Cataract surgery wait list a glaring oversight, senior says

Seniors living in B.C.'s West Kootenays say the waiting list for cataract surgery is shockingly long, and they want Interior Health to do something about it.

Patients in Nelson and Trail say they are on a year-long waitlist for simple day surgery

Seniors living in B.C.'s West Kootenays say the waiting list for cataract surgery is shockingly long, and they want Interior Health to do something about it.

Mary Anne McClelland, aged-71, needs cataract surgery to correct her deteriorating vision. But when she asked for the procedure, she was told it could take up to a year before it could happen.

By that time, she said she may not even be able to drive.

"If I lose my driver's licence, then my independence is lost," she told CBC News.

An ophthalmologist drops medicine on the eye of a cataract patient. In cataract surgery, the cloudy, natural lens is removed from the eye and, in most cases, a plastic lens replaces it. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

McClelland is just one of roughly 250 people in the Nelson and Trail area who are on the region's wait list for the relatively simple day surgery to remove cataracts. Most of those in limbo are seniors and some, like McClelland, will wait a year for surgery.

"That's what really gets me irritated," she said. "I think the majority of people with cataracts are seniors. A lot of seniors are independent, like I am."

Ingrid Hampf, an acute health service administrator with Interior Health, concedes some of the patients are waiting too long.

"We recognize that is not ideal and we are looking right now at cataracts, which seemed to have blossomed with a long wait list, to realign some of our OR time," she told CBC News.

Hampf said that finding additional operating time for cataract surgery is the key to reducing the wait times, and that the operating room management committee is already looking to address the problem.

"They have been given the information and are aware of the wait times and some of the hardships," she said.

Hampf said at the committee's first meeting in January, the cataract surgery wait times will be the number-one topic on the agenda.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating

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