Adult ophthalmology department won't move to new superhospital

The superhospital is billed as a one-stop shop for health care but when the Royal Victoria Hospital closes and moves to the Glen site this weekend, the ophthalmology department won't be going with it.

Eye specialists have spent the last 2 years focused on finding the department a home

The MUHC's adult ophthalmology department will not be moving to the new superhospital. (CBC Archives)

The superhospital is billed as a one-stop shop for health care but when the Royal Victoria Hospital closes and moves to the Glen site this weekend, the ophthalmology department won't be going with it.

When space was divvied up and the superhospital plan was conceived, pediatric ophthalmology was part of it, but not adult ophthalmology.

For the past two and a half years, it has struggled to find a home.

Challenge of finding a space

When Dr. Leonard Levin took on the top ophthalmology job at the MUHC, he had a bit of a challenge.

He was told adult ophthalmology wouldn't move to the Glen site and to figure out how it would maintain a presence - albeit, outside the hospital.

"We didn't have a home. We didn't have a clear idea of how many patients we'd be seeing, we didn't have a clear idea of which patients we'd be seeing," Levin said.

Eventually, a deal was worked out with the province. The department, which consists of the walk-in departments of both the Montreal General and Royal Victoria hospitals, will open a clinic on De Maisonneuve Street, right beside the Vendôme metro.

The former office building is currently under renovation to accommodate the specialized equipment the clinic will need. It should be ready by the end of June.

"In the States, where I am from, a lot of places have free-standing ophthalmology units. It's common in the U-S. In Quebec, it's less common," said Levin, who is excited about building a patient-centric clinic from the ground up.

Changes in care

But the new clinic will mean changes.

Secondary care will be reduced by about 30 per cent and the primary care will be reduced by about 50 per cent.

That means some patients will be referred elsewhere.

Much like the superhospital, the focus will be on more specialized, complex care.

"It will be things like neuro-ophthalmology, uveitis, ocular oncology, kind of specialized diseases that the average patient may not have even heard about until a friend of a relative gets it," said Levin.

"So people with multiple sclerosis can lose vision, people with brain tumours can lose vision, people with various cancers of the eye can lose vision. This is all in the purview of what we will be taking care of."

The new clinic will not do any retinal or cataract surgeries. More complex surgeries will be done at the Montreal General and more routine operations at the Lachine Hospital.

On-call at the Glen

The clinic's ophthalmologists will be on-call for emergencies or inpatient consults at the superhospital.

If the patient can't be transferred to the clinic, equipment from the pediatric unit may be used.

The clinic's staffing is still being worked out, which has created some anxiety, Levin said, but he thinks it's come a long way.

"We're in the process where we've gone from snow on the screen, to the name of the channel, to sort of a fuzzy picture and we're just about near to a very clear picture."


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