Indigenous Eye Care Pathway Mapping in Central West Queensland

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Indigenous eye care pathway mapping of services identifies the level of need in Windorah, Central West Queensland

Wednesday 17 October was a special day in Windorah.

The need to assess Indigenous eye care pathways and access to services in Central (and North) West Queensland was initially raised with Indigenous Eye Health (IEH), University of Melbourne by both the Western Queensland Primary Health Network (WQPHN) and CheckUP Australia in early 2017.

CheckUP is the jurisdictional fund holder for the Rural Health Outreach Fund (RHOF), Medical Outreach Indigenous Chronic Disease Program (MOICDP) and the Visiting Optometry Scheme (VOS). As a result of this identified need, a jointly funded eye health coordinator was employed in 2018 through CheckUP to support the mapping of services matched to the level of need across the region.

map of central west Qld

Pictured: (L) Cooper Creek, Windorah. (R) Central West Queensland region.


See a more detailed map of ‘Hospital and Health Services by Queensland Health by Recommended Public Hospitals and Primary Health Centres’ here

Windorah was one of eighteen Central Western Queensland communities surveyed as part of this Central West Eye Health Mapping Project. Windorah has approximately 20.5% of the population identifying as Indigenous. It has not had a visiting optometrist since 2005 and a twice weekly air service to Brisbane or Mt Isa was the only public transport option to access optometry services.

"Windorah" is a Birria word meaning "Big Fish". The town is located 35km south of where the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers join to form the multi-channelled Cooper’s Creek.

With no easily accessible optometrist, the Primary Health Centre (PHC) was not aware whether people were having their eye health needs met. For those travelling away to optometry appointments, there was no reporting back to the clinic, including any requirement for a lens prescription. Even if a prescription was filled, it was not clear to the clinic whether there was also any referral to an ophthalmologist or other health professional requiring coordination support and follow-up.

Inputs on the need for a service were received from members of the community, the Primary Health Centre Directors of Nursing, and by using data sources such as the Optometry Australia published service ratios and the IEH Eye Care Service Calculator.

ieh service care calculator At the same time, the retirement of the long term visiting ophthalmologist who had previously serviced Windorah led to the involvement of the Central West Hospital and Health Service’s (CWHHS) Integrated Care Innovation Fund (ICIF) project.

As an outcome of the mapping project, CheckUP’s Statewide Indigenous Eye Heath Coordinator worked with stakeholders to support the delivery of a visiting optometry service. Some members of the Windorah community had previously been driving the 492 km round trip to see the optometrist in Quilpie. The visiting optometrist’s first Windorah clinic saw patients from 8am in the morning until 6pm that night, so this is proving to be a very welcome service. The new optometry service also compliments the CWHHS “Connected Care through Connecting with Communities” Better Health Project.

patient having their eyes checked

Image: Visiting optometrist Michael Young is now servicing Windorah. He is seen here with happy patient Colin Simpson and Director of Nursing Shelley Watts. Photograph provided by Amanda Simpson.


CheckUP also expects the service to provide improvements in chronic disease prevention and management for community members living with diabetes.

checkup logo

If you have any questions relating to this ‘story’ please contact Lachlan Rich, Central West Regional and Eye Health Coordinator, Check Up Australia via email lrich@checkup.org.au or by telephone 0498 801 004.

This 'Share your Story' article was published 16 Jan 2020.