Ford Government offers mediator
to avert job action by Optometrists

TORONTO – Just three weeks remain until Ontario Optometrists withdraw services to OHIP-insured patients. With the September 1 date closing in, the Ford government makes a move to avoid any disruption to eye care services that people depend on.

One day after the Corriere Canadese (CC) published a piece about the state of eye care in Ontario, the provincial government issued a statement saying that they have offered to hire a mediator to help achieve a resolution in the matter.

According to the Optometrists Association of Ontario (OAO), the issue comes from over 30 years of chronic underfunding. They argue that the portion of eye care services covered by OHIP no longer covers the cost of providing the service.

Dr. Sheldon Salaba told the CC in an interview last week that the average operating costs for an eye exam is $80. That fee takes into account expenses like rent, staff and equipment necessary to perform an exam. It does not include compensation for optometrists who provide the service.

On average, OHIP covers about 55% of the eye exam. That is roughly $44.65 per eye exam, a figure that has only increased roughly $5 over the last 32 years. With the cost of services increasing, providers are left to cover the remaining balance, which, many argue, is no longer sustainable.

The OAO has been pushing for a formal negotiation process with the government to address these issues. But, since December 2020, the OAO said there have been no discussions with the Ministry on the matter. That appears to have changed as of August 6.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Health said in an email, “the Ministry and the OAO resumed discussions concerning our shared commitment to develop a plan that is fair, sustainable and effective in supporting the province’s optometrists in delivering high-quality care to Ontarians now and into the future”

The message continued: “today the Ministry proposed to engage a third-party expert mediator to assist us in finding a resolution”, adding, “the OAO is considering this option”.

The OAO has maintained that they are interested in entering a negotiation process with the government and want to come to a sustainable funding solution for eye care services.

If no resolution occurs before the September 1 deadline, individuals under the age of 20, seniors aged 65+ and adults with specific medical problems covered under OHIP will have no luck in booking an eye exam with their optometrist. As of going to print, the OAO has not provided comment on the Ministry’s offer.

Photo credit: pixabay.com

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