Eye program helps needy, aged see specialist

WESTMOUNT – Vivian Teodori has a profile that is all too common for patients in Quebec. She has had chronic eye issues for a while, something that could become worse due to the fact that she is diabetic.

But perhaps the most dangerous ingredient in her situation is the fact that she doesn’t have a regular ophthalmologist. She says her specialist left her years ago because he went private, leaving her scrambling to find a replacement she can afford.

“Now I feel like I’m being shuffled,” she said. “And my diabetes right now is not good.”

Teodori spoke from the office of Dr. John Galic, an ophthalmologist who works in the McGill University Health Centre as part of a program of free eye examinations offered to the public from a clinic in Westmount. The exams occur on an annual basis and are aimed at helping older and needy patients from slipping through the cracks of the province’s healthcare system.

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“Our typical patient who comes through the clinic is probably someone who has a couple of risk factors for eye disease, like older age, diabetes, or a family history of glaucoma,” said Alice Yang Zhang, a resident in the MUHC.

Access to services is a top priority.

“With respect to access, that’s generally a challenge for a lot of our patients,” Galic said. “A lot of these issues are unbeknownst to the patient… and when they do become aware, they’re already quite advanced.”

A clutch of residents at the MUHC volunteered to run the eye clinic on St. Catherine Street Saturday, and expected to see more than 100 patients by the end of the day. By comparison, the clinic generally sees about 20 patients a day.

“The patients are very grateful for the service. We just cannot keep up with demand,” said Victor Wang, of the Montreal Chinese Lion’s Club.

The Lion’s Club is the program’s primary sponsor and is planning on acquiring a $220,000 eye imaging system for McGill’s health system to use.

Teodori left her examination with a follow-up appointment scheduled at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

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