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Maintaining Nelson’s ophthalmology services 'top priority' says Mayor

Nelson Mayor John Dooley says Nelson health services will be well maintained with eye expert’s pending retirement early in New Year.

Following a story in The Nelson Daily regarding changes to eye surgery or eyecare treatment once the local Nelson-based ophthalmologist retires, the City of Nelson issued a press release explaining how the municipality and Interior Health is working to ensure the city’s ophthalmology services are maintained.

Nelson’s only Ophthalmologist Dr. Neville Maytom plans to retire in February 2020.

In the media reléase, Mayor John Dooley said Council has had several meetings with IH, Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, and local MLA Michelle Mungall, to address Maytom’s departure and to prepare for the impact his retirement will have on Nelson’s ophthalmology services.

“We’ve been working with Interior Health since April to prepare for Dr. Maytom’s retirement,” said Mayor Dooley. 

“This is a top priority for us,” the Mayor adds “and we will continue to work with IH, Minister Dix and Minister Mungall to maintain or improve Nelson’s current level of health services.”

Dooley reinforced the City’s commitment with a list of priorities provided to him directly from Interior Health:

  • Interior Health’s priority is to ensure people from across the Kootenay Boundary have access to ophthalmology services within our region.
  • IH takes a regional approach to ophthalmology services in the Kootenay Boundary, with surgical ophthalmology services centralized and provided from Kootenay Lake Hospital (KLH) in Nelson. There are no plans to change this.
  • Ophthalmology services at KLH rely on specialists who also establish their own practices in the community of their choice. IH has recently recruited an excellent ophthalmologist to the Kootenay Boundary, and this ophthalmologist has started her practice in Trail with another established ophthalmologist. Shared practices like this provide important collegial support and shared equipment and overhead costs.
  • Two ophthalmologists in Trail are able to see patients from across the Kootenay Boundary and the new ophthalmologist is accepting referrals.  There is currently a minimal wait to get in to see an ophthalmologist in Trail.
  • Dr. Maytom is not retiring until February and IH is exploring opportunities for an outreach service in Nelson, which would make it possible for patients in Nelson to see the ophthalmologist in their home community for the majority of their clinical needs (reducing the need to travel).
  •  IH is exploring opportunities to have an outreach program in Nelson from the Trail Ophthalmologist.

Dooley wants to give assurance to the community that he and Council will continue to advocate with IH, our MLA and the Minister of Health, to protect ophthalmology services in Nelson and at Kootenay Lake Hospital.

“I recognize these are private practices,” said Dooley, “but having access to these services in our own community is important. We’ll do everything we can to ensure this happens.”