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More Nova Scotians receiving vision-saving cataract surgery within national benchmarks

Stock photo of a patient having an eye exam

Today (October 12) marks World Sight Day and Nova Scotia Health is celebrating the progress being made to improve access to cataract surgeries.

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment in Canada and result when the lens in the eye hardens and becomes cloudy. While most often related to age, cataracts can also result from genetics, injuries, medication use and more, but can be corrected by replacing the damaged eye lens with a plastic one.

More than 16,000 cataract surgeries were completed last year, a more than 30 per cent increase from 2019-20 (pre-COVID). So far this year, 67 per cent of patients have received the surgery within the national 112-day benchmark, up from 56 per cent before the pandemic and 60 per cent last year.

Completing more cataract surgeries and delivering treatment within the national benchmark are priorities within government’s Action for Health Plan.  Nova Scotia Health is leading strategies to increase access and reduce wait times for these priorities as well as other surgeries and procedures.

Among the initiatives driving improved cataract surgery access is a partnership with Halifax Vision Centre and an increase in operating room time for eye surgeries at Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

The partnership with Halifax Vision Surgery Centre began in 2020 and expanded last year, allowing patients to receive cataract surgeries at no cost from the same eye surgeons who offer care at Nova Scotia Health facilities. An additional 970 cases were completed at the centre last year, compared to 2021-22 and teams are on track to complete even more cases this year.

Last year, 1,465 more cataract surgeries were completed at Cape Breton Regional Hospital compared to before the pandemic (2019-20) and volumes are expected to exceed pre-COVID levels again this year.

There are currently 3,632 patients waiting for cataract surgeries, down nearly 28 per cent from 5,015 last September. The overall eye surgery waitlist is also down to 4,171 compared to 5,534 last year at this time.

World Site Day (WSD) is coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness under the VISION 2020 Global Initiative. The objective of the annual awareness day is to bring attention to blindness and vision impairment. The agency estimates that about 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. Up to 80 per cent of this impairment is avoidable, with restorations of sight and blindness prevention strategies being among the most cost-effective interventions in health care.

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