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New Trust to help vulnerable young NZers whose vision is at risk

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Four hundred New Zealand children at risk of developing permanent eye impairment will get free glasses over the next 12 months thanks to a just-launched Community Trust.

The Eye Institute Trust has been formed by surgeons from Eye Institute, a leading eye clinic in Auckland, who want to share their skills with those who need glasses the most but are falling through the cracks.

A significant proportion of New Zealanders do not qualify for certain aspects of often life-changing ophthalmic care. Children are impacted the most.

Trust co-chair, Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer says the funding of glasses in the first instance is for children and in particular those who are at greatest risk of permanent vision impairment due to development of amblyopia (lazy eye).

"This is our major focus because while Eye Institute does not offer a dedicated paediatric service it recognises that problems caused by untreated refractive errors in childhood will lead to lifelong problems with vision," says Prof Danesh-Meyer.

"It is very important to diagnose visual impairment early in children as the consequences of amblyopia are far reaching in terms of learning and confidence," she says.

Over the next 12 months the Institute plans to provide assistance to families by subsidising $100,000 towards 400 eye examinations and the cost of glasses.

"There is a group of families that do not qualify for the government subsidy, but several hundred dollars is a significant financial burden. In many instances, the government subsidy is not enough to cover a complex prescription," says Prof Danesh-Meyer.

The formation of the Eye Institute Community Trust formalises the Eye Institute’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to share their skills and give back. The team at Eye Institute has been offering pro bono services under the radar across Australasia, the Pacific Islands and beyond, for many years.

Any New Zealand optometrist or teachers can apply to the Eye Institute Community Trust for additional funding of glasses on behalf of their patients. They should contact for a voucher. Payment will be approved once the optometrist approves the child needs glasses, after examination.

The Trust has made preliminary enquiries with orthoptic departments of both Auckland and Manukau District Health Boards to identify children at highest risk of visual loss. Once the 300 glasses are distributed, the Trust will review the programme and is open to funding more if there is demand.

While the initial focus of funding is on children, the Trust is also dedicated to supporting adult patients who, for a variety of reasons, fall through the cracks of New Zealand’s publicly funded health system. If an optometrist or GP identifies these patients and applies to the Trust, they will examine each case with a view to providing the care they need.

Therapeutic optometrist Hadyn Treanor is pleased he will be able to refer patients to the new trust. "It’s so important that eye problems are picked up early before kids reach school. But so often it’s not or the parents simply can’t afford treatment because they don’t qualify for government subsidies," he says.

The Trust’s Board is chaired by Professor Helen Danesh-Meyer and Dr Shanu Subbiah. The Board comprises the doctors of Eye Institute: Dr William Cunningham, Dr Simon Dean, Dr Narme Deva, Dr Peter Hadden, Dr Ben LaHood, Dr Nick Mantell, Professor Charles McGhee, Dr Jay Meyer, Dr Graham Reeves, Dr Peter Ring and Dr Adam Watson.

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