After Wold War II, Canadian families had lots and lots of babies. Today, those babies are becoming senior citizens. We call them baby-boomers, and they are wonderful! Only problem is – as baby-boomers age, there are so many of them that the rate of eye disease is beginning to spike in a way this country has never seen before. This means that the Eye Health Care providers in Canada must prepare for this Demographic Tsunami.
Just a few numbers to highlight the crisis: Total annual cost of vision loss in Canada in 2007: $15.8 Billion; Projected total annual cost of vision loss in Canada in 2032: $30.3 Billion; Number of Canadians with age-related, bliding ocular disease in 2007 – Over 4 million – and this will double as the number of aged doubles; Number of Canadian ophthalmologists over age 55 and due to retire in the next decade: 1 in 3. (The National Coalition for Vision Health, “Vision Loss in Canada 2011″)
What are Alberta Optometrists doing about the crisis? Optometrists in Alberta, as opposed to most other Optometrists in North America, are practicing below our level of education. In addition to diagnosing and treating eye ailments generally, Optometrists have been trained to diagnose and treat glaucoma, prescribe and administer all types of medications, not only eye drop medications, order and interpret laboratory tests, and perform injections and minor non-invasive ocular surgeries. We are present in 96% of Alberta towns as opposed to ophthalmologists who practice in only 7 communities in Alberta. While numbers of ophthalmologists are projected to shrink in Alberta, while wait-lists balloon for their services, numbers of optometrists have grown steadily over the past several years. Optometrists are trained, available, and able to re-balance the workload of eye disease cases, thus helping relieve the burden of wait-lists, and increasing access of eye health care to all Albertans, including the growing population of seniors.
On November 6th and 7th, 2012, the Health Professions Advisory Board (HPAB) to the Health Minister will hear from the Alberta College of Optometrists and other stakeholders on the College’s proposals to allow Alberta Optometrists to practice to the level of our education – to the level that most North American jurisdictions already recognize. I urge everyone reading this blog to send a letter to the Health Minister’s office (see contact information below) or their MLA (see Find my Alberta MLA) in support of this important initiative that will help to address this crisis in eye health care.
Dr. James Thompson
To contact the Honourable Health Minister, Fred Horne – write to:
Honourable Fred Horne
Minister of Health
Members of Executive Council Executive Branch
208 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Phone: 780 427-3665