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Surgical service expansion keeps Cariboo patients closer to home

Surgical service expansion keeps Cariboo patients closer to home
Dr. Michael Ross and patient Herb Armishaw after one of the first cataract surgeries at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Wiilliams Lake, which is offering five new surgical services.

As Herb Armishaw sat in a waiting room at the hospital in Williams Lake one day last fall, he began chatting with others who had joined him there.

Herb is from Forest Grove, a community of about 300 people near 100 Mile House. He learned that others came from places such as Clinton and Hathaway, other nearby communities in the Cariboo region. No matter where they came from, they all had one thing in common: they were waiting for cataract surgery on the first day it was offered at Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH).  

“I thought it was wonderful having the surgery in Williams Lake,” says Herb. “It saved us a lot of travelling and the weather wasn’t the greatest. The surgical team was excellent. I was really impressed. It went really well.”

People across the Cariboo region now have access to more Interior Health services in Williams Lake, thanks to a recent expansion of surgical procedures offered at CMH. It will allow patients like Herb to access surgeries closer to home, and support physician recruitment and retention in the area.

The expansion includes day surgeries for pediatric dentistry, ophthalmology, orthopedics, ear, nose and throat (ENT), and urology, all made possible through a collaboration with surgeons in the Thompson Cariboo Chilcotin region who will travel to Williams Lake on a regular basis to meet with patients at CMH.

One of those surgeons is Dr. Michael Ross, an ophthalmologist who operates a clinic in Kamloops. For three days a month, Dr. Ross will now also perform cataract surgeries in Williams Lake.

“Patients used to have to come to Kamloops for surgery and a lot of them would stay overnight and see me the next day for follow-up, so this way they don’t have to,” says Dr. Ross. “It’s hard for a lot of patients to travel so it saves them the trip which is very helpful.”

The services began launching in phases, beginning with an expansion of pediatric dental surgery late last summer followed by ophthalmology, ENT, orthopedics and urological surgical services.

On the first three days he was there, Dr. Ross and his team performed 14 procedures at CMH. Five days after his surgery, Herb’s eyesight was improving and he had just received a follow up call from Dr. Ross, checking on his patient.

“I’m on day five and it’s much improved. My vision is a lot brighter,” he says. “Everything seems really good. To me, and to everybody that was in the waiting room with me, we were all very happy that we could have our surgeries done in Williams Lake.”

The Ministry of Health provided $2.4-million for the surgical equipment while the CMH Foundation and the Hough Memorial Cancer Fund Society supported the purchase of $250,000 in equipment.

For referrals to any of the new services, see your primary care practitioner.

New surgical services being offered at CMH:

•Pediatric dental surgery provided by local dentists Dr. Nadeem Ahmad and Dr. Simmy Dhillon;
•Cataract surgery provided by Dr. Michael Ross, who operates a clinic in Kamloops and provides community clinics in Williams Lake during his monthly visits; and
•Ear, nose and throat surgical services provided by Dr. John Cleland from Kamloops, who will also provide community clinics in Williams Lake.
•Orthopedic surgery, provided by Dr. Tyler MacGregor, an orthopedic surgeon who practices out of Kamloops and already provides community clinics at CMH, and
•Urology surgery, provided by Dr. Ellen Forbes, who will provide surgical services and community clinics.

The CMH cataract surgery team during the first days of the new surgical expansion.