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Treating vision problems at home

Hospital receives eye surgery gift

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 17/01) - An early Christmas gift bestowed upon Baffin Regional Hospital translates into fewer flights for the region's eye patients.

Arriving in the Iqaluit hospital earlier this month, the new laser-equipped machine means patients no longer need to travel to Ottawa for various forms of laser eye surgery.

The gift -- worth an estimated $93,000 -- should produce substantial savings on travel costs.

"This is going to be a huge savings for us," said Health Minister Ed Picco. "We'll be able to do a lot more work here at home."

Ottawa Health Services Network donated $80,000 and Polaris Mines $10,000, with the balance coming from Picco's department. The machine is used in-house by a specialist to treat narrow-angle glaucoma and other eye problems.

Thirty-eight patients were treated during the first week the new service was available. Director of hospital services Trevor Pollitt said that put far less stress on patients and the medical system.

"In a year, it pays for itself just in airfare alone," said Pollitt. "You just plug it in and the surgeon zaps away. It doesn't take up any beds."

Picco also said if it is economically feasible, the machine will also be used to treat patients in the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions.

The Ottawa service providers donated the equipment because of a high rate of certain forms of eye disease among Nunavut's Inuit population.