Vision 2020 Australia welcomes the opportunity to provide comment to the Productivity Commission (the Commission) regarding its Inquiry into introducing competition and informed user choice into human services (the Inquiry). Vision 2020 Australia’s response to the Inquiry predominantly relates to improving outcomes in relation to eye health services provided in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
According to data from the 2016 National Eye Health Survey (NEHS), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have a greater burden of eye disease, with three times the rate of blindness and three times the rate of vision loss than the non-Indigenous population. Uncorrected refractive error causes almost two thirds of vision impairment, and cataract is the leading cause of blindness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Additionally, almost 40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need cataract surgery have not accessed specialised treatment services (compared to 13 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians), and approximately half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants with diabetes were found not to be having an eye examination at the frequency recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
The eye health and vision care sector supports the principle put forward by the Australian Government that refers to introducing informed user choice in these communities. However, the sector has identified a number of challenges posed by the principle of introducing competition in the provision of eye health services in remote communities; due to issues such as the fragmented or duplicated delivery of these services.
In the submission below, Vision 2020 Australia outlines ten recommendations which, if implemented fully, would ensure that eye health and vision care outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are improved through better access to effective and reliable services.