The Federal Government has defended a decision to rely on a charity to provide millions of dollars to set up an eye health clinic in Alice Springs.
The Fred Hollows Foundation has pledged $3 million to construct the clinic in the Alice Springs Hospital.
The Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, says the foundation is best placed to provide the service.
“We’ve got to have involved, interested partners who engage in improving not only the primary healthcare of Aboriginal communities,” he said.
The clinic would provide services for all people in central Australia and will target Indigenous communities where cataracts cause more than 30 per cent of blindness.
Mr Snowdon says the emergency department (ED) must be relocated before the eye clinic can be built.
“The hospital has got to manage all its patients and … the demand is certainly here for us to have a dedicated eye clinic,” he said.
“The money is now going to be made available for a dedicated eye clinic, it will be developed in conjunction with and as a result of directly the investment of the funds to build the new emergency department.”
The hospital’s general manager Vicki Taylor says it is estimated that the new emergency department will take about 18 months to complete.
“What we’re planning is that the ED will start around about October and that’s around 18 months and at the same time we’ll start planning the day procedure unit and the stand-alone eye clinic. Those sorts of facilities I think are very good for any opthamologist who’s seeking an experience outside capital cities,” she said.