Canadians wait for corneas due to red tape

March 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, March 19 (UPI) -- More than 3,000 Canadians are waiting for a cornea transplant because of a lack of federal system for transplants, officials say.

Dr. Paul Dubord, a Vancouver surgeon and World Health Organization corneal expert, told the CBC: "In Canada, the Canadian blood system, there's all accountability and accreditation in place so that if I get a pint of blood from Calgary, I know it's the same as I get from Vancouver. But in tissue transplantation, that doesn't exist, so a cornea that's collected in Quebec, we might not know."

For example, Quebec's eye bank has Health Canada accreditation, but other provinces only recognize the Eye Bank of America accreditation -- this is an example of a lack of co-ordination that experts say is hurting the system.

Patients in Canada can wait anywhere from five months to two years for a corneal transplant, risking blindness, the CBC reported.

A report, Call to Action report, commissioned in 2008 and delivered to provincial and federal health officials in 2011 called for specific fixes to the corneal transplant system, which includes a national registry, eye bank consolidation and inter-provincial co-operation.

The report suggested clearing the patient backlog -- 115 in Manitoba, 115 patients in Alberta -- by acquiring corneas from U.S. eye banks at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000, but Alberta officials told the CBC they had no plans to change their policy.

"Health Canada is committed to working with the provinces and territories and other stakeholders to improve access to transplantation and supports an innovative approach to increase the performance of the organ and tissue donation and transplantation system in Canada," Canada federal officials said in a written statement.

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