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Indigenous Australians have to wait far longer than their non-Indigenous counterparts for surgery, according to the latest Annual hospital statistics report released on 3 October 2013, but the true extent of the problem could be far greater than the official data reveals. The report shows while it takes 140 days for Indigenous people to get cataracts removed, the wait for non-Indigenous people is only 90 days.
Brian Doolan, Chief Executive of the Fred Hollows Foundation, warns that the figures are 'deceptive' and when doctors went out to remote areas to remove cataracts for the foundation, they found the situation far worse. 'Part of the problem we have is that the data is incomplete, for instance in the Top End we don't know the waiting times because the data is not collected,' he said. 'In other areas the data is available for the people who make it on to the waiting list but what we found is waiting lists represent around about 50% of people who actually need the operation.'
Doolan said language barrier was a key challenge, with many Indigenous Australians with cataracts living in remote communities simply not aware of the services available. 'The feedback we get from people who do have the cataracts removed is that it has an enormous impact on their quality of life, from their mobility to their ability to care for themselves,' he said.
To cut backlogs and waiting lists, the Fred Hollows Foundation runs intensive regional clinics where it organises Indigenous people from remote communities to gather in places like Alice Springs. The Foundation organises travel and accommodation and works with the local Aboriginal health services to find people who need the surgery. 'We also organise interpreters to tell them what's going on. If you don't speak English it's very hard to understand what's going on around you and you don't want somebody mucking around with your eye,' he said.
Doolan sees it as a way of cutting the list and says the program has local as well as government support.
Source: The Guardian