11 November 2003
For immediate release
No end in sight for patients on waiting list
Blindness is taking hold while New Zealanders wait for specialist eye treatment.
At last week’s Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists conference, ophthalmologist Dr Gillian
Clover expressed concern about the number of patients with diabetic retinopathy that are waiting for eye treatments
around the country.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and causes a progressive degenerative disease of the retina. It
results in blurred or patchy vision and eventual blindness if left untreated.
A lack of resources has meant that some people are left waiting for up to nine months for eyesight-saving treatment.
Dr. Clover stated: “People are sitting on waiting lists going blind, and that is unacceptable”.
The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) fully supports Dr Clover’s concern. To the RNZFB, this situation
is certainly unacceptable.
The RNZFB’s Blindness Awareness and Prevention Division has been lobbying the government for funding for preventative
treatment programmes for people who are at risk of diabetic retinopathy, due to the rapid increase of diabetes in New
About 30% of people with Type 2 diabetes will have some form of diabetic retinopathy, which in its most severe cases can
cause people to go blind. However, if detected in its earliest stages, loss of vision due to diabetes can be prevented
with laser surgery.
The RNZFB’s own membership figures indicate that the number of RNZFB members with diabetic retinopathy has increased
169% since 1995. This data indicates that unless some kind of effective preventative measure is taken in the next ten
years, diabetic retinopathy and consequently RNZFB membership, is set to increase at rates that the Foundation simply
cannot cater for effectively.
Chris Inglis, RNZFB divisional manager, Blindness Awareness and Prevention, says it is crucial that the government shows
its support of blindness prevention initiatives by allocating funding to alleviate the current backlog of New Zealanders
“Diabetic retinopathy is a ticking time bomb, and the possibility of sight loss is hanging over the heads of far too
many New Zealanders. It is essential that government provides the resources to lessen the effects of diabetic
retinopathy on the eyes and most importantly remove the waiting lists for treatment,” says Ms Inglis.
“This is definitely one issue where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The RNZFB supports Diabetes Awareness Week (18 - 24 November) and is urging all New Zealanders to get their eyes
checked, particularly if they have Type 2 diabetes.
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