Dr. Andrew Kirker thought the government funded new equipment for hospitals when he was a medical student.
“Now that I’ve started practicing I realize that the government tries to fund healthcare and they just are able to cover what is currently used and sometimes even that is not enough,” said the ophthalmologist who specializes in vitreo-retinal and retinal surgeries that he performs at Mount Saint Joseph Hospital. “Most of the equipment in the operating room or in the eye care centre has been donated by philanthropy.”
This is where the Tapestry Foundation for Health Care steps in. The Tapestry Foundation raises money for eight hospitals and residences in Metro Vancouver operated by Providence Health Care, which includes Mount Saint Joseph. The foundation needs to raise $25,000 more to reach the $75,000 needed to purchase a second, more advanced vitrectomy unit. The existing system is more than 11 years old and the ophthalmologists who work at Mount Saint Joseph say an additional machine is needed to meet the growing demand from an aging population.
“It would be really great to see it here by the new year,” said the foundation’s CEO Ann Adams, adding the foundation aims to raise $120,000 for an ophthalmology microscope next.
A vitrectomy is an operation where the vitreous, or jelly, is removed from the eye, most commonly in the case of a retinal detachment, but also to remove scar tissue and correct the effects of macular degenerative disease common to the elderly and people with diabetes or high blood pressure.
Kirker said newer machines allow ophthalmologists to make smaller incisions, which means less threat of infection and less pain for patients.
“The biggest thing for me is there’s less chance of complication,” Kirker said. “The complication we’re really worried about is a retinal detachment or a recurrent retinal detachment if we’re fixing their first one.”
Lesser known Mount Saint Joseph Hospital hosts the highest number of cataract procedures in Western Canada, 20 per cent of all retinal surgeries in the province and has the largest corneal transplant service in the country, according to the Tapestry Foundation.
“Sometimes people think that bigger ends up being better,” said Kirker. “Specialization makes things better and people focusing on one area allows people to do things better and more efficiently.”
Mount Saint Joseph typically books six vitrectomies per day. Kirker said it’s likely he and other physicians would be able to perform additional surgeries once new equipment is installed.
Kirker notes retinal detachments occur in 1 in 10,000 people and vitrectomies are most commonly performed on adults aged 50 to 70.
“Most of the problems we deal with in retina are not secondary to anybody not eating well or not exercising; it’s just bad luck,” Kirker said. “And so it’s one of these areas of medicine where… we usually can have good outcomes if we have the right technology.”
The Tapestry Foundation also seeks donations to support educational presentations such as the recent dialogue on aging that focused on vision. The foundation expects to upload a video of the presentation on aging and vision within the week. For more information, see www.tapestryfoundation.ca. Those wishing to donate can also phone 604-877-8335.
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