Robbie Katter says North West Queensland health services have reached crisis point

Derek Barry
By Derek Barry
April 21 2022 - 8:30pm
Robbie Katter says North West Queensland health services have reached crisis point, with specialist services such as ophthalmology now almost out-of-reach for those in the region.

Robbie Katter says north west Queensland health services have reached crisis point, with specialist services such as ophthalmology now almost out-of-reach for those in the region.

The KAP leader and member for Traeger said Mount Isa-based health professionals have raised their concerns about the lack of ophthalmologist availability within the North West Hospital and Health Service with fears people's eyesight and quality of life are at significant risk due to staffing issues.

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Mr Katter said they told him the lowest referral category patients can be placed on is Category 3, which means they will be seen within 12 months but people are coming back for renewed referrals as their original one expired.

"Health professionals noted that since the sacking of the North West Hospital and Health Service board last year, things had started to really slip," Mr Katter said

"(They're) having to see patients again and write updated referrals to ensure they are able to be seen when their time finally comes".

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath has since appointed a new board starting this month but Mr Katter said the available days of ophthalmology specialist services in the North West had been slashed.

"It's my understanding that originally an ophthalmologist attended the Mount Isa Hospital five times per month, which isn't a lot to start with," he said.

"However this has now dropped back to two times per month, so you can see why the wait list has blown out."

"They can't refer patients publicly to go to Townsville or Brisbane because there is technically a service being provided in Mount Isa, but it's a very poor one."

Mr Katter said rural Queenslanders were constantly being treated by the "poor cousins" of the city.

"The delivery of these services are non-negotiable in a city the size of Mount Isa," he said.

"We have community members with eye conditions, waiting over 12 months to be seen. They're now faced with a decision, do they foot the thousands of dollars of bills for travel and private healthcare to be seen sooner, or do they wait it out?

"I've called on the Minister for Health to provide me with an action plan to address the many issues in our rural health care system such as this one."

The North West Star asked Minister D'Ath's office for comment but was referred to the North West Hospital and Health Service instead.

In a statement the NWHHS said it worked in partnership with other health services to meet the specialist eye health needs of the region.

"The service currently employs a visiting ophthalmologist," the NWHHS said in the statement.

"Ophthalmology patients with emergency or urgent care needs are referred outside the region, generally to Townsville or Brisbane. Some services, including surgery and outpatient appointments, have been impacted by the COVID-19 response and we are working with our partners to resume normal services.

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"North West Hospital and Health Service is also considering future service planning to best meet the needs of the community now and into the future."

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Derek Barry

Derek Barry

Editor, the North West Star

Editor of the North West Star Mount Isa since January 2016. Prior to that, an editor at several regional southern Queensland newspapers. Passionate about telling local stories. Comes with a strange accent to due an Irish accident of birth.

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