Ontario optometrists vote to stop OHIP-paid services unless province pays more
Association says province must fund services to cover cost of delivery
Members of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) have voted to withdraw services they provide under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) starting Sept. 1 unless the province steps up with funding.
The association said in a release Tuesday the government has until this fall to agree to formal negotiations to fund services to — at the least — cover the actual cost of delivery for subsidized eye exams.
If not, seniors, children and vulnerable populations with specific medical conditions including glaucoma may not have access to these primary care services now offered under the OHIP plan.
Currently, the province covers about 55 per cent of the cost of eye exams insured by OHIP. The remainder of the cost is absorbed by optometrist clinics, which dips into overhead costs such as rent and salaries.
"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 association, in the release.
The association represents more than 1,800 optometrists across the province. Ninety-six per cent of members voted last week to withdraw services in the fall.
Ontario Optometrists need your support now more than ever.<br><br>Government neglect has jeopardized access to eye care for those who need it most, undervaluing the eye health of Ontarians. <br><br>Read our press release: <a href="https://t.co/azMBb0Q9z6">https://t.co/azMBb0Q9z6</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SaveEyeCare?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SaveEyeCare</a>—@ONOptometrists
"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," he added.
The association says the current system is no longer sustainable as clinics are already under financial strain.
'We have tried everything'
Salaba said the association conducted its vote after the recent provincial budget failed to address their financial concerns.
Last December, he said, the government presented an informal proposal that would still require optometrists to foot 40 per cent of the bill.
"We are doing this to advocate for our patients. We want to be able to take care of them," Salaba told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo on Tuesday. The University of Waterloo is home to one of Canada's two optometry schools; the other is in Montreal.
"We have tried everything. This is a last-ditch effort to say: 'Wake up people we need to sit down and get this done.'"
Salaba is encouraging members of the public and those impacted to contact their local MPPs and politicians about the issue.
A requested response from the Ontario health minister was not received in time for this story's publication.