Surgery wait times during the shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, increased significantly for cataract, strabismus, and oculoplastic surgeries, according to findings published in Clinical Ophthalmology. Researchers conducted the retrospective cohort study at a single center in Ontario, Canada to investigate the effects of the pandemic on case volumes and wait times for ophthalmic surgery.
The researchers explained that, in addition to significantly impacting the delivery of healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed health disparities that resulted in poorer outcomes for certain populations.
For the study, the data for patients undergoing ophthalmic surgery in Ontario, Canada, from 2010 to 2021 were collected from the Ontario Health Wait Times Information System (WTIS) database. The researchers compared case volume and wait times between the COVID-19 pandemic (2020-2021) and the preceding time period (2010-2019) across all stratifications.
The study identified a significant decrease in case volumes and a significant increase in surgery wait times across geographic regions, priority levels, and subspecialty surgeries from the prepandemic to pandemic period. Pre-existing wait time disparities were exacerbated by COVID-19 between sexes, with women waiting 4.1 days longer than men overall to receive surgery in 2010-2019 compared with waiting 8.8 days longer in 2020-2021 (117% increase), according to the report.
“Our findings provide valuable insights into the challenges faced by the healthcare system during the pandemic and highlight the need for ensuring equitable access to care for all patients, regardless of sex or other characteristics,” the study authors explain.
Study limitations include a lack of data in the WTIS on the specific ophthalmic procedures performed within each subspecialty in addition to the frequency and types
of ophthalmic disease presentations.
Balas M, Vasiliu D, Austria G, Felfeli T. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on wait-times for ophthalmic surgery in Ontario, Canada: A population-based study. Clin Ophthalmol. 2023;17(6):1823-1831. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S409479