Cataract surgery at Regional on hold


Anyone who was lined up to have cataract surgery next month at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre will have to wait until April 1.
The hospital announced Monday that the restorative eyesight procedures are on hold because the number of such surgeries it has performed has exceeded a new yearly maximum set by the province.
“As of Feb. 20, 1,817 cataract surgeries have been performed at (Regional) — 38 procedures more than the funded level (by the province),” Regional said in a news release.
Regional acting executive patient care vice-president Lori Marshall said the province informed the hospital a few days before Christmas that the number of cataract surgeries it can do per fiscal year was being reduced to 1,779 from 1,996.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, Regional was funded for 1,996 cataract surgeries and performed the full amount.
“We were surprised (by the quota reduction) because we were told so late in the year,” Marshall said.
The Ministry of Health did not immediately provide a response Monday.
Despite the reduction in the number of allowable cataract surgeries, patients can still expect “to receive the surgery within our current average wait time of 66 days,” Marshall said in a news release.
One Northwestern Ontario veteran health-care administrator, who didn’t want to be named, said Regional’s wait time “is phenomenally good.”
Regional waited to inform the public about the quota reduction because it believed that it might be able to find other sources of funding to prevent its cataract service from being interrupted.
Since no new money has been found, “we thought it would be prudent “ to make a public announcement,” said Marshall.
She said it’s reasonable to expect that, given Northwestern Ontario’s aging population, the demand for cataract surgery will “reflect the changing demographics.”
Thunder Bay Health Coalition co-chairman Jules Tupker said the reduced quota for cataract surgeries reminds him of last year’s decision by the province to eliminate 65 long-term care beds by closing one of the city’s nursing homes.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Tupker, “but are we surprised? Probably not.”
Ontario NDP Health critic France Gelinas said it’s discouraging to see the province cutting back on the number of surgeries when there are examples of the government wasting money in other areas.