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Update on the Save Eye Care Campaign

  URGENT UPDATE

Ontario Optometrists and Government Enter Negotiations

TORONTONov. 22, 2021 /CNW/ – The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) and the Ministry of Health have agreed to enter formal negotiations regarding OHIP funding of optometric care. As a sign of good faith, the OAO is pausing its job action as of November 23, 2021, ensuring that millions of Ontarians insured by OHIP can again benefit from the expertise of their optometrist during these negotiations. 

On October 6th, Minister Elliott stated in the Ontario Legislature: “We don’t expect optometrists to pay out of pocket for the services that they provide,” offering a public commitment that the government will ensure that the cost of delivering OHIP-insured services is not borne by optometrists. The OAO is committed to negotiating a sustainable funding model that aligns with how optometric care is funded in other Canadian jurisdictions.

The OAO expects robust talks to begin immediately, noting that the swift resolution of this issue is a top priority for both optometrists and their patients.

ABOUT THE ONTARIO ASSOCIATION OF OPTOMETRISTS: 
The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) is the leading professional organization, representing over 1,800 optometrists. We are dedicated to helping our members provide the highest standard of eye health and vision care for Ontarians while driving the profession of optometry forward.  

YES! I would like to sign up for further updates from the Ontario Association of Optometrists

Thank You Ontario

With your help we have started negotiations with the Ontario government and the job action has been suspended. As our clinics work to schedule appointments with patients we ask Ontarians to be patient. If you are on a waiting list your local clinic will reach out to you as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment. Please only contact your clinic if you need a new appointment or if you are having an emergency.

About the Job Action

Great question! Rent, staffing, utilities, equipment, taxes, and supplies, not to mention the continuous education that optometrists commit themselves to, means that when we provide an eye exam covered by OHIP, we operate at a loss.

Losses are not sustainable for any industry, and optometrists are no different.

Ontario optometrists are the lowest compensated in Canada. The next lowest compensated province is Manitoba and optometrists there still receive more than $30 above their Ontario counterparts.

If you’re over the age of 65 or under the age of 19, or an adult with OHIP-covered eye conditions, we have made the decision to not provide exams.

But, we are still committed to your care. Eye Emergencies will still be addressed and referred to the appropriate provider for care. If you have an appointment booked during our job action, we will reach out to you and ensure you’re informed of the cancellation in a timely manner and placed on a priority list for when we begin taking OHIP exams again.

Patients who are between the ages of 20 and 64 and do not have an OHIP-covered eye condition are still being seen for exams.

No. Provincial law prevents anyone from paying for any OHIP-insured service, even if you have alternate insurance or wish to pay independently for insurance.

In our opinion, not nearly enough.

The government has offered Ontario optometrists an 8.48% increase. For a senior’s eye exam that would provide us with $51.00, still well under the next lowest-paid province of Manitoba.

When you take into account 3 decades of ignoring our profession, it simply is not good enough. We are calling on the government to properly fund eye care and ensure the sustainability of the industry for years to come.

Here's Why We Are Standing
Up for our Patients

01

Routine eye care is critical in early detection of eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

02

The lack of funding makes it difficult to invest in modern technology. Newer technology means earlier detection.

03

80% of learning is done through vision and children depend on healthy eyes to succeed in school.

04

The health of your eyes is critical to your overall health and quality of life.

Statement from Dr. Sheldon Salaba, President, Ontario Association of Optometrists.

“As doctors, it is our number one priority to advocate and defend our patients’ right to quality healthcare.”

FAQ

For years, the OAO, on behalf of optometrists, has pressed the Government to negotiate fair and reasonable OHIP fees that allow optometrists to continue providing services to the people of Ontario.  The Government has refused to engage in negotiations.

Optometrists have a constitutional right to a fair process of negotiation and dispute resolution under the protection for freedom of association in section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This constitutional protection also gives optometrists the right to withdraw services where the Government refuses to engage in a fair and balanced negotiation process.

The College of Optometrists of Ontario has also made it clear that optometrists may take job action and withdraw services in accordance with their professional obligations.  This is set out in the College’s policy on Optometric Services During Job Action.

Optometrists have the constitutional right to take action on September 1.  In fact, the Government’s refusal to negotiate has left optometrists with no other choice.  The September 1 service withdrawal will protect and promote the constitutional right to freedom of association and ensure that OHIP services remain sustainable in the years to come.

Our current efforts only refer to OHIP-covered patients, those aged 0-19, 65+, and living with specific eye conditions or diabetes. Even if you are not insured by OHIP, it’s likely that some of your friends or family are. In 1989, the Ontario government paid $39.15 towards an OHIP-covered eye exam. In 2021, 32 years later, the Ontario government pays $44.65, with the optometrist covering the rest of that cost. With over four million services performed annually under OHIP, this level of funding is not sustainable. We are asking the government to prioritize eye healthcare by closing the gap between their funding and inflation.

Unlike teachers, nurses, or physicians, we have no formal negotiating process with the government. The government is not legally obligated to partake in important conversations about ensuring access to quality eye care or the sustainability of their current funding. We need to stand up for the rights of our patients to have the best quality eye care.

We are waiting until September 1, 2021, to continue to show the government we want to be reasonable, and we are open to discussions. They have failed to meet with us for over six months, and the families of Ontario have the right to have a supported and properly funded eye care system. We hope the government agrees to meet formal negotiations before September 1, but if they do not, we will fight for the eye care of Ontarians.

Optometrists are permitted to engage in job action in accordance with the College of Optometrists’ Job Action policy. Optometrists are required to mitigate harm and ensure that the patient has access to alternate care during job action. Our patients care is our top priority, and we are fighting to ensure continued access to quality eye care through a more sustainable funding model.

In 2004, individuals 20-64 years of age were delisted from OHIP unless they have one or more specific medical conditions or was referred to an optometrist by a physician or nurse practitioner. There are currently four million services performed annually under OHIP, and the average optometrist’s patient load is 70% OHIP-insured.

If we get to September 1 without an agreement to formal negotiations, then  your appointment may be delayed for a short time. If the government continues to neglect eye care and the job action will be more prolonged, then your optometrist will refer you to the appropriate surgeon (ophthalmologist) to take care of your eye care needs. Ophthalmologists are separately funded to provide care; however, wait times will be longer than with your optometrist.

No. Unfortunately, provincial law prevents anyone from paying for any OHIP-insured service, even if you have your own insurance.

No. Optometrists follow the fee guide published by the Ontario Association of Optometrists and we are aligned with those fees charged in other provinces. Unfortunately, provincial law prevents you from paying for any OHIP insured service, even if you have your own insurance.