The halls in the Pat Mallioux Eye Clinic in Petrolia are quiet today.
Officials with Bluewater Health say the clinic at Charlotte Eleanor Englehart Hospital is closed for the month of March after the province reduced the number of cataract operations which would be funded across the province.
The Mallioux Clinic was set up in 2009 and performs all of the cataract surgeries in Sarnia and Lambton County and some from out of the region as well.
Mike Lapaine, vice-president of operations at Bluewater Health, says each year the province provides funding for a set number of operations. Officials were expecting to be funded for 1,463 operations in 2014 but late in the year they received word from the provincial Health Ministry there would be funding for 1,389 – 74 less.
“When we learned of this… the schedule had to be slowed down,” he says.
Many of the patients receiving cataract surgery are seniors who are often snowbirds. And Lapaine says the surgeons who perform cataract surgery often take vacation in the spring.
So Bluewater Health decided not to schedule any cataract operations in March, closing the clinic for the month until the next fiscal year begins in April and new funding is available.
“At the hospital, we knew well enough in advance (of the reduction) that we could decide not be doing any surgeries in March.
“No one has had cataracts cancelled; we didn’t have any scheduled.”
Lapaine says the situation is not unusual. Across the province the number of cataract surgeries funded has been reduced. Last year, the province kicked in an extra $2.8 million when wait times for cataract surgery skyrocketed in some larger communities such as London.
In Petrolia, wait times according to the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network are about 62 days in 2014.