A dispute between ophthalmologists and the Fraser Health Authority has left patients trapped in the middle while they wait for surgery.

On Monday, elective surgeries performed by ophthalmologists started being cancelled in the health region, affecting patients at Burnaby General Hospital and Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Fraser Health blames a group of doctors who are refusing to treat on-call patients at Royal Columbian Hospital, the region's biggest trauma hospital.

"We gave them a 10-day notice that we were going to be doing this, they didn't listen to us, so they have had to cancel their own patients to accommodate the new block of [operating room] time that they have," Dr. Peter Blair, medical director of surgery for Fraser Health, told CTV News.

The dispute is centred on how many eye doctors are available for on-call emergency services and how much they're paid. Six months ago, Fraser Health cut the number of ophthalmologists on call from three to two.

"We believe there's a set number of physicians that need to be on call at any one time to cover this huge area. We hope this does not become a dispute about a money -- that is really over-simplifying the process," ophthalmologist Dr. Kevin Parkinson said.

But Port Moody resident Paul Wagner was furious when his cataract surgery was cancelled this week with less than 24 hours' notice.

"Now the question is, am I going to be put to the back of the bus for another eight months' wait? Because if they do resolve their problem and things are clear in a week or two, I'm not likely to go to the front of line because there are already people scheduled for surgery then," he said.

"I guess the patients are the pawn in the game, which is unacceptable."

Maryann Oliver, whose Thursday cataract surgery was cancelled after she spent seven months on a waiting list, is at a loss for what to do next.

"You don't know where to turn. You're sitting here waiting," she said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Jina You