Lobbying optometrists: 250,000 eye exams canceled

So far, the shutdown has resulted in the cancellation of approximately 250,000 eye exams, according to the Ontario Association of Optometrists. We are in our twentieth day of not providing services to provincially insured patientssays its president, Dr. Sheldon Salaba.

This means that around 15,000 daily appointments have been canceled in terms of business days since the beginning of September.

A quote from: Dr. Sheldon Salaba, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists

According to the Ontario Association of Optometrists, the costs covered by the Provincial Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) are insufficient to cover the true costs of vision care. Specialists say they have to pay 45% of the cost for an eye exam.

In 1989, the Ontario government paid $ 39.15 for an OHIP vision exam. In 2021, 32 years later, the Ontario government pays $ 44.65, and the optometrist covers the rest of the cost., laments the Ontario Association of Optometrists.

According to the group, the government must commit to closing the gap between financing for eye exams and inflation in recent years by increasing its quota. With more than four million services performed each year under the RAMO, this level of funding is not sustainable, argues the Association.

Specifically, it asks the province to increase its current financial contribution by 70% to cover the operating costs of the services.

Only patients covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan are affected by the interruption of vision care services.

Photo: iStock

Pressure tactics

In the absence of a funding agreement with the Ford government, Ontario optometrists embarked on a series of pressure tactics in early September, including suspending vision care covered by the provinces.

For now, only patients covered by OHIP Affected by these mobilization efforts are young people aged 19 and under, people aged 65 and over, as well as those with specific eye diseases or diabetes.

I am deeply saddened that we have reached a stage where we have had to withdraw services to get the attention of the government.says Dr. Salaba, who says he understands patients who feel trapped between a rock and a hard place during conversations with the province.

However, according to the Ontario Association of Optometrists, the lobbying tactics will continue as long as the government does not agree to pay its share of eye care services. We are in a waiting situation, denounces Dr. Salaba.

The closure of services will be suspended once the province agrees to pay its share of the bills.

A quote from: Dr. Sheldon Salaba, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists

It also notes that Ontario is the least funded province in all of Canada in terms of optometric services. Manitoba is the second worst funded province and pays, for example, $ 77 for an eye exam for an elderly person, Quebec next with $ 106. And Alberta follows with $ 137.

Stagnant discussions

For its part, the Ford government claims to have made every effort to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship with the Ontario Association of Optometrists.

We have submitted a fair and reasonable proposal that aims to take immediate action to remedy years of negligence.says Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Among these measures, the province offers, among other things, a one-time payment of $ 39 million to Ontario optometrists to retroactively reflect increased costs for government-funded services.

However, this proposal does not address the main concerns of the Ontario Association of Optometrists. When you break it down, it’s roughly $ 1 per service we’ve provided over the last 10 years., argues its president, Dr. Salaba.

We are not asking for a reversal of payments, what is in the past is in the past, we are asking for a sustainable eye care system for our patients in the future., he adds.

However, the Ontario government believes irresponsible accept any further increases without first participating in a fact-checking process, writes the spokesman for the Ministry of Health.

That is why, as part of our offering, we have set out to immediately create a joint working group, in order to explore these and other issues as soon as possible.

A quote from: Alexandra Hilkene, Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson

The Health Ministry urges the Ontario Association of Optometrists to commit to working with the government and returning to the negotiating table to resolve the impasse.

But we never leave the tableadds Dr. Salaba. We are awaiting a fundamental commitment from the province to pay operating costs in order to provide publicly insured eye exams.

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