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Retinal specialists fee dispute creates uncertainty for B.C. patients


For Prince George artist and art teacher Christina Watts, learning she had a serious retinal disease was a major blow.

“Vision is pretty critical to me, obviously. I live in a visual world,” she said.

The 45-year-old has been undergoing specific treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration which can lead to blindness.

But she recently received a troubling letter suggesting a fee dispute between the Association of British Columbia Retinal Specialists and the society that sets their fees could change her treatment and the costs.

She shared a copy of the letter that stated the treatment program she’s part of will end March 31 unless there is a reversal of a proposed 32 per cent reduction in compensation for the doctors involved. The letter, from the association, also said that patients would be responsible for the cost of administration and management fees as well as the cost of drugs.

“This is a costly treatment and when …it’s already difficult as it is," she said, adding that thinking about having to pay out-of-pocket adds another layer of stress.

But Health Minister Adrian Dix said the letters were “untrue” and “wrong”

“The care and the service is going to continue and it’s going to continue to be free. No one’s going to have to pay for something that they’re not paying for now,” Dix said.

“Sending letters out in this way is not the appropriate path,” he added.

Dix also said patients would continue to receive the same level of care.

The Ministry of Health said the Retinal Specialist Group withdrew from the program due to their concerns about proposed MSP fee changes initiated by the Ophthalmology Section of the Doctors of B.C. The proposed changes are still under review.

Watts said the situation has left her feeling uncertain about her treatment.

“As a patient, what do I expect now when I go in? Do I still go in for that one appointment? Am I still seeing a specialist that is going to take care all of this? Is there going to be a lapse in the treatment?” she asked.

She said those are questions she is still trying to get definitive answers to. Top Stories

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