The Agnes Water and Discovery Coast region has long been known for its picturesque and laid-back atmosphere but has historically lacked pivotal services to welcome community expansion.
Given the climate created by the COVID-19 pandemic the community is now experiencing significant population growth as people migrate away from hotspot locations, increasing the pressure on existing community services and demanding further resource in the health space.
IMPACT Community Services’ Discovery Coast Health Precinct has a well-established reputation within the region and is pleased to offer a solution by providing communal office spaces for visiting allied health professionals to operate from.
One such practitioner that has recently started visiting IMPACT’s Community Health Precinct is Rory Dowdall from Dowdall Optometry Group.
Rory started his mobile optometry service after the first wave of COVID-19 hit, when subsequent lockdowns left his permanent role at a Brisbane optometry clinic in question.
He decided to capitalise on the situation and took a chance at paving his own way.
Over the past 18 months Rory has built up his own equipment and now services 9 locations throughout Queensland.
After being approached by Checkup Australia he jumped at the opportunity to service the Discovery Coast community.
“There’s a huge gap in regional services, and Agnes hasn’t had (an optometrist) for over 12 years,” he said.
Although only contracted for two days a month by the government, Rory has decided to extend his visits to the idyllic coastal town for longer stints given the demand.
His goal is to be based at IMPACT’s Agnes Water-based Community Health Precinct for 5 days each month to service the ongoing need.
“Some people I’ve seen have been wearing glasses that are about 10 years old and are falling apart, so I’m glad I can come in, help them out and update their scripts,” he said.
“I’ve already had a few glaucoma suspects that haven’t been seen for about six or so years, which is pretty scary.
“At the same time, it’s great that I can come in and provide care for them and make sure they don’t lose visions or have any problems that could have been managed quite easily just because of where they live.
“We don’t want anyone, just because you live in a regional area, to fall through the cracks.”
Rory wants to change the way people approach optometry in rural areas.
The travelling optometrist offers bulk billing for exams and has access to both DVA support and the medical aid subsidy scheme, which provides free glasses for health care card and pension card holders.
“I just try and make it affordable for everyone,” Rory said.
“I want to make sure nobody feels like they’re priced out of a service, which unfortunately a lot of the time people feel (is a barrier).”
Rory said anyone over 65 should be having their eyes checked every year, and people under 65 every two.
He recommends children should also be checked before starting school and has picked up a number of potential health issues in his patients based on their eye health.
“I can tell people with high cholesterol, I can pre-diagnose diabetes, I have diagnosed over 50 patients with auto-immune conditions that were unknown to their GPs, so it’s one of those things where a thorough eye check can help not just from an eyes point of view but from a systemic point of view as well,” Rory said.
If you live in or visit the Discovery Coast region and would like to make an appointment with Rory, phone the IMPACT Community Health Service on 07 4902 2000 or visit the health precinct at 2 Rafting Ground Road, Agnes Water.
Optometry appointments for the Agnes Water clinic can be made directly online at https://bit.ly/dowdall