When not working at Laser Vision Scotland, our consultants are involved in voluntary and overseas projects. Consultant Ophthalmologist Jonathon Ross, shares his experience of working in Southland Hospital, New Zealand.
Prior to starting my current consultant post as an ophthalmic and facial plastic surgeon in Edinburgh, I spent time working in New Zealand. More recently, in May this year I returned to Southland Hospital, Invercargill, to provide a further month of ophthalmologic consultancy. Southland Hospital is the most southern hospital in the world, and is a very special place, especially if you are Scottish.
The southern tip of the Americas and New Zealand are the only inhabited land masses which extend as far south as the 45th latitude. The natural light that occurs here, coupled with some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth, makes southern New Zealand a Mecca for landscape photographers. For the first time visitor it is a magical place.
Southland and Otago was settled by Scottish explorers in the mid 19th century, who turned their hand successfully to livestock and dairy farming. A Scottish surgeon travelling to work here nowadays will be surprised, having flown as far from home as possible, to find their clinic full of Mackenzies, Campbells and Hamiltons!
Southland Hospital is a new state-of-the-art district general hospital. In keeping with the region’s heritage, Brits lured by the Kiwi lifestyle extensively staff it. At the time of my visit the eye care service had been affected by a recent shortage of local eye specialists, so there was an opportunity to make a big difference with a little hard work. Many of the patients remembered me from 2010, and extended a warm Kiwi welcome.
The eye centre is run by Edel Kretschmer, a talented and award-winning specialist nurse from Germany who has made Southland her home for the past 20 years. Together with Edel and her team, we worked days, evenings and weekends so that by the end of my visit we had seen 800 patients in clinic and operated on a further 100 patients. Although it’s a cliché, there is a real ‘can do’ attitude over there! Edinburgh will always be my home, but New Zealand continues to tug the heart strings.
About 250 individuals experience vision loss every 6 minutes, according to statistics by Fight for Sight UK. Good vision is important for everyday