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APOS statement on cataract surgery

Statement by Atlantic Provinces Ophthalmological Society
February 15, 2018

Dr. Ken Roberts, past Chair of the Atlantic Provinces Ophthalmological Society (APOS), provides some clarity today, concerning recent confusion of Cataract Surgery as an insured service in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cataract surgery is the most common insured ophthalmological surgical procedure performed in Canada. As a medically necessary procedure, it involves surgically removing a cloudy natural lens, called a cataract, followed by the implantation of an artificial lens. Artificial lenses are made from a variety of materials and are available in a multitude of focusing strengths to meet patient needs. It is possible to select a lens that will reduce or eliminate a patient’s need for glasses by correcting underlying near or far-sightedness and, in addition, lenses are available with additional features such as the ability to reduce astigmatism or reduce the need for bifocal glasses. These features are not found in standard lenses and require a patient to purchase the lens at an additional cost. In addition, use of these lenses often requires additional testing to be done, which must be paid for by the patient.

Most cataract surgeries in Newfoundland are done in a hospital and as an insured service covered by Medical Care Plan (MCP). However, many patients who have the surgery in Newfoundland opt to pay an additional fee to receive a lens with additional features. This approach to make available lenses with additional features is in common practice across the country. APOS believes that Newfoundland patients should have access to these advanced lenses.

In addition, across Canada cataract surgery is provided in out of hospital facilities to facilitate access to this procedure. These facilities provide refractive (vision enhancing) procedures that are not government insured and in some instances standard cataract surgery. Although rare in Newfoundland, there are approximately 60 private ophthalmological suites across Canada, including three in Halifax. Care provided in these accredited facilities should be of a similar standard to that provided in a hospital.

Recent comments by the Minister of Health in Newfoundland and Labrador have created confusion for patients who have had cataract surgery. APOS believes that patients in Newfoundland and Labrador should have access to newer diagnostic technology and advanced technology lenses regardless of whether that service is performed in a hospital or non-hospital setting.