An attack on The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists on the front page of The Weekend Australian newspaper on 24 March over training numbers has been refuted by two presidents of the college.

• The article claimed RANZCO limited the number of new ophthalmologists, causing excessive waiting times for elective surgery and high ‘gap’ fees, as well as claiming certain services, including cataract surgery, are being performed too often in some areas and not enough in others..

• t quoted the findings of a part-completed report from the National Medical Training Advisory Network which said the number of new RANZCO fellows declined 13.8 per cent between 2011 and 2015.

• Also, that 89.5 per cent work in the private sector and 83.6 per cent work in major cities.

The current president of RANZCO, Associate Professor Mark Daniell said the college is keen to train as many new ophthalmologists as required to meet the current and future needs of the Australian and New Zealand population and that the number of new ophthalmologists has risen from 28 in 2010-11 to 42 in 2015-16. Last year there were 1,013 RANCO fellows.

Current president’s response

Professor Daniell said RANZCO is keen to train as many new ophthalmologists as required to meet the current and future needs of the Australian (and New Zealand) population, which is why the number of new ophthalmologists has in fact increased in recent years (from 28 in 2010-11 to 42 in 2015-16).

“In particular, RANZCO is concerned about workforce maldistribution, with limited access to specialist services for people living in remote and regional areas meaning these people are more likely to suffer avoidable blindness,” he said.

Government funding necessary

“With this in mind, RANZCO continues to call on governments, at both federal and state level, to facilitate and fund additional specialist training posts, with a particular focus on regional and rural areas. RANZCO has developed a regional training model to address the current maldistribution issues and we are calling on government to facilitate that by allocating additional training places in these areas.

“In metropolitan areas, where waiting lists for surgeries such as cataract are unreasonably high, RANZCO continues to push for public-hospital funding to meet demand. The problem in these areas is not a lack of ophthalmologists, but a lack of public hospital funding.”

Immediate past president agrees

The immediate past president of RANZCO and chair of its workforce committee, Dr Brad Horsburgh, said in The Australian training more ophthalmologists was dependent on the resources provided by the states.

He said the college is producing about 30 ophthalmologists a year and part of the work that used to be done by ophthalmologists is now routinely done by optometrists and that demand for optometry services is rising faster than the demand for ophthalmology.