B.C. critical eye injection program at risk as specialists send out warning letters

Click to play video: 'Fee dispute worries thousands of B.C. retinal patients'
Fee dispute worries thousands of B.C. retinal patients
Thousands of patients who receive eye injections in B.C. have received a letter from retinal specialists about the program. The letter says the program will be stopped at the end of this month, but the health minister says that's not true. Janet Brown explains – Mar 4, 2024

Specialists involved in a critical eye injection program in B.C. have sent a letter to patients warning them that they may soon have to pay out of pocket.

The injections treat wet macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema and retinal vein occlusion and can cost up to $1,700 per visit.

Retinal specialists oppose a move by their regulatory body that proposes a 32 per cent cut in their compensation, which the province has accepted.

Steven Sale suffers from wet macular degeneration and told Global News he will be responsible for the costs of his treatment starting on April 1.

Sale said despite the battle over compensation, patients should not be caught in the middle.

“What it means to me is that the costs will be downloaded to my health care,” he said.

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“To me, it makes no sense, because every time I go there, every six weeks or longer depends on the results of the last exam, it’s always packed, it’s busy, it’s full of people. And it’s been like that in the last five years since I’ve been going.”

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Sale said the injections are painful and the medication stings but it’s worth it because it saves his eyesight.

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“I’d end up not being able to enjoy life like I used to,” he said. “And you know, if it spread to the other eye, you know, I’d be totally blind and then I’d be dependent on care, which would cost the government even more money.”

A petition has been set up to stop the proposed cuts and has been signed by 74 people.

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“Just another expense,” Sale said. “I have to cut back somewhere else. You know, it’s only so much money to go around.

“The world is now coming out of (a) post-pandemic world. It’s an economic mess. It’s a social mess. It’s a medical mess. But the population’s still aging. They’re all there. There’s more people coming. They’re all going to need these services.”

During question period in the B.C. legislature on Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will be in touch with both groups involved.

“We won’t accept letters going to patients, which gives them pain,” he said. “Their service will be maintained before and after April 1.”

The specialists said the eye injection program helps maintain the vision of 25,000 people in the province every year.

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