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Ophthalmologists accused of fee 'blackmail' over cataract surgery PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A medical workforce expert is urging the federal government to stick to its plans to slash Medicare rebates for cataract surgery, accusing ophthalmologists of "blatant blackmail" over their campaign to stir public outrage at the move. In the first declaration of support for the government's stance from a high-profile medical professional, Peter Brooks -- the former head of the University of Queensland's health faculty -- said he was writing to federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon to back the move and suggest cuts could be made more widely.

He was also proposing the government fund a pilot study to examine the feasibility of training mid-level health workers, such as optometrists and physician assistants, to perform cataract surgery instead of ophthalmologists. Professor Brooks's comments are likely to anger the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists, which last week ran a full-page advertisement in The Australian claiming "Grandma's not happy!" and suggesting the government was "blind to the facts".

The advertisement, also endorsed by the seniors' charity Council on the Ageing, urged readers to phone their local MP or talkback radio station to protest at the plans to cut rebates for cataract surgery by 50 per cent, from $831.60 to $409.60, from November 1. ASO president Russell Bach said doctors would not drop their fees, and patients would instead be hit with new gap charges of between $600 and $900. The Australian Medical Association has previously criticised the rebate cuts for cataract surgery and some other procedures as "ill-informed and misguided".

Professor Brooks, who is director of the Australian Health Workforce Institute, said those supporting the ASO's campaign "should be shamed into understanding what it is -- blackmail". He cited the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation, which claims to have reduced the cost of cataract surgery to below $25 in some developing countries, partly by training non-doctors how to do it.

Vision Group successfully renegotiates debt facility PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 24 August 2009

Vision Group Holdings Limited (ASX: VGH) announced that it has successfully refinanced its debt facility for a two year term. The renegotiated debt facility remains with the existing lending syndicate comprising Westpac and ANZ. The new facility has a $120m limit (previously $160m), reducing to $100m over the 2 year term.

The combination of the renewed facility and the company’s continued strong free cash flows will ensure Vision Group is well placed to support ongoing organic growth initiatives as well as reduce gearing levels over the next two years.

Vision Australia reaches out to the Swan Hill region PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 20 August 2009

As our population becomes older, the number of people with eye conditions will increase. According to the World Health Organisation the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision is set to more than double to 600,000 by 2020.

Vision Australia's low vision clinic will help people who are blind or have low vision find the right equipment for their everyday activities. Bev Devidas, an Orthoptist at Vision Australia has been assisting people from the Swan Hill region who are blind or have low vision.

This service is particularly aimed at people who are unable to read small print when using their prescribed spectacles or those with eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Myer signs deal with Luxottica PDF
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Australian News
Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Department store group Myer has secured an agreement with global eyewear specialist Luxottica Group to place the Sunglass Hut store in each of Myer's 65 department stores across Australia.

Myer, which says it is Australia's largest department store group, has 65 branches across Australia. After trials of the store concept proved successfuI, Sunglass Hut-branded shops will be opened in 30 of these by November this year, the statement said. In the remaining 35, the retail space will not be branded Sunglass Hut and should open in the next few months.

Sales for Myer are expected to improve after the roll-out, Myer said without specifying a quantum.

Significant number of Aussies may have glaucoma PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 18 August 2009

The Federal Government believes a significant number of Australians have the eye disease glaucoma, but are unaware of it. Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon says glaucoma continues to be one of the leading causes of blindness in Australia.

It is estimated around 300,000 people suffer from it. But Mr Snowdon says around half of them do not even know they have the condition, and therefore do not seek treatment.

This Sunday starts National Glaucoma Week PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 14 August 2009

The theme for this year’s National Glaucoma Week (August 16 – 22) warns Australians: ‘Don’t lose your driver’s licence to glaucoma’. National Executive Officer for Glaucoma Australia, Beverley Lindsell, said this theme was chosen because losing a driver’s licence generally led to major lifestyle issues related to mobility and independence. Licence loss can be a consequence of untreated glaucoma. “Our major message is that all Australians aged 40 and over must have their eyes checked at least every two years by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, or more regularly if they have a family history of the condition, hypertension, diabetes or a former eye injury.” Mrs Lindsell said research showed that drivers with moderate to severe glaucoma were six times more likely to be involved in an ‘at fault’ vehicle accident than those drivers not suffering from the condition.

Glaucoma is referred to as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it gradually and permanently destroys the side vision often without being noticed. Fortunately, the condition can be detected by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, with treatment available to halt or significantly slow damage to the eyes. A lead-up launch to National Glaucoma Week will this year be held at Parliament House in NSW on Thursday, August 13. A formal release of a TV Community Service Announcement featuring Glaucoma Australia ambassador, Ross Higgins, will take place along with a free screening session for Members of Parliament.

During National Glaucoma Week itself, a major campaign will take place in Rockhampton, Queensland, as part of an ongoing initiative to promote awareness of glaucoma in regional and rural areas where people are less likely to have regular eye check-ups. The campaign will include extensive media advertising and promotions, free public screening sessions and a community forum.

Mrs Lindsell said National Glaucoma Week activities were made possible though an community education grant provided by Pfizer Australia, with key support from the Optometrists Association Australia (NSW/ACT and QLD) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).

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