New Tamworth surgeon brings rare treatment for glaucoma to town

OUT OF SIGHT: Ophthalmic surgeon Deric De Wit has brought a rare treatment for glaucoma patients in Tamworth and the region. Photo: Gareth Gardner

OUT OF SIGHT: Ophthalmic surgeon Deric De Wit has brought a rare treatment for glaucoma patients in Tamworth and the region. Photo: Gareth Gardner

ONE of Tamworth’s newest surgeons has a vision to stem a common and blinding disease by bringing a very rare operation to the country.

Ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Deric De Wit has worked in Berlin, Belfast and London, and now he has brought his unique skillset to the New England North West – treating glaucoma with viscocanaloplasty.

Dr De Wit believes he could be one of the only surgeons in Australia performing the operation.

He compared the procedure to the stenting of the heart performed in angioplasty and said the viscocanaloplasty was non-penetrating, had less risk of infection and had faster recovery times.

Dr De Wit said glaucoma was the third-leading cause of blindness behind cataracts and macular degeneration.

While there are a lot of challenges for medicos practicing in rural settings, there’s enough reward for the work.

“If you are in it to really change people lives, there’s no better place to be than the country,” Dr De Wit said.

“It is a resource challenge across the board.

“We’re challenged financially, because our patients don’t have the same demographic as the city.

“And we’re challenged logistically; I’ve just flown back from Melbourne with $40,000 worth of equipment, so I’m investing in the region.”

The surgeon said despite the challenges, there was joy in bringing new procedure to the region and the ability to make difference in people’s lives.

Dr De Wit spoke about the difference in patient expectation in rural and metropolitan settings.

“The expectations are certainly lower with people in the country,” he said.

“That’s good and bad, it means that the amount of good you can do in the country is phenomenal.

He said metropolitan patients could be “unrealistic in expectations”. “

“It doesn’t matter how well the outcome is, they’re not very happy because they’ve had other perceptions from being in a big city,” he said.

With limited resources available in the bush, Dr De Wit said there was a lot riding on the performance of surgeries in the region.

“I don’t have a choice as to whether or not I do a cataract operation on somebody [in the country], because if I don’t do it, that person cannot drive and they have no livelihood.”

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