Retinal specialist pilot program lands in Dauphin

Published on Tuesday, 02 August 2022 07:38

Ashcroft Vision Care is partnering with the province to provide advanced eye care options for Parkland residents that does not involve travel to Brandon or Winnipeg.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon was in Dauphin last week to announce a retinal specialist pilot program, which will see retinal specialists from Winnipeg travel to Dauphin once a month to deliver services normally not available in the community.

“Manitobans living in the Parkland region currently have to travel all the way to Winnipeg to access a retinal specialist and this can create an unnecessary financial burden, as well as additional stress for patients and their families,” Gordon said. “To have a specialist provide services right here at Ashcroft Vision Care will help reduce out-of-pocket expenses for these patients and families, strengthen health care in the region and ensure the same level of care closer to home.”

Retinal specialists diagnose retinal diseases and treat a wide variety of eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration, hereditary diseases of the eye, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment and cancers of the eye. They also treat patients who have experienced severe eye trauma.

According to Dr. Kara Vanderheyden of Ashcroft Vision Services, intravitreal anti-vegf injections are imperative to prevent permanent vision loss, as well as blindness in individuals who develop certain eye diseases such as wet macular degeneration, retinal venous occlusions and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and can only be performed by retinal ophthalmologists.

Beginning this fall, the program will service 60 to 80 patients each month, which Vanderheyden said will make a real difference in the lives of area residents displaying “increased concern and anxiety” around the need to travel to Winnipeg for treatment. “I’d say there’s around 200 patients from this area that are traveling and there’s new ones all the time.” she said.

“At this point, I am unsure of whether or not we will be over capacity to not accommodate all the patients from this area. Not all patients have to have injections every month, so we should be able to accommodate most patients in this area from having to go to Winnipeg. That is the goal of this project.”

The Manitoba government will cover travel expenses for the specialists and supply costs to support the project. Ashcroft Vision Care will provide space for the retinal specialist to perform procedures in one of their clinic rooms.

“It was becoming very evident, particularly over the past two years, the financial and physical burden patients were experiencing having to travel to Winnipeg as much as once a month,” Vanderheyden said. “Doctors (Randy) Ashcroft, (Jeremy) Mills and myself are more than pleased to provide our clinic for this pilot project and facilitate in bringing this important service closer to home for many Manitobans.”

This pilot project is in alignment with Manitoba’s Clinical and Preventive Services Plan’s goal to provide care closer to home, Gordon said, adding the initiative is expected to run over the next year to evaluate its effectiveness and impact on patient care.

“We’re saying this is a pilot and the pilot will initially benefit a certain number of individuals, so that we can test demand and look at how often we need to bring those specialists in,” Gordon said. “So in the pilot it may be one day, but once the program is fully up and running it may be more.”

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Published in Dauphin Herald News