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Problems in the country, specialists in the city

Wednesday, 16th September, 2009

A local optometrist said he was not surprised by a new report that says that while a third of Australians with eye problems live in country areas, most eye health professionals work in the big cities.

Lharn Howard from Blue Frog Optics said he and his brother Vern decided to open the Argent Street clinic after seeing a gap in the local optometry market. Lharn, who has worked as an optometrist for nine years, said he was not surprised by the "Eye health labour force in Australia" report, released last week. It found that about 80 per cent of eye health workers lived in major cities, but more than 33 per cent of people with eye health problems lived in the country. Lharn said most of his university friends stayed in the capital cities and that he and his brother decided to buck the trend by setting up shop in Broken Hill and Mildura. The pair, who have family members in Broken Hill, said they were also attracted to the country because of the lifestyle. Since establishing their local business, Lharn said customers have been happy with the six-days a week access to an optometrist as well as the referrals to ophthalmologists and other specialists.

The brothers offer a range of services including spectacle prescription and screening for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and blood vessel damage as a result of diabetes, fixing red eye and removing foreign bodies in the eye. They said they aim to provide the highest level of care possible and recently returned from an optometry fair in Sydney with two state of the art pieces of eye testing equipment. The first piece of equipment is a modern field testing device specific in monitoring and managing glaucoma. The machine targets the cells that are first affected with glaucoma earlier and more accurately than machines of the past. "By acquiring these glaucoma specific testing machines and liasing with patient's ophthalmologists, the end result would be a better continuity of care and potentially longer intervals between specialist visits," Lharn said. The second piece of equipment is a non-contact tonometer which enables eye pressure tests to be carried out without the use of anaesthetic drops. Vern said the technology enabled a wider range of people to have their eye pressures tested. "Now with equipment we can get accurate pressure readings on every eye using a simple and quick procedure - so no more yellow stained eyes." Lharn and Vern alternate between the Broken Hill and Mildura clinics, meaning an optometrist is always available in both stores.

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