La Cité eyes new program to fix local optician shortage

Ottawa's La Cité college is looking to boost the number of opticians in the Ottawa-Gatineau area by introducing a new program right here at home.

Opticians concentrated in Toronto area, currently home to province's only 2 training programs

Most of Ontario's opticians work in the Toronto area, and the province's only accredited college programs for opticians are in Toronto and Barrie. (The Associated Press)

Ottawa's La Cité college is looking to boost the number of opticians in the Ottawa-Gatineau area by introducing a new program right here at home.

According to the College of Opticians of Ontario, approximately 1,600 of the province's 2,700 active opticians are concentrated in the Toronto area, while just over 150 work in Ottawa.

Unlike optometrists, who are trained to perform eye tests and issue prescriptions, opticians operate eye-testing equipment and interpret prescriptions.

Currently, anyone in Ontario who wants to train to become a licensed, registered optician has to go to Toronto or Barrie, or take a distance learning course from an Alberta college.

La Cité is hoping its new training program, set to start in the fall, will encourage more opticians to stay here once they're trained.

"Several [local] optometrists … say they have a lot of problems recruiting [opticians]," said Michaël Dumoulin, director of l'Institut des sciences de la santé et de la vie at La Cité, in French.

Courses in French

It would also be the first francophone training program in the province to be accredited.

"It's very difficult to find an optician who is francophone," said Thomas Noël, a Franco-Ontarian optometrist.

That distance learning program from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology also offers French-language courses.

There's a similar dynamic in Quebec, where its three training programs are in Quebec City, Longueuil and L'Assomption, and it can be difficult to draw opticians to western Quebec and other areas.

La Cité said it will work with Quebec's regulating body to let its program's graduates work in that province.

With files from Émilie Lombard