The unprecedented challenges we’ve faced this year are truly sobering. Our profession’s resolve to learn to live with the ‘new normal’ is a remarkable show of resilience.
What a year so far. Optometry Western Australia (OWA), like our members, has adapted during the year by making multiple decisions, often it seemed, on an hour by hour basis. WAVE 2020 was one example – with literally days to go before the conference commenced, we made the decision to cancel. This was done with a heavy heart as the immediate impact on our members, the trade and event supporters was clearly evident. Fortunately, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, WAVE@home was created with sincere thanks to our booked speakers Dr Lauren Ayton, Dr Alex Hui, Dr Kate Gifford and Jason Holland. Our virtual CPD content was well-received by a massive number of members across Australia. If there is one thing we are sure of in this new world, online delivery is here to stay.
Despite this reduction in income, we are committed to continuing to provide all normal member services, along with enhanced CPD offerings… and industry standard PII
IMPROVING PATIENT PATHWAYS
Throughout the year, OWA President Robert Howie has worked extensively with the Perth public hospital system. With genuine commitment and an ambition to improve patient referral pathways, he has been developing a triage document to be used by optometrists when referring into the system. Rob has worked on this in conjunction with other stakeholders including the University of Western Australia, private optometry, the hospitals and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO). Feedback from hospital heads of departments and their colleagues has been informative and supportive. This remains a work in progress.
OWA, Optometry Australia (OA) and corporate industry members have spent time collaboratively advocating for an MBS item number for tele-optometry services. Unfortunately, our endeavours have been unsuccessful due to Government concerns that telehealth may lead to double payments from MBS if most patient telehealth consults lead to a following face-to-face appointment. We will continue to campaign.
SUBSIDISED SPECTACLES SCHEME
Sadly, while WA has a reputation for innovation and equality, we lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to operating a functional subsidised spectacles scheme. Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, and with support of Vision 2020 and Federal Government funding, OWA attended several meetings aimed at facilitating a pilot program, across parts of the State, for a new scheme. These meetings were also attended by representatives from the WA Health Department which is in the early stages of a review of how WA currently operates versus the rest of Australia.
Our hope is that a new scheme, while limited in the early stages, will lead to a far more equitable scheme in the future. To support it, OWA will work with interested members to provide training in cultural awareness and customer accessibility. We are also creating an internal reconciliation action plan, which will further support the scheme’s roll-out.
MEMBER SUPPORT INITIATIVES
Member support initiatives have been a major focus this year due to the impact of COVID-19. In my role as OWA Executive Officer, I was asked by OA to develop business continuity resources, which included the preparation and quick dissemination of member briefings for employers, employees, locums, and casual contractors. Our team of professional service advisors, Industry Legal Group, and Optometry Finance Australia, were tasked with ensuring members’ queries were answered as quickly as possible. This was a massive task and we certainly appreciated the extremely positive feedback.
The Association’s COVID-19 response also included the establishment of a National Crisis Leadership Group comprising representatives from our national organisation as well as each State/Territory. This group met weekly at the height of the crisis to create strategic pathways forward as the industry emerged from lockdown. With the support of OA, and thanks to previous prudent financial management, OWA has implemented the 50% fee membership renewal offer with payment plan flexibility to support members throughout 2020–2021. Despite this reduction in income, we are committed to continuing to provide all normal member services, along with enhanced CPD offerings, both virtually and face-to-face, and industry standard PII. We thank our members for their support and renewals.
Ewan MacRae is the Executive Officer of Optometry Western Australia.