Optical care here evolved due to lack of specialists

An association of Canadian doctors has pushed the federal government to provide $1 billion to help combat a national shortage of heath-care workers.
The Canadian Medical Association has said health reform experts have identified disparities among all types of physicians, specialists, nurses, and technicians.
The shortage of doctors has been a major contributor to the obstacle of reducing long waiting lists for procedures like heart bypasses and cancer care, and also has affected wait times in emergency rooms across Canada.
Dr. Bruce Lidkea, a local optometrist, has noticed the strain physicians are under in town.
“Certainly in more remote regions, they are finding it more difficult to see all patients with all problems,” he explained. “People are seeking more specific care from specialists.”
Dr. Lidkea cited a good professional relationship with other doctors as being essential to providing residents with adequate health care.
“I think it does go both ways, certainly it does go both ways to help them [general practitioners] with a particular patient that’s outside of their scope,” he said.
Dr. Lidkea believes that by working together with health-care professionals outside of his specialty, the system should become much more “effective.”
“I think there is a good working relationship,” he said. “[But] I think certainly there’s room for improvement and I think that’s the case with all health-care systems or really any sort of business relationship.
“I think there’s ways to make it more efficient,” he stressed.
Lidkea’s father, Dr. Robert Lidkea, is one of the oldest working optometrists in Ontario. At 77, he continues to work part-time at his optometry clinic on Scott Street.
Dr. Robert Lidkea has had his practice in Fort Frances for 56 years and now works alongside his son and Dr. George Elliott. There other two optometrists in town are Dr. Lorelei Locker and Dr. Tom Cousineau.
For Fort Frances’ size, Dr. Bruce Lidkea said it’s fortunate the town has this many optometrists, however, other specialists are in short supply.
Rollie Roy, 19, is one patient who had to make a two-hour trip to Kenora in order to get his wisdom teeth removed. Other procedures also have forced residents to go outside the district in order to get care.
“There’s certain things that we’ve had to do, being in a remote community,” said Dr. Lidkea. “My practice is very different than somebody that works in downtown Calgary or downtown Toronto.”
The closest optical surgeon Fort Frances has is three-and-a-half hours away so Dr. Lidkea has found that many times, for disease co-management and minor surgical procedures, he has done it in his Optometry Clinic because there’s nobody else to do it.
“A lot of emergency care that typically optometrists in Calgary or Toronto would farm out to an opthamologist, we do that here because it’s unreasonable and unfair to the patient to ship them off for a three- or four-minute procedure that we’re fully capable of doing.”
By working with general practitioners and specialists, Dr. Lidkea hopes doctors in town can provide sufficient and good health care to its residents.
“The medical community is certainly more open to the referral process now and I think that the optometrists and the dentists, the chiropractors, the physios, they’re all doing a better job of working within the system.
“Right now, optometrists are in the final stages of getting their licences to prescribe medications, so right now, a lot of times patients will come in here and get diagnosed for a particular problem that involves getting medication,” he noted.
When optometrists are licensed to prescribe drugs, it will allow them to shorten what can be a lengthier process for the patient in regards to getting treatment.
Dr. Lidkea has seen his business shift from more of an optical one to a more medically-based practice.
“I think that if you asked the other optometrists in town, they’d see that type of paradigm shift, as well,” he added. “And certainly, the equipment we’re getting in the office reflects that.”
Of the three optometry offices in town, many of them have high-tech equipment that’s normally not found in average optometry offices.
Machines like scanning lasers and ultrasounds are some of the equipment Dr. Lidkea cites as things that help the clinic function as more of a medical mode of optometry.