Manitoba’s eye surgery backlog is dangerous for patients, warns ophthalmologist – Winnipeg

A Manitoba ophthalmologist warns that pending eye surgeries in the province could put patients at risk and make procedures more complicated and expensive. The backlog has grown to nearly 5,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, not counting a pre-pandemic waiting list.

Wilson Anderson, who was an avid reader, has been awaiting cataract surgery since January 2020.

Since then, his vision has deteriorated to the point that he can no longer do some of the activities he enjoys without help.

“I know that the delays not only cause physical deterioration, but they also cause me mental problems, because I cannot do what I normally do which is read, relax, walk the dogs. , volunteer, which I really take pride in doing, ”Anderson said at a press conference Friday hosted by Doctors Manitoba.

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Some Manitoba patients may be sent elsewhere to help clear the backlog of surgery

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A December report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information suggests that Manitoba experiences the largest drop in the percentage of surgeries among all provinces except Quebec, which was not included in the set. of data.

Between March 2021 and June, Manitoba will have performed 44% fewer cataract and lens surgeries than in the same months before the pandemic. The national average is 22% fewer procedures.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Jennifer Rahman says Manitoba’s backlog worsened during COVID-19, with patients now waiting on average at least a year for their procedures, a period during which they are at increased risk of falls and vision loss. The national benchmark, however, runs for 16 weeks, said Rahman, who is also president of Manitoba’s eye doctors and surgeons.

“The longer patients wait for cataract surgery, the denser their cataracts become,” Rahman said at the press conference. “They have more difficulty with their vision, daily tasks, driving and work and are more vulnerable to injuries and falls.”

Dense cataracts potentially require more complicated procedures that could cost more and take longer, Rahman said, which in turn could delay the patient’s recovery and return to work.

“Unfortunately, the backlog creates more complex cataract procedures due to long wait times, which will prolong patient suffering and cost us more time, effort and money to fix the longer the backlog remains. long, ”Rahman said.

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Although cataract surgeries are the hardest hit, all types of surgeries – including time-limited glaucoma and retina surgeries at Misericordia Hospital, Manitoba’s central ophthalmology center – experience delays. , said Rahman.

“(The backlog) will continue to get worse as our population ages,” Rahman said. “The development of cataracts is an inevitable part of the aging process, and almost everyone will need cataract surgery at some point in their life. “

The province does not have enough operating time for surgeons it has, a problem that has persisted since before the pandemic, Rahman said.

While there is room for private clinics to help reduce the backlog, the province should not count on their help, Rahman said, as they cannot perform all types of surgeries.

Rahman does not want Manitobans sent out of the province. Instead, she urges the province to increase funding to increase the capacity of operating rooms in Misericordia – where three out of five full-time operating rooms have been closed – and to hire more specialist doctors and nurses, many of them retired, went on sick leave or took other jobs after repeated lockdowns.

Manitoba established a task force in early December to tackle the province’s backlog of diagnoses and surgeries. Doctors Manitoba estimates that number exceeded 150,000 in October.

A provincial spokesperson said in a statement Friday that the task force is currently reviewing all areas affected by the pandemic.

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“The first regular update is expected later this month.”

Anderson, who has been waiting for two years, is still waiting for his surgery date.

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