To enhance the eye health of First Nations people in the Wide Bay Burnett region, St John’s Eye Van service has returned to the Bundaberg region.
This latest initiative marks a significant milestone with it coinciding with the profit-for-purpose charity celebrating 140 years of service this month.
The St John’s Ambulance Eye Van is the first of its kind in the world, and thanks to the support of UD Trucks Australia, is bringing world-class facilities to rural and remote communities in an effort to substantially reduce blindness and visual impairment amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with diabetes, treating over 7000 people since its inception in 2013.
Lauren Pulitano, Vice President of UD Trucks Australia, praised the St John Eye Van initiative and its impact on Queensland communities.
“We congratulate St John Ambulance on its 140th anniversary in Australia and for the commendable work undertaken throughout this time,” she said.
“The Eye Van is a true testament to St John’s dedication to improving quality of life and to see this impact is very special.
“At UD Trucks, our purpose is Better Life, and we are proud to be a partner of St John and the Eye Van and to have our UD Quon GK 4×2 prime mover powering the clinic across Queensland, allowing St John’s incredible team to deliver life-changing ophthalmology services to rural and remote communities that need it most.”
Lyndall De Marco, the General Manager of Ophthalmic Programs for St John Ambulance Queensland, emphasised the importance of this endeavour.
“Our sight-saving program reduces preventable blindness through our mobile ophthalmic treatment facility,” she said.
“The St John Eye Van travels to rural and remote First Nations communities across Queensland, making it possible for more ophthalmologists to bring their expertise to people that are marginalised due to distance and access.
“Those diagnosed with diabetes are three times more likely to suffer from diabetic retinopathy, and 94 per cent of identified cases are curable or treatable when diagnosed early.
“Alarmingly, one in three diagnosed individuals will also experience vision loss, which, if detected in the early stages, can be prevented, or treated in 94 per cent of cases.”
St John Eye Van’s return to Bundaberg has been warmly welcomed back by Wayne Mulvany, the CEO of the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre.
“We are excited to welcome this service back, the previous service helped treat 400 Bundaberg patients between 2016 to 2018, Services like this are incredibly important for our community,” he said.
“This service provides patients access to an ophthalmologist, optometrist and orthoptist to reduce the risk of blindness from sight-threatening conditions like diabetic retinopathy.
“First Nations people can also be at greater risk of developing Type I and Type II Diabetes, and we know diabetes can be a silent killer.”
St John Ambulance’s program aims to bridge the health gap for Indigenous and remote communities by utilising a telehealth approach to diagnose patients.
This approach is reported to minimise travel, time, and expenses associated with accessing quality eye health treatment.