'This was a problem even before COVID': Patients could wait up to two years for cataract surgery
OTTAWA -- As elective surgeries slowly begin to resume, eye-care doctors say they are worried about the backlog.
“This was a problem that was starting to appear even before COVID became an issue. There’s just less operating room availability for ophthalmologists,” said Dr. Shawn Charland, Optometrist and parnter at eyeDOCS.
The global pandemic caused many clinics, such as the Riverside Eye Care Clinic, to close. As a result, clinics postponed their pending appointments and new appointments could not be booked.
Optometrists are the front-line workers of eye care. They see clients, and refer them for any necessary surgery.
With an aging population, cataract surgery is quite common, Dr. Charland said.
“The province had a goal of trying to get a cataract surgery, from referral to completion, finished within 180 days,” he said. “We’ve been finding now that the wait times for surgery have been increasing, nine months, 12 months.”
“It may take up to a year or longer to address the backlog,” said Dr. Chavez, an Ottawa optometrist.
“Given that The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) is the only facility in eastern Ontario’s Champlain health region that offers cataract surgery, anyone who needs the procedure is placed on a waiting list,” a portion of the TOH website reads.
According to the wait time numbers provided by the hospital, at one clinic the maximum wait time for nine out of 10 patients is 721 days or roughly two years.
Hennie Ross Palmer needs a cataract surgery in both eyes. The avid reader and quilter underwent surgery for one eye in February and was scheduled to have the other eye done in March.
“If I look at the sun, or if I look at a headlight, I can see prisms, circling lights and that’s disconcerting,” she said.
Due to COVID, her second appointment was pushed back to a tentative date in October.
In a statement, the Ottawa Hospital told CTV News “Care teams are reviewing each case individually based on medical need and urgency, ensuring that risks and benefits are properly evaluated before rescheduling the surgery or procedure. They are working hard to reschedule surgeries and procedures as quickly and safely as possible.”