KAWARTHA LAKES-Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, released the following statement on the status of negotiations between the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO):
“I am pleased that the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) has agreed to join us in resuming direct face-to-face negotiations.
As a result of this agreement to resume negotiations, the OAO has advised the Ministry of Health that any OHIP insured eye and vision care services that were previously affected by this impasse will resume effective November 23, 2021. Both parties have also agreed to a media blackout on this topic during the course of these negotiations. The Ministry of Health is at the negotiations table ready to reach a timely and fair agreement regarding this important matter.”
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 said 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.
Read more about the impact of this on a local senior here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2021/11/16/lindsay-senior-with-worsening-eyesight-urges-government-and-optometrists-to-resume-ohip-eye-care/