On 15 April 2019 the IRIS program launched services into Western Australia with a week-long service to the community of Kununurra in the East Kimberley region, just over the NT/WA border. For this visit the IRIS team was pleased to work with the team from Lions Outback Vision, and was grateful for the warm welcome from the hospital team in the Kununurra District Hospital.
The most rewarding aspect of eye surgery is the immediate improvement in vision for patients who have had their cataract removed and a new lens inserted. This is particularly important for patients like Colin who runs Wundargoodie Tours but had to surrender his commercial HR licence earlier this year after failing his eye test. After a successful cataract surgery to his left eye, he left the clinic with a letter for WA Department of Transport that will allow him to have his licence renewed.
For some of these patients ‘remote’ doesn’t even begin to describe their situation when it comes to health service access. One example is Patsy, from Kutjungka (Balgo) who had a near 15 hour and 640km trip to get to Kununurra for her surgery. Visiting services provided under IRIS and the team in Lions Outback Vision ensure that patients like Patsy get access to eye surgery to prevent unnecessary vision impairment and, if untreated blindness.
Patients from across the Kimberley were seen in the clinics and 11 patients received surgery over a two-day surgical schedule including 7 cataract surgeries. The service in Kununurra is the third surgical service site for the IRIS program and is also third different State or Territory involved as the Program continues to work toward the commitment of 500 cataract surgeries for Indigenous and remote Australian communities by 30 June 2020.
The IRIS team is grateful for the collaboration on this visit from the team in Lions Outback Vision, the Kununurra District Hospital and the broader WA Country Health Service (WACHS) team.