Health Board plans to cut waiting lists with St. Mary’s help

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Tommasso Ferrucci waited two months to have his cataract operation done at a Montreal-area hospital.

“It was quick and simple. I had no problem,” he says.

He was one of the lucky ones. Most Quebec patients in need of this routine surgery are placed on the waiting list for an average of six months.

Although the condition isn’t necessarily painful, it is the leading cause of blindness in the world according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. For many, the wait is inconvenient and can cause anxiety.

Yet things will soon be changing. St. Mary’s Hospital Center is increasing the number of cataract surgeries it performs. The number will jump from 1,443 to 2, 693 in 2003-2004. By 2005-2006, that figure will increase to 7,500 cataract operations.

This is all part of a plan put in place by the Montreal Regional Health Board to diminish wait times for basic surgeries, particularly cataract and hip and knee replacements. St. Mary’s was appointed one of the three designated sites for cataract surgeries along with two other hospitals in the area.

The board is confident that by concentrating these procedures in certain institutions, waiting lists will diminish, patients will be better served and unit costs for these procedures will fall.

The decision to concentrate these procedures comes at the right time. Cataracts are common among the elderly and is the leading cause of blindness in the world. The country is facing an ever-ageing population. With the baby boomers growing older, the number of seniors is skyrocketing in almost every province. Quebec is no exception. Along with the Maritimes, the Quebec population is older than that of any other province.

That means the number of cases of cataracts is increasing- and more cases mean more surgeries. Hospitals need to be prepared to deal with the growing caseload.

St. Mary’s is happy to be part of the plan as it falls in line with its vision to continually provide the best possible quality of care to its patients. Shorter waiting lists mean greater patient satisfaction, something the hospital strives for continually.

The designation was also fitting considering St. Mary’s has a long-standing reputation as a specialist in cataract operations. In fact, a former chief of ophthalmology of the hospital, the late Dr. Marvin Kwitco, perfected the modern day cataract surgery while working at St. Mary’s.