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Updated: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 09:53:31 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Albertans wait longest for cornea transplants



Albertans wait longest for cornea transplants

Hundreds of Albertans are in danger of losing their sight due to a lack of corneas for transplant, a situation that hasn't changed in more than two years.

Alberta has the longest wait times for cornea transplants in the country, with people waiting up to two years on average. It's only five months in British Columbia, while Manitobans wait up to a year and Ontario residents face an 18-month delay.

One reason for the long wait: Alberta doesn't import corneas from the United States. Quebec does, and after that province made the decision, wait times quickly dropped to a year or less.

"We purchased a number of corneas from American eye banks that had surpluses of those tissues," Dr. Marc Germain told CBC News.

Raymond Stewart says the condition has left him housebound. He won't go out in the winter anymore.

"The problem is when I'm walking I don't know where my next step is and whether I'm going to tumble or not," the 90-year-old Manitoban says.

Stewart said he wished bureaucrats who hold back services could know what he goes through: "You take my place for a while and see how you like it."

Alberta Health Services has said it doesn't have the money to pay for corneas from the U.S., which has reduced waiting times in much of the rest of Canada.

"In other parts of the world this is really an elective surgey that's taken care of in a matter of a few weeks or a couple of months," one physician told CBC News.

With files from Scott Fralick

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