To coincide with NAIDOC Week, Queensland charity Doctors for All is providing free cataract surgery and other eye health services in Rockhampton and Woorabinda.

Running the clinic on Thursday and Friday, Doctors for All is providing opportunities for people to have sight-saving surgery whilst raising awareness of the importance of looking after your eyes.

“We want to give people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in regional and remote Australia a fair go. We believe really strongly that … everyone has the right to free, public healthcare and it shouldn’t be determined by where you live, or the size of your bank account, or the colour of your skin,” said Doctors for All Director, Tim Gallagher.

“In those communities, when you have to go see a doctor, you have to travel thousands of kilometres to a city you’re not familiar with, with none of your family or friends around you to support you. It is a huge thing to ask Indigenous people to do and it’s something that we’ve really come to understand.

“The economics of flying 100 people from regional Queensland to Brisbane to see one doctor, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Working with community services, the charity will perform more than 40 surgeries and 120 eye health services.

“Someone with cataract could be effectively blind but it’s a completely treatable condition and the benefit of restoring that eyesight is transformational. That impact is huge,” said Gallagher.

“We have engaged doctors, through an approved model, from a community perspective, we’ve done that work going through various stakeholders to get the stamp of approval. The outcome will be 160 people who have seen an ophthalmologist and have a better outcome.”

Gallagher said the project enables connection between staff in communities and specialists.

“Indigenous nurses working within their own community, if we can help bring those people further through the system or give them some insight into how they’d like to develop their career—then they can become part of the solution down the track,” he said.

The project is made possible by funding donated by the Queensland State Government and a matched donation by health consulting and locum doctor agency, Vanguard Health.

However, to continue their work, Doctors for All would need sustainable funding.

“What we want to do is we want to leave as many people completely healthy as we can. That is one of the really strong pieces of feedback from the communities we have visited … there has been a lot of work done on education for communities,” Gallagher said.

“But there’s a lack of service. A huge difference is made when you have access to the healthcare you need.

“We have enough doctors, they just might not be in the right place at the right time. We can build bridges from the city out to the bush and build those outcomes for them.”

For more information on Doctors for All, visit: www.doctorsforall.com.au.

By Rachael Knowles