Macular Disease Foundation Australia logo

    “Rural ophthalmologists are overloaded with patients. We need more specialists out here”

    Eye injections in Australia for age related macular disease are carried out by Ophthalmologists.

    Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s report Investing to Save Sight shows most Ophthalmologists are based in major cities (about 84%) and the remaining 16% service the 7 million who live in rural and remote communities. People who live in rural and remote areas face real struggles to commit to start sight-saving eye injections and to stick with the treatment. 

    In western NSW some people travel five hours to receive their eye injections in the regional hub of Dubbo.

    Beverley aged 73 lives in Narromine in far western New South Wales. She has wet macular disease and needs injections in both eyes. 

    Her central vision is not good, she says it’s blurry but has glasses that help.

    Beverly travels to the regional centre of Dubbo for her eye injections. It’s a 20-minute trip from her home and either her daughter or her friend takes her there and back.

    “I have family support so that’s good.”

    An Ophthalmologist visits once a month to provide eye treatment at Dubbo Base Hospital.

    While she has no problems getting appointments, on her last visit she noticed he had 70 patients.

    It’s like that every visit, it’s up around the 70s and he does that in a day. He flies in from Sydney in the morning and flies back after work.

    Beverley says it’s outrageous having to see 70 people in one day but nothing is rushed.

    “You’ve got his full attention when you’re in there, he doesn’t rush, he spends a lot of time with his patients and that’s why there’s too many that he takes on.”

    “In-between his eye specialist surgery and injections, he removes cataracts on that day as well.”

    “Honestly he’d be that tired by the end of the day and then he has to fly back to Sydney.”

    “He’s a busy man. He’s got a big job.“

    “I think they need to have more specialists out here because it’s just too much, they’re overloaded with their patients.”

    She says a there’s a lack of time with patients.

     “He doesn’t rush things but you can’t really make or build a relationship with him because he hasn’t got the time to sit down and have a good talk.”

    “It’s too many people to see and he goes all day, it’s ridiculous.”

    MDFA is able to support eye health professionals by providing information to support people to remain on treatment.

    As well as having a busy schedule, people are forced to drive many hours to see him.

    “They come from as far as Lightning Ridge to see him, which is about five hours drive. Another lady comes from Bourke, and that’s about four hours.”

    She said it’s hard for them because it’s their monthly chance of receiving sight saving eye injections and they have to be at the hospital on that particular day.

    It’s a very, very long day for them because some of them wait one or two hours to see him for treatment, on top of their travel.

    “If you don’t have family, it would be very hard to get to the appointments as he only comes as far as Dubbo.”

    And it’s not only the travel, she says you’re looking at the cost as well. Beverley says so many are disadvantaged financially or can’t even get in.

    More information 

    About Macula Month 

    Macula Month is MDFA’s annual campaign each May to raise awareness of macular disease – Australia’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss. 

    Currently, 80,000 Australians receive regular anti-VEGF eye injections to retain vision and prevent blindness. Since their introduction in 2007, eye injections have saved the sight of countless Australians living with neovascular AMD and diabetic macular oedema.

    One in seven Australians over the age of 50 have some evidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This equates to approximately 1.5 million people with AMD. Current treatment is only available Australians with late-stage neovascular AMD in the form of eye injections. Sadly, almost half stop treatment within five years putting them at the risk of blindness. 

    In 2023, MDFA recommends modest government improvements to three key areas to help people stay with their eye injection treatment path. Through improved Health Literacy, improved Affordability and Improved Accessibility to increase the number of people staying with their treatment, the government can save up to $2 billion dollars.

    Our report Investing to Save Sight  shows improved affordability, by eliminating out of pocket costs for an additional 10% of affected people can save government and pensioners hundreds of millions of dollars. 

    Our report Investing to Save Sight  shows most ophthalmologists are based in major cities (about 84%) and the remaining service the 7 million who live in rural and remote communities. By establishing treatment services in more accessible location and reducing the travel burden for those like Marina travelling over 100km, more people would stick with treatment and can save government $2 billion. 

    About Macular Disease Foundation Australia 

    MDFA is the national peak body representing the voice of the macular disease community. We are committed to reducing the incidence and impact of macular disease. 

    As well as advocacy on behalf of every Australian living with and at risk of macular disease, we provide a range of free resources and support services via our National Helpline (1800 111 709) and our website (

    About macular disease 

    Macular disease covers a range of painless conditions that affect the central retina (the macula) at the back of the eye. The most common are age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, including diabetic macular oedema. 

    Diabetic eye disease affects between 300,000 and 400,000 Australians – the leading cause of preventable blindness among the working-age population. 

    Media contacts 

    • Steven McArthur, Director, Buzz Group 
      • Phone: +61 412 457 471 
    • Natasha Rontziokos, Communications Lead, Buzz Group 
      • Phone: +61 421 272 390 


    PwC (2019). Impact of IVI rebate changes

    Investing to Save Sight: Health and Economic Benefits of Improving Macular Disease Treatment Persistence. May 2023. This MDFA report was supported by PwC Australia.

    Posted: 28 April 2023

    More articles like this