Ontario to restore some funding for cataract surgery

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LONDON, Ont. ─ The province will restore $2.8 million to finance cataract surgery after cutbacks caused wait times to surge, QMI Agency has learned.

The extra money will allow for another 5,000 surgeries province-wide, including 900 in Southwestern Ontario and 400 in London, Ont.

"This will bring (wait times) down," Health Minister Deb Matthews said.

The cash injection came after wait times in London jumped by 50% last year and a Hamilton hospital ran out of money to do cataract surgery.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that obscures vision, and demand for the surgery has increased with the aging population.

The growing waits had worried hospital executive and doctors alike.

"It’s hurting patients," ophthalmologist Dr. Tim Hillson, chairman of the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, said last month.

Patients forced to wait are at greater risk for falls, car crashes and depression, preventable calamities that cost our health-care system more in the long run, Hillson said.

Matthews, a London MPP, said the wait times allow her ministry to monitor what’s happening so adjustments can be made.

It was a Liberal government in 2003 that placed targets on wait times for cataracts, cancer surgery, heart procedures, hip and knee replacements and MRI and CT scans. The list of procedures has since grown. In the years since, wait times for cataract surgery dropped sharply, below 182 days, before the province cut funding.


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