P.E.I. behind national benchmark for cataract surgery wait times

Pierre Filion uses a magnifying glass to read the label on his medication. (Ken Linton/CBC - image credit)
Pierre Filion uses a magnifying glass to read the label on his medication. (Ken Linton/CBC - image credit)

Pierre Filion still has enough eyesight to read, though he sometimes has to use a magnifying glass for prescription labels and other small type.

Filion, who lives in Nine Mile Creek, P.E.I., has given up driving at night, and just getting around his house is becoming more of a concern due to his failing eyesight.

"There are some times that I reach out for things and I go and grab them and they're just not there. They're maybe, like, an inch further away," he said.

"If you make a mistake going down the stairs you may end up in a heap down at the bottom ... when you live alone, it's not very much fun."

Surgery delayed

Filion, who is 72 and retired, has been waiting a year for cataract surgery, and was just told it will be delayed — "maybe in the spring, maybe in the summer," he said.

The national benchmark for how long most people in Canada should have to wait for cataract surgery is 112 days.

Last year, only about 30 per cent of patients on P.E.I. received their surgery within the benchmark time frame — the worst rate in the country.

Health P.E.I. said some people have waited more than 400 days.

CBC
CBC

P.E.I.'s Official Opposition has been raising the issue in the legislature since 2019.

Green Party health critic Michele Beaton said cataract surgery is a simple procedure once someone gets into the operating room, but the results can be life-changing.

The province and the federal government are both letting me down, and I think they're letting down a lot of seniors right now. — Island resident Pierre Filion

"This is somebody's eyesight. This means if they don't get the surgery done, then they're not going to be able to drive their car. They're not going to be able to read the newspaper, they're not going to be able to play cards," Beaton told CBC News. "Different things like that that they need in order to be part of society."

A proposal has been made to Health P.E.I. that would allow more surgeries and ease the backlog, which may only get longer as the population ages.

Ontario premier Doug Ford kicked off a national debate Monday on public versus private health care, unveiling his government's plan to send patients to private clinics for cataract surgery and other procedures.

Ontario is hitting the benchmark wait time for cataract surgeries in 60 per cent of cases — twice as often as P.E.I.

Fillion said he's fine with whatever it takes to repair his eyesight.

"When you pay in taxes, money goes to health care, right? The province and the federal government are both letting me down, and I think they're letting down a lot of seniors right now."