A commercial property that sat empty for years in Sarnia is now home to a state-of-the-art general eye care and surgical centre.
Dr. Murari Patodia and his wife Sunita opened the Patodia Eye Institute at 1500 London Rd. to patients on Monday.
“Just because we’re in a small town doesn’t mean you get small town care,” he said. “Ophthalmology is a field where you can have world-class care in a small town.”
The facility repurposed what is known locally as the old White Rose building. It has three operating rooms, which are expected to shorten the wait time for eye surgery from a few months to a few weeks. Until now, local cataract surgery has been available only at Bluewater Health in Petrolia.
The eye institute also has “just about every ophtha-diagnostic tool in the world,” Patodia said.
He began his practice on Water Street 23 years ago and later moved to a 5,000-square-foot building on Exmouth Street, where he’s been providing care to about 250 patients a week, many from out of town.
The move to London Road was needed to accommodate the growing practice, he said.
“There was literally nowhere to move at Exmouth Street.”
As the population ages, Patodia anticipates a greater need for local eye care. The institute has about 8,000 square feet for patients and additional space for offices and staff.
It’s expected to cut wait times during appointments to less than 1.5 hours.
“It’s more comfortable,” he said, gesturing toward a spacious reception area at the front of the building and wide, accessible hallways.
Patodia and his wife, who takes care of the business side, said they studied layout and services at eye centres across Ontario before opening the clinic.
A so-called “tech alley” has seven rooms in which technicians see patients and collect basic data.
The building, vacant almost five years, once housed White Rose Nurseries and later Liquidation World.
“We live here, we raised our family here and we’re an integral part of the community,” Patodia said of the investment. “We really have skin in the game and a desire to provide that much better care here.”
He declined to say how much the facility cost.
Dr. Patodia was raised in Sarnia and attended Northern Collegiate. He returned in 1996 to practice ophthalmology after identifying a service shortage in his hometown.
He was the first doctor in the area to treat age-related macular degeneration, diabetes and vein occlusions.
He said he was also the first doctor in Canada to use the Heidleburg Spectralis for retinal imaging, the same machine used by NASA in the International Space Station.
Other locations in downtown Sarnia and Point Edward were considered but didn’t measure up to 1500 London Rd., he said.
“We’ve lucked out here and there’s tons of parking.”
The Patodias have added five employees at the new building, raising the staff complement to 15.