More cataract surgeries won’t affect Red Deer

An additional 1,400 cataract surgeries to be performed at mostly private clinics in Calgary and Edmonton won’t impact the wait time for surgery in Red Deer, where there’s already quicker service.

An additional 1,400 cataract surgeries to be performed at mostly private clinics in Calgary and Edmonton won’t impact the wait time for surgery in Red Deer, where there’s already quicker service.

On Friday, Alberta Health Services announced $2 million will be spent to provide more publicly-funded cataract surgeries, as well as 120 more corneal transplants.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Elizabeth Lythgoe, who performs the majority of cataract surgery in Red Deer, said her average patient only waits about four weeks compared to the six months in Edmonton and a year to a year and a half in Calgary reported earlier this year.

“We’re very lucky here. They move very quickly. At the moment, we’re keeping up with the demand very well,” Lythgoe said.

Sometimes the Red Deer hospital gets cataract patients from Calgary, but predominantly treats Central Albertans, she said.

“Most of us in the rural places do a fair amount of surgery. I probably do more cataract surgeries than the average cataract surgeon in Calgary.”

Alberta Health Services says 100 people, who have already seen an eye surgeon and are proceeding to surgery, are on a wait list for cataract surgery at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Between April 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010, 939 people had cataract surgery in Red Deer.

On May 20, Alberta Health Services issued a request for proposals from non-hospital surgical facilities. Six facilities in Calgary and five in Edmonton were awarded contracts.

The additional surgeries will be performed between now and mid-October.

In February, the province funded 2,140 more cataract surgeries and the number of surgical centres were reduced from five to two in Calgary. Two centres operated in Edmonton.

Lythgoe said people are waiting to see if government will continue to add surgeries.

“I think it’s a temporary relief thing. We’re all waiting to see if it’s really going to happen.”

About 35,000 eye surgeries were performed provincewide annually.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com