Outstanding eye surgery nearly 5,000 in the province

Manitoba’s backlog of eye surgeries will only get worse and more costly until left untreated, a Winnipeg ophthalmologist warned Friday.

Speaking to the media at a virtual press conference yesterday, Dr. Jennifer Rahman, president of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, said that at the Misericordia Health Center in Winnipeg – Manitoba’s primary facility for eye surgeries – there has been a 46 percent reduction in the number of surgeries performed since March 2020.

Although some pressures on the system have been eased through outsourcing procedures to private facilities, Rahman said the backlog is still around 5,000 across the province.

Additionally, as elective surgeries were completely halted several times during the pandemic, Misericordia lost retired ophthalmic nurses, sick leave, or other jobs.

Part of the problem is that for surgeries and procedures that take longer to complete or have more complex demands on staff and resources, they are not eligible to take place at private facilities.

As patients live longer without treating conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma, their symptoms will worsen and, with poor eyesight, are more likely to be injured.

“When the surgery for a very dense cataract is finally over, it can potentially be more complicated,” said Rahman.

“Complicated cataract surgeries take longer and [are] maybe more expensive for the system. As a result, recovery and return to work can be significantly delayed. Unfortunately, the backlog creates more complicated 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 will persist. ”

Although cataract surgeries are the most affected by the backlog, Rahman said surgeries for conditions like glaucoma have had impacts as well, especially as waiting for treatment can cause permanent visual damage in some cases.

She called on the province to immediately provide more funds to reduce the backlog, as well as to remove the cap on the number of surgeries doctors can perform each month.

According to Doctors Manitoba’s best estimate, it appears there were 293 fewer cataract surgeries performed between March 2020 and October 2021 compared to the same number of months before the pandemic.

Although they do not have specific numbers, the organization believes other rural hospitals in Westman, such as in Minnedosa and Swan Valley, have also faced disruption.

Overall, they estimate the overall rural eye surgery backlog caused by the pandemic to be between 300 and 400 in addition to the backlog that existed before COVID-19 arrived in Manitoba.

Wilson Anderson, a recent retiree, described how his quality of life deteriorated as his cataracts progressed.

After retiring in 2020, Anderson said he plans to go back to school, read more often and enjoy life.

However, after his eyesight started to deteriorate, his doctor told him in early 2021 that he needed cataract surgery. His night vision, color perception, and sensitivity to bright light were all in decline.

In July 2021, he was put on the waiting list for cataract surgery where he is still waiting.

Due to his worsening condition, he cannot enjoy things like walking his dogs and volunteering, had to take fewer college courses, and was forced to rely on his partner to help him accomplish tasks that were previously simple for him.

“I find walking, cooking, taking medicine, climbing stairs and walking safely, all difficult for me,” he said. “In fact, in December 2021 I had a serious fall outside where I split my lip, cut my face and broke a pair of glasses, all because I had to. hard to look and see the distance between the steps. ”


»Twitter: @ColinSlark

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