In May 2018, 10 children and their families travelled down from Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Mildura to Kilmore and District Hospital to undertake ear nose and throat surgeries with Otolaryngologist (ENT) Dr Zenia Chow. Seven children had successful ear surgeries while three others, with complex issues, were referred onto the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Austin Hospital for further surgery.
The surgeries were a part of the Victorian Eye and Ear Surgical Support Service (EESSS). The Service was established to reduce the impact of chronic eye and ear conditions by improving access to surgical interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, in particular to those who have been placed on a waiting list for an initial consultation and/or surgery for eye and ear conditions. The EESSS program also assists in removing financial barriers for clients and their carers by covering the costs associated with accessing specialist consultations and surgeries. The role of RWAV is to facilitate the program by supporting health professionals who deliver the health services.
In addition to the ear, nose and throat surgeries, EESSS can also be used to provide financial assistance for cataract surgeries.
Over the past three years, Sally experienced severe health problems with cataracts. She was on the waiting list to see an ophthalmologist in Mildura for a long period. During the waiting period, the cataracts grew to take control of most of her vision. As a result, of this a referral was sent immediately through to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne for a pre-consult appointment for her.
Having attended Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Mildura, Sally was referred onto the EESSS by James, the Aboriginal chronic disease worker. The EESSS provided financial assistance for Sally to access her eye appointments and surgery in Melbourne, including accommodation, meals and transport to and from Mildura. Mallee District Aboriginal Services reported that the EESSS was a smooth and very simple process and met Sally’s needs, enabling her to access surgery quickly and to give her back her sight and much needed quality of life.
In another instance, Jane, also a member of the Mallee District Aboriginal Services in Mildura, was given a late diagnosis of bilateral cataracts. Her vision was seriously affected by the cataracts; making it significantly difficult for her to carry out activities of daily living. James, the Aboriginal chronic disease worker referred her onto the EESSS for travel assistance. Jane was then sent to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne for cataract surgery and a successful outcome occurred.
As a result of EESSS, both Sally and Jane now have improved eyesight. They are both grateful for the support they received through RWAV and now they are both able to carry out their activities of daily living without having any limitations on their eyesight.
RWAV acknowledges the funding received from the Australian Government Department of Health for the Eye and Ear Surgical Support Service.