
The service, which was the brainchild of LOV founder Associate Professor Angus Turner, was officially opened on Monday 3 October in a ceremony attended by Senator Patrick Dodson and Ms Divina D’Anna MLA. It will provide greater equity of eye health services and transform patient care in the remote, regional and vulnerable Aboriginal communities across the North West.
The hub opened its doors in April 2021, but the launch marked the completion of the second phase of building works, which was formerly the Kimberley Klub backpacker hostel. It was donated to LOV by the Wen Giving Foundation and Hawaiian Group and has since undergone a significant transformation, while retaining the distinctive façade of the hostel.
Ultimately, the facility will provide permanent specialised eye health services in Broome and outreach to 20 communities and five regional towns across the Kimberley. It includes a full-service eye clinic with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, education and training spaces, a café and facilities for multi-disciplinary use by visiting specialists.
There are three resident LOV doctors, two resident optometrists and a number of other staff.
Turner, the McCusker director of LOV, said the model bridges geographical barriers. It will also build on the impressive work of LOV staff who, in 2021, treated more than 13,800 patients, including 3,000+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Total treatments included 1,400 telehealth consultations and more than 900 eye surgeries.
“The hub enables us to treat patients closer to home, and this accessibility is crucial in dealing with the challenges of remote eye health. People in isolated places like the North West have more blindness and complications from eye disease than in other places,” he said.
“In particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have more than three times the rates of blindness and 14 times the rates of vision loss from diabetes.”
Approximately 11% of the North West Aboriginal lander population are vision impaired or blind, and 35 per cent of this population have never had an eye exam.
RANZCO Professor Nitin Verma described the Lions Outback Vision Kimberley Eye Hub as an exemplar of what can be achieved with vision, pragmatism and collaboration.
“I had the pleasure of visiting Angus in May last year. It is amazing to see the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. The service brings the concept of equity of access to life – creating a hub for a population dispersed over our vast and sunburnt country,” he said.
“Is it a model for others to follow and a blueprint for RANZCO as we bring Vision 2030 and beyond to fruition. Angus’ commitment to equity is commendable and it is a commitment shared by so many ophthalmologists across Australia and New Zealand. It is the collective vision of the college, and we are proud to support Angus and his team on their endeavours.”
Turner said the development of the hub had also enabled the LOV team to put resources into prevention and education activities in communities. He said the next goal was to develop a day surgery in Broome, which would alleviate pressure on the Broome Hospital and enable more timely surgical and treatment interventions.
In addition to the Wen Giving Foundation and Hawaiian Group, the hub has been supported by the Western Australian and Federal Governments, Kerry Stokes and Christine Simpson Stokes, McCusker Charitable Foundation, Channel 7 Telethon Trust, Fred Hollows Foundation, Rural Health West and industry partners including Zeiss, Alcon and Topcon.