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Ophthalmologist HELP! (in Canberra)

By Silverdragon - 13 August 2012 15

I have been trying, without success, to get my 6-year-old daughter in with an ophthalmologist in Canberra (aside from the Canberra Eye Hospital, where I don’t want to go, as they have such a bad reputation for non-surgical cases).

Several recommended Drs are either not taking new patients, or have recently retired, apparently leaving me with only the option to go to Sydney.  Before I take this step, I thought I would ask RiotACTers whether there is anyone they know of in Canberra who is interested in non-surgical cases, is friendly and thorough and sees children.

Drs Walker, Pluschke and Pluschke have all recently retired and Dr Lones seems to have gone too, Dr Dickson doesn’t see children and Dr Tridgell only takes certain kinds of patients (not general review).

Does anyone have any experience of Dr Ian Sykes (Mawson) assuming he is still in practice?  Or Dr Smiles (Deakin) or Dr Wolfe (Kingston)?

We are seeing the GP for referral on Thursday, so I would like to know by then whether I can get in locally, or whether I need to ask her to refer us to Sydney.

Thanks in anticipation!!

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
Ophthalmologist HELP! (in Canberra)
Silverdragon 12:05 pm 14 Sep 12

Thanks everyone! We went to Sydney this week to a clinic at the Macquarie University Hospital. We saw Dr Kiran Sindhu, who was lovely. Fortunately, he said that her vision seems fine, so there is nothing to be done at present. I would highly recommend this course – it was relatively quick to get in, it’s easy to get to down the M5 and the cost was $190, of which we will apparently recoup $160 from Medicare, so aside from the hassle of taking her out of school and spending a whole day driving with her, my elderly mum and 1-year-old (who was incredibly patient) I’d say it was pretty stress-free and a good outcome.

kakosi 9:36 pm 15 Aug 12

beejay76 said :

My daughter has been seeing Dr Okera at the Eye Hospital. She does not require surgery, but management for strabismus. I have been very happy with him. She’s a very shy little thing, and Dr Okera and the other staff are very patient and friendly.

However, a friend of mine had her daughter see a different dr there and he was shite.

So, all-in-all, if you really don’t want to go to Sydney, give Dr Okera a try.

Dr Okera is very good and also works at the Canberra Public Hospital eye clinic at times.

Watson 12:17 pm 15 Aug 12

I’ve all but given up on specialists in Canberra. I took my girl to a different specialist in Wollongong (she had just transferred to there from Westmead). It is a hassle – though the Gong is at least slightly closer – but you save yourself a lot of angst that way.

The best thing to do is to find a GP who is sympathetic to your plight and is willing to prescribe any tests that may be useful to take the results of with so you reduce the number of return visits. But that in itself is not easy…

poppy 6:32 pm 14 Aug 12

dtc said :

Actually there is plenty of money around to get doctors to Canberra. But they just dont want to live here for a variety of reasons.

I don’t think the issue is just about the number of eye docs in Canberra. It’s an issue with which types of patients the doctors are willing to see. Given the huge demand for their services, they cherry pick the patients that are most profitable and desirable. That means most of them don’t want kids, and they want to do surgeries. Dr Tridgell, whilst he is meant to be a good doc, only sees patients who want surgeries now (that is what their receptionist told me, anyway). Obviously, he has decided to do what is most profitable for him. I don’t think the doctors attitudes will change much until medicare cuts the high cataract surgery rebates so the doctors don’t have these kinds of huge incentives. It would also be helpful if lasik eye surgery was much more regulated (at the very least, advertising banned) so we don’t have this situation, as with the Canberra Eye Hospital, where their core business is selling lasik surgery and seeing other patients in their spare time. I don’t think the taxpayer should be subsidising the cost of training an eye doc if they are just going to push buttons on a lasik machine for their own profit.

There is also the issue of the lack of quality of the ophthalmologists – again given the demand for their services, many of them don’t bother to provide a quality service to patients, as there is a lot more patients waiting if one patient never returns. This turns into a vicious cycle where patients churn amongst various rubbish doctors, creating even more demand for services, costing the health system more and damaging the patients health. Patients are so desperate that they will often see any doctor despite their appalling reputation. If only there was a standard of care required, but there is none, as I discovered with my Canberra Eye Hospital experiences. They aren’t afraid to get rid of you by any means including giving advice that is obviously negligent, if there is no-one else around to hear (oh yeah, make sure you bring someone else with you to your appointment for that reason).

DeskMonkey 10:16 am 14 Aug 12

I had the same issue with my 2yo. Our GP referred us to Canberra Hospital Opthamologists but there is no pediatrician Opthamologist who works there. After a lot of running around I found out that Westmead only takes children off a pediatrician referral so I got on ($240 later) from Dr Graham Bench (0421 366 945 – comes from Sydney to Canberra and Queanbeyan on Mondays and Tuesdays) who referred me to a Dr at the Canberra Eye Hospital in Symonston. Off the top of my head I cannot remember his name (I think it’s Dr Ian Dunlop) but Dr Bench highly recommends him.
The only other problem was actually getting an appointment – the only availability is in November so it’s a long wait.
Good luck!

dtc 10:00 am 14 Aug 12

cranky said :

Whlist our local Gov seems to have little dificulty finding $25mill for the Arboretum, and some mill per year for ‘Public Art’, our kids are not able to access medical assistance with serious opthalmic problems!

Something wrong here!

Actually there is plenty of money around to get doctors to Canberra. But they just dont want to live here for a variety of reasons. The question is ‘why are there so few opthamologists in Australia’, to which you can speak to the medical association/boards.

ToastFliesRED 9:47 am 14 Aug 12

Hi
Have you tried/considered the public hospital system? I know that Dr Kate Reid, Director of Ophthalmology at Canberra Hospital does deal with paediatric ophthalmology outpatients as does Dr Rohan Essex. Your GP can refer to Public Hospital outpatients clinics. I don’t know the wait times to get in to see either of them but it could be worth asking. Both seemed very personable when I have had dealings with them in the past.
Hope you find the care and services you’re looking for (no pun intended) and that everything works out fine

threepaws 10:46 pm 13 Aug 12

The response below has been passed on from a friend:

It is a shame you cannot get into see Dr Tridgell, as he is great with kids. There is a lack of pediatric ophthalmologists here in Canberra, thus we travel regularly to Sydney for our daughter to see Dr Stephen Hing at Westmead. It will largely depend on what you are after and the specialists specialty, and I suggest your doctor call Dr Hing’s practice to see if he is (or if they can recommend someone else) appropriate for your daughter. Dr Hing is at Westmead on 02 9845 0810. Best of luck!

poppy 8:44 pm 13 Aug 12

I second beejay76 that if you must visit the private Canberra Eye Hospital Dr Okera is the best bet. You should at least be treated like a human being, more than can be said about the other docs. The whole experience at the Canberra Eye Hospital is still wrong though, you feel like a piece of meat in a slaughterhouse. Okera also runs a clinic at the public hospital if you can get in.

cranky 8:37 pm 13 Aug 12

Unfortunately, Ian Sykes has retired. On a side note, his replacements are of the firm belief that all ailments are the result of insufficient vegetable/fruit intake.

Whlist our local Gov seems to have little dificulty finding $25mill for the Arboretum, and some mill per year for ‘Public Art’, our kids are not able to access medical assistance with serious opthalmic problems!

Something wrong here!

beejay76 7:08 pm 13 Aug 12

My daughter has been seeing Dr Okera at the Eye Hospital. She does not require surgery, but management for strabismus. I have been very happy with him. She’s a very shy little thing, and Dr Okera and the other staff are very patient and friendly.

However, a friend of mine had her daughter see a different dr there and he was shite.

So, all-in-all, if you really don’t want to go to Sydney, give Dr Okera a try.

poppy 6:29 pm 13 Aug 12

Have you tried to get in at the Canberra public hospital eye clinic. They don’t take all kinds of cases I believe, so I suggest you try ringing them first to find out if they deal with whatever problem your daughter has. You will have to push hard to get this referral, your GP probably wouldn’t even dream of suggesting it, but it’s worth it if you can get in. Much better than the private hospital (although that doesn’t mean they are brilliant, private eye hospital is indeed terrible) and free. 3 month wait for non-urgent cases if they let you in, at least in my experience.

If you are going to go to Sydney I suggest you should research which doctors are actually interested in seeing kids as well as having an interest in whatever problem your daughter suffers. Just because they will take your referral and your money doesn’t mean they can be bothered treating you. Make sure they actually will be happy to have you as a patient before you make the trip. If it’s a corneal issue, be extra sure because eye docs generally loathe corneal disease as well as children, both take up too much time, and not enough money in it.

thatsnotme 5:58 pm 13 Aug 12

We’ve got our son an appointment at Westmead in Sydney in September – I’ll let you know after that whether the time and effort to get him up there for an appointment was less stressful than taking him to Canberra Eye Hospital. At the moment though, I could fully understand you avoiding that place if at all possible – we left there completely stunned and vowing to never set foot in the place again!

First impressions though are good. The letter Westmead sent us after confirming our appointment gives me a lot of confidence that they actually understand that they’re dealing with children, and try to make the experience as easy for them (and their parents!) as possible. Even little things, like being free to leave the waiting area while you wait to be called in.

Best of luck with your search!

Silverdragon 4:52 pm 13 Aug 12

sepi said :

I don’t think there is an opthalmologist taking new patients in Canberra.

I’m certain there are no opthalmologists outside of the eye hospital taking on children.

And last year even their wait times were something like 4 months (for first appt, no matter how urgent.)

Sorry.

Thanks sepi – it is looking increasingly like a trip to Sydney, which I feel is a bit crazy. I wonder why we can’t keep decent eye doctors here??

sepi 4:45 pm 13 Aug 12

I don’t think there is an opthalmologist taking new patients in Canberra.

I’m certain there are no opthalmologists outside of the eye hospital taking on children.

And last year even their wait times were something like 4 months (for first appt, no matter how urgent.)

Sorry.

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