Health prospects looking up for Rockhampton eye patients

Rockhampton Base Hospital has welcomed its first full-time ophthalmologist in nearly a decade, Dr Devaraj A. Supramaniam.

For the past two years, the hospital has been working with a private health sector company to fly interim specialists to Rockhampton to see patients.

Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Len Richards said, before 2014, the only options for care in this area were the private health sector or travelling to Brisbane for that service.

Mr Richards said the travel time and costs meant many people did not seek treatment.

“When we first started the service here within central Queensland we were seeing lots of people who had chronic eye conditions because they hadn’t accessed an ophthalmologist at all,” he said.

“So we’ve been able to work through that now and with Devaraj, our new consultant coming onboard, then we’ll be able to provide a much more comprehensive service going forward.”

A rare breed in Queensland public health sector

Dr A. Supramaniam, is one of only two full-time specialist ophthalmologists in Queensland’s public health sector.

In addition to his general ophthalmologist skills, he is also trained as a vitreo-retinal surgeon, meaning he is qualified to operate on the retina at the back of the eye.

Dr A. Supramaniam said his area of specialty would allow him to treat a wide range of patients and conditions.

“Ophthalmology basically involves diseases involving the eye and conditions involving the eye,” he said.

“The eye is unique in the sense that it’s very small so you need quite a lot of high-tech equipment these days to diagnose and to actually be able to perform the surgeries.”

He said a lot of central Queensland patients’ eye care needs had not been met due to there not being a public sector ophthalmologist based in the region.

“Urgent cases would have been referred down to Brisbane,” he said.

“But then there’s a lot of other people who can’t move because of age, because of disability.”

Dr A. Supramaniam said there was a lot of work to be done but was optimistic and excited about the benefits of the service becoming a permanent addition to the hospital.

“With me being here full-time now, we’re hoping to expand it and actually be able to provide all the services that the people of central Queensland need.”