How is government reducing wait times for cataract surgery on P.E.I., Green MLA asks
'We have to do better, we're not hitting that benchmark,' says health minister
A Green MLA is asking what government is doing to decrease wait times for cataract surgeries on P.E.I.
Michele Beaton posed the question to Health Minister Ernie Hudson during question period in the legislature Thursday.
She said it's not the first time she's raised the issue. She asked the same question to the previous minister of health in the legislature in 2019, who committed to addressing the problem. Yet, she said wait times have continued to increase.
She said she's heard from a number of people who have experienced the wait times first hand.
"One waited 10 months just to see a specialist and then another year for the surgery. The other, a gentleman in his 80s, waited 14 months for the appointment with the specialist and then almost 13 months for the surgery," Beaton said.
According to the government's website, 90 per cent of patients on P.E.I. received their cataract surgery within 481 days in 2020 — based on data collected from April 1 to Sept. 30. That's increased from roughly 350 days for the same time frame in 2019.
"The previous minister committed to looking into these long wait times and to address them. What has your department done regarding this and has it made any impact?"
'We have to do better'
Hudson said the province's benchmark is to get wait times down to 112 days.
"We have to do better, we're not hitting that benchmark," Hudson said.
He said demand for cataract surgery has also been on the rise, increasing by about 30 per cent last year.
"But that Mr. Speaker does not mean that we can't do better and that we must do better."
According to the Department of Health and Wellness, P.E.I. has a complement of five full-time equivalent ophthalmology positions, which are being filled by a combination of full- and part-time ophthalmologists. Currently four ophthalmologists offer a full scope of practice on the Island, which includes surgical and non-surgical care.
Beaton told CBC News she would like the province to look into whether additional ophthalmology supports are available and work to recruit more ophthalmologists to the Island. But, in the meantime she'd like to see government explore other ways to bring wait times down.
"We have a lot of catch up to do and my suggestion would be that we need to start looking at methods such as paying for Islanders to go off-Island to get their surgery at least to clear the backlog," she said.
"So that seniors are living with clear eyesight and able to drive and have a quality of life that they deserve."
Hudson said he's already spoken to staff about referring patients to facilities outside of P.E.I. and it is being considered.