Monday, 19 August 2019


Hi-tech capability at Mercury Bay Optometrist

By Suzanne Hansen

I am continually amazed and grateful for living in such a paradise as Whitianga. My husband and I chose to move to Whitianga for its combination of wonderful lifestyle, welcoming community and specifically for the infrastructure this lovely town provides, especially as we mature in age. 

We chose wisely as it turns out because the services and infrastructure that we have encountered have been way more than expected. That was again reinforced during my recent visit to Brett Howes and his team at Mercury Bay Optometrist in Lee Street. 

Brett, a sports vision and contact lens specialist, has been an optometrist for more than 40 years, most of it in Auckland. Between eight and nine years ago, Brett, based on his lifetime love of Opito Bay, made Mercury Bay his permanent home. Brett moved to Opito and at the same time bought Murray Roger’s well-established optometry practice in Whitianga. From there Brett set about to grow the local, state-of-the-art optometry practice which we are all lucky to have available to us today.

Brett says his optometry practice in Auckland, where he was able to specialise and where he was a kilometre away from specialist ophthalmologists and hospitals, was “worlds apart” from his new practice in Whitianga. He immediately identified the need for more hi-tech capability to provide comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions or more serious underlying situations within the geographic realities of Mercury Bay.

That caused him to invest in equipment such as Mercury Bay Optometrist’s capital-intensive optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner. In layman’s terms, an OCT scanner is a non-invasive imaging test, using light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina. An OCT scan can provide a huge amount of information about a range of potential issues before they present symptoms, including glaucoma, diseases of the retina and macular degeneration. 

Brett’s investment in this state-of-the-art scanner was at the time way ahead of the curve in terms of rural eye care, but it was an investment that Brett felt was critical to providing the right service to our remote community. 

Brett works closely with ophthalmologist Chris Murphy from Hamilton, who visits Whitianga fortnightly for specialist consultations and through the OCT scanner’s digital output he is only ever a digital communication away from Chris or the desks of other top New Zealand medical eye specialists.

Brett also invests in continually upskilling his two staff members, Juliet Clague and Margot Smith, to assist him with troubleshooting, identifying issues and making sure that Mercury Bay Optometrist patients receive the best outcomes possible. The practice also boasts a very stylish selection of frames and accessories for those of us who see eyewear as fashionwear.

Brett also invests substantially in the Mercury Bay community. He feels that living in a place like Mercury Bay is a privilege and that it’s his duty to support many of our volunteer organisations financially and with his time.

Brett believes that he needs to provide an optometry service which offers much better value and quality than the larger national and international optometry chains. The chains all invest a lot in attracting patients with bargain pricing on lower end products which many times are not they end up buying. In fact, the pricing of products at Mercury Bay Optometrist often ends up being the same or lower than the larger chains, with the convenience, backup and personal touch of a local practice. 

Brett suggests that we should all have an eye exam every two years to early detect any surprising conditions such as glaucoma. Brett calls glaucoma the “vision thief” because it steals sight without the knowledge of the sufferer. Glaucoma does not present symptoms until it is too late to do anything about it. Catching glaucoma early is key to saving our sight.

I had an OCT scan while I was visiting Brett and I am glad I did. The scan itself was totally non-evasive, not even eye drops were necessary. And I learned something new about my eyes as well, something Brett and I will keep an eye on (so to speak) over time.



Should Waikato DHB fund the provision of some public healthcare services in a new multi-service medical facility in Whitianga?

The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.