Steps to reduce Ophthalmology backlog

Media release 20 July 2018 | Efforts to reduce the backlog of patients needing eye treatment in Counties Manukau will continue on Saturday with the fourth in a series of “mega clinics” to be held at the Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) SuperClinic in Manurewa.

The clinics, which have been held in May and June, have been funded and run by CM Health and supported by the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and aimed at seeing as many patients as possible to reduce overdue appointments.

By the end of the latest clinic, CM Health expects to have seen approximately 550 extra patients.

Simon Dean, Head of Department, Ophthalmology, says the backlog of patients needing eye treatment is part of a national problem.

“In Counties Manukau there are several factors contributing to the challenges our communities face,” he says. “Clinics are only part of the solution and CM Health is also taking other proactive steps to address the issue.

“For example we have expanded the number of clinic rooms by opening the Galbraith Ophthalmology Suite in July 2017, and recruiting extra personnel including two ophthalmologists, nurses and four advance practice optometrists who have trained under the supervision of ophthalmologists,” he says.

Dr Dean says diabetes, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are conditions requiring many patients to be monitored for the remainder of their lives by an ophthalmology team (including ophthalmologists, optometrists, and nurses).

“The South Auckland population has a high prevalence of these chronic conditions, and associated risk factors have meant demand growth is even greater within our population. In addition, many of our patients can’t afford optometrist appointments, further increasing demand.”

Dr Dean says such high demand has exceeded CM Health’s capacity to train and recruit skilled staff through ongoing recruitment efforts continue.


He says the weekend clinics have been helpful and CM Health appreciates the support of RANZCO to deliver them.

“We are very grateful for the support of both our own staff and other eye care professionals from around New Zealand to work extra hours to cover the clinics. We have made good progress and we will continue to run extra weekend and evening clinics in an effort to catch up; however we need a sustainable solution to see the thousands still waiting.”

The number of patients seen at CM Health has more than doubled over the past few years from 18,000 to 50,000 encounters a year which is a huge credit to the team, Dr Dean says.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of patients seen and treated as a result of the collective efforts of the ophthalmology team with the helpful addition of national collegial support.  As a result we have been able to increase the number of patients seen in the last 12 months by 18 per cent,” Dr Dean says

CM Health has also treated 1685 patients for cataract surgery up to the end of May 2018 against a full-year target of 1319.  The DHB’s intervention rate for cataract surgery is significantly above target and equates to an intervention rate of 36.64 surgeries per 10,000 population. (The national target is 27 procedures per 10,000 population).

“One of the reasons for this is that we have successfully increased the number of cataract surgeries on an all-day operating list to 14,” he says.

In addition, CM Health has brought the retinal screening programme in house which has increased its capacity to earlier identify patients at risk of diabetic retinopathy.    The DHB’s retinal screening volumes have increased by 28 per cent and will be to 15,500 in 2018 and 17,000 in 2019.

“The volume of patients to be assessed and treated will continue to grow.  We are working across the region to plan for future growth and to ensure equity of access and that services are focussed on those most at risk for loss of vision.”


CM Health media line 09 250 9857

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