To the editor:
The impact of a diagnosis that one requires immediate surgery to repair a detached retina is without a suitable adjective.
That was the situation I faced last Feb. 23, as an optometrist here in Kelowna had me rushed to the office of an ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon.
The urgency with which these two doctors made room in their busy schedule was a blessing and somewhat of a shock, as I moved toward an uncertain future suddenly blind in one eye.
From there, arrangements were made for me to travel to Kamloops on the following Tuesday to meet with the cataract and vitreoretinal surgeon that would perform the first surgery on my left eye on the following Thursday.
The doctors in Kelowna were skilled at the highest professional level, and the surgical team in Kamloops was brilliant.
As a resident of the Okanagan for 14 years, I must consider it my responsibility to bring a potential administrative oversight to your collective attention.
All Okanagan residents requiring vitreoretinal eye surgery must leave the valley to get treatment.
The vast majority are sent to the Lower Mainland (deferring assets away from Interior Health), and about 20 per cent dealt with in Kamloops.
Whether victims of sporting, automobile, or other accidents, the need for vitreoretinal surgery is always urgent.
It is also important not to overlook the requirements of the residents that have come here to retire or diabetics that may likely face emergencies of this nature.
These procedures often involve the injection of intraocular gas which can expand. This means that travel over mountain passes can be very painful, and air travel is not an option.
Every patient must also hope for a clear highway throughout the year and someone to provide for them and their families.
The recent upgrades at Kelowna General Hospital can now supply the necessary operating facilities. We also have capable surgeons with all the rights and privileges to accompany their impressive sets of credentials.
The use of Kelowna General Hospital would reduce the overall financial, physical, and psychological burden for patients from the Okanagan to the Kootenays.
There is an empty room in Kelowna General Hospital which has been built solely for the purpose of a phased inretinal clinic.
For the five months I have been busy with Project KGH EYES, there has been an outpouring of support from doctors and countless others.
They all agree that the current system for retinal surgeries in this region simply does not work.
Local MLAs have presented business plans on a regular basis, while KGH remains unprepared for a myriad of possible tragedies.
The administration at Interior Health explains that the number of cases can be adequately dealt with in Kamloops.
However, the number of surgeries is greater than the number of cases.
There were more than 500 surgeries required from this region last year, and about 150 were dealt with in Kamloops.
Patients in this region must go elsewhere, at great risk, while the bill is sent to Victoria.
The time for tolerating bureaucratic excuses has now passed.
Interior Health is an administrative council rather than a governing body.
On behalf of the listed supporters below, I request that the retinal clinic in Kelowna be equipped without delay.
Added to my voice on this matter are the following eye care professionals: Dr. Brent A. Allen (Castlegar), Dr. Aaron C. Barrie (Vernon), Dr. Josh Bernot (Kelowna), Dr. Mathew Broschak (Kelowna), Dr. Michale L. Chivers (Penticton and Osoyoos), Dr. Paul Clark (Kelowna), Dr. Tammy L. Crawford (Penticton and Osoyoos), Dr. Amanda Erickson O.D. (Penticton and Osoyoos), Dr. Grant Goods (Summerland), Dr. Kimberley Goods (Kelowna), Dr. Dave Grimes (Kelowna), Dr. Stacey Grimes (Kelowna), Dr. Eli S. Hall (Castlegar and Nelson), Dr. Calvin Kettner (Kelowna), Dr. Randal S. Mark (Vernon), Dr. Louise Myshak (Kelowna), Dr. Jonathan J. Proctor (Castlegar and Nelson), Dr. Karla Reimer (Lake Country), Dr. Tricia Rychjohn (Kelowna), Dr. Stephanie Strawn (Lake Country), Dr. Romanie Stuart (Penticton and Osoyoos), Dr. Greg Wallace (Kelowna), Dr. Brent Westfall Kelowna) and Dr. Kimberly L. Williams (Vernon).