FREDERICTON (GNB) – A pilot project to have cataract surgery performed at a clinic in Bathurst will increase the number of surgeries per week to about 75 from the current 30.

The partnership between the Vitalité Health Network and the Acadie-Bathurst Ophthalmology Centre will free up surgical rooms at the Chaleur Regional Hospital. The services will continue to be offered by health-care providers in the region and the costs will still be covered by Medicare.

Health Minister Bruce Fitch and Dr. France Desrosiers, president and CEO of Vitalité Health Network, visited Bathurst today to highlight the importance of the pilot project, which is valued at nearly $2.3 million a year.

“This is an example of how we are finding innovative solutions to help our health-care system,” said Fitch. “Together with other improvements we are making, we expect to see improved service to patients and to alleviate pressure on our hospitals.”

There are 1,500 patients in the Chaleur region waiting for cataract surgery.

“This initiative reflects the efforts made by Vitalité Health Network to better meet the needs of patients and communities,” said Desrosiers. “This is not a move towards privatization of services, but rather a model that relies on collaboration, through the borrowing of space and equipment from the centre, to improve our cataract surgery services”.

Dr. Robert Javidi, one of the two surgeons developing the pilot project, welcomed the partnership.

“Thanks to state-of-the-art equipment and an expert and committed team, patients will receive outstanding service in a significantly shorter period of time," said Javidi.

Access to surgery is a key part of the provincial health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action, which aims to develop an integrated health system, ensuring New Brunswickers have access to timelier and improved care.