Two Wanganui medical groups have a vision to vastly improve eyecare in the region.
The Wanganui Eyecare and Medical Trust and Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) are joining forces to provide a second ophthalmologist in the region.
Trust chairman and retired optometrist Mike Webber MNZM and WDHB surgical, acute and mental health business manager Peter Wood-Bodley said employing a second ophthalmologist made good sense.
"It provides a long-term solution for Whanganui residents, it helps our effort to build a regional ophthalmology service with MidCentral Health and it enhances our ability to provide a private practice in Wanganui," Mr Wood-Bodley said.
"The WDHB wants our community to have a stable ophthalmology service so we're very committed to employing a second ophthalmologist to work with Wanganui's only ophthalmologist Jan de Kock.
"The second ophthalmologist will work in the public sector with Dr de Kok while also having the opportunity to work in the private sector to provide private treatment for those wanting that option."
Mr Wood-Bodley said it was fitting that the WDHB and the Wanganui Eyecare and Medical Trust would be working co-operatively because without the trust, Wanganui Hospital would struggle to retain its ophthalmology department.
"The trust has not only fundraised and bought equipment for Wanganui Hospital's ophthalmology and radiology departments but they've provided ongoing support for which the WDHB is extremely grateful."
Mr Webber said in 1986, the Good Health Wanganui eye department as it was known then, had shut down due to the retirement of the late Dr Hector Levien.
"In 1989 a group including myself decided it was important for the people of Wanganui that we somehow restart the department," Mr Webber said. "In collaboration with hospital management, we persuaded Dr Geoff Duff to fly out from the UK to discuss the situation and consider taking a position here.
"We said if he did, we would form a trust to raise $250,000 for new equipment - we wanted to make sure the eye department was well equipped.
"Happily Dr Duff accepted our proposal, he was employed by Good Health Wanganui and the trust raised the $250,000 by appealing to local businesses and the public."
Mr Webber said during the past 22 years, the Wanganui Eyecare and Medical Trust had continued to buy new equipment as required. Last year, the trustees had bought a new scanning device for detecting forms of retinal disease which, without treatment, could lead to eyesight loss.
"The trust is delighted to be working with the WDHB to try to recruit a new eye specialist to work in a mix of public and private practice," Mr Webber said.
"Since Dr Duff had to close his practice for personal reasons, patients wanting private consultations and surgery have had to go out of town.
"The trust is working to reverse this situation so a private practice can be up and running again as soon as possible. The WDHB and eyecare trust are talking with overseas opthalmologists interested in a role here. We hope for a successful outcome in the near future."