Over 2.5 million Canadians have cataracts,makingcataract surgery one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Canada. Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens inside the eye. They begin to slowly and gradually worsen, affecting the patient's ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as driving and reading. According to the Canadian Medical Association, an estimated 35-40 per cent of Canadians will develop cataracts by age 70.
Although more than 95 per cent of patients experience significantly improved vision after cataract surgery, recent cuts to funding in Ontario are impacting patient care, causing wait times to skyrocket and in some cases forcing hospitals to close their doors to patients who need medical treatment. In October 2012, Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) across Ontario communicated to their local hospitals that cataract surgery volumes would be cut by 10-20 per cent, forcing some hospitals, particularly in small and rural communities, to eliminate their cataract programs entirely.
“We are concerned about the visual health of our patients if these cuts are not reversed,” said Dr. Tim Hillson of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. “Loss of independence for patients waiting for the procedure, most often seniors, can be severe. Individuals with vision loss due to cataracts are three times more likely to suffer from depression and four times more likely to suffer hip fractures.”
Ontarians have come to count on reliable access to cataract surgery thanks to the province's 250 cataract surgeons; a service that is now in jeopardy as a result of the cuts.
“Our aim as ophthalmologists is to continue to preserve and restore vision in Ontario,” said Dr. Hillson. “Unless the government of Ontario reverses these cuts, patients and their families will suffer needlessly from the effects of a condition that can, in many cases, be easily treated.”
More information is available online at www.epso.ca.