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New N.B. cataract clinics aim to reduce wait-time from 326 to 112 days

An agreement between the Fredericton Cataract Surgical Centre and Horizon Health will reportedly increase patient access to cataract surgeries in the Fredericton region and cut down on wait times.

According to a news release from Horizon, the centre, which has the capacity to complete more than 3,200 surgeries annually, will help the hospital meet the national benchmark wait time of 112 days for cataract surgeries. The provincial average is 326 days.

“We had quite an increase in the waiting list for cataract surgeries during the pandemic, the reason being, of course, that there was a period of time when we suspended all elective surgeries during that red phase of the pandemic,” said Horizon Health interim CEO Margaret Melanson. “And that really increased the waiting list for cataract surgeries. And honestly, since that time, we’ve been playing catch-up.”

The New Brunswick government is hopeful the new cataract clinics in Fredericton and Miramichi will help combat the growing waitlist for the surgery.\

The release noted a similar partnership with the Miramichi Cataract Surgery Center earlier this year resulted in more than 1,200 completed cataract surgeries since March.

“When we find innovative solutions that are benefitting patients, we’re working to build and expand on them with our partners in the health system,” said Health Minister Bruce Fitch in the release. “We’ve seen significant progress in Bathurst for more than a year and promising improvements in Miramichi when it comes to reducing the wait times, and we know the team here in Fredericton is confident they can provide quality public health care through this model.”

Opthamologist and clinic owner Dr. Ken Roberts said the surgery can seriously improve a person’s quality of life.

“So if you think about driving and reading and using any kind of screen, we need vision for everything,” he said. “It affects our independence, our mobility and cataracts have been shown to impact even other health conditions. We see more falls, hip fractures in patients with cataracts. You can see a worsening of a mental health depression, anxiety and even dementia when you start to lose your senses, including vision. So removing cataracts in a timely fashion is important more than just for vision, it's important for the holistic aspect as well.”

But he said doing the surgeries in a hospital setting – which is equipped for all sorts of surgical procedures – held him back from being able to help more patients.

“So with a facility like this, we’re able to design it so that the waiting room or the day surgery area is close to the surgical suite, and so that when you’re talking about high volumes, you know, an extra few minutes per patient running them up and down a hallway can reduce your efficiency and make you do less cases in a day,” he said.

Medicare will cover surgeries performed at the centre. The goal is to see another clinic open in Saint John.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories

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