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HomeHealth and LifestyleLindsay Senior With Worsening Eyesight Urges Government And Optometrists To Resume OHIP...

Lindsay Senior With Worsening Eyesight Urges Government And Optometrists To Resume OHIP Eye Care

KAWARTHA LAKES-68-year-old Tony Hodge spent 30 years driving back and forth from Lindsay to Toronto to work at the Campbells Soup Factory. That’s when his eyesight was good.

Now, Hodge’s glasses don’t work as well as they used to and after the arm fell off he rigged up a straw to help keep them on. He was recently diagnosed with diabetes and says his doctor told him it’s important to have an eye exam to look for any sign of diabetic eye disease.

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. Over time, diabetes can cause damage to your eyes that can lead to poor vision or even blindness.

So he was shocked when the optometrist called on Monday to cancel his appointment.

“I guess it really hit home when they called and said it was cancelled. With the diabetes, it’s kind of frightening not to know what’s going on, to be able to check and see if it’s impacting my eyes, which I know it is.” Hodge told Kawartha 411 News.

Hodge says he can no longer enjoy his bird feeder because he can’t see it properly, he lets his wife do the driving now, he has to sit within a few feet of the television to be able to watch it and when he is looking at people he cannot see them clearly.

“I’m worried about my eyes, not being able to tell if they are getting worse and not being able to confirm that and to see if I need new lenses. We need to get people back to work as soon as possible.”

In March 2021, the Ontario Optometrists Association (OAO) announced that optometrists would be withdrawing services for OHIP-insured patients effective September 1, 2021. OHIP currently covers standard eye exams for those age 19 and younger, age 65 and older, and for those with specific medical conditions.

The OAO says after more than 30 years of underfunding, the government now covers an average of 55 per cent of the cost of an OHIP-insured eye exam, leaving optometrists’ clinics to absorb the other 45 percent. With more than four million services delivered annually under OHIP and clinics under severe financial strain, the system is no longer sustainable according to the OAO.

“Government neglect has jeopardized access to eye care for those who need it most, undervaluing the eye health of Ontarians,” said Dr. Sheldon Salaba, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). “Optometrists are being fair and reasonable: we ask only that government commit to cover at least the cost of service delivery, and we’re giving them lots of notice to avoid any impact on patients.”

Unlike other health care providers under OHIP, optometrists say they have never been given a formal negotiation process with the government. Despite multiple direct requests to the Minister of Health to address this chronic underfunding, the budget again ignored the dire warnings from eye care stakeholders of the impending crisis.

“Vision is our most important sense, and our political leaders must help us protect it,” said Dr. Salaba. “After almost three years in office, it’s time for action from Premier Ford and Minister Elliott. They must ensure Ontarians continue to receive the quality eye care they depend on and deserve.”

The Ontario government says it has tried to resolve the issues with the OAO

“Our government has made every effort possible to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship with the Ontario Association of Optometrists,” said Deputy Minister of Health Christine Elliott in September. “This includes engaging a third-party mediator to assist us in reaching an agreement and offering a one-time lump sum payment as well as an immediate OHIP fee increase. This represents a significant and sustainable increase in today’s highly-constrained fiscal environment.”

In 1989 the Ontario government paid $39.15 for an eye exam. In 2021, 43 years later they pay an average of $44.65 Meanwhile in Alberta the government pays $137 per eye exam. The government has offered Ontario optometrists an 8.48% increase. For a senior’s eye exam that would provide them with $51.00 but the OAO says still well under the next lowest-paid province of Manitoba.

Hodge says he has his own private insurance which would foot the bill but was told that isn’t allowed. Provincial law prevents anyone from paying for any OHIP-insured service, even if you have alternate insurance or wish to pay independently for insurance.

As far as we know there are no negotiations taking place currently and none planned for the future.

“I think they should get together have a meeting and get something set up for the seniors at least find a way around this for now, it just can’t go on like this.” says Hodge.

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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