Sudbury·Audio

Ontario optometrists lobbying for increase to provincial payments for eye exams

Optometrists in Ontario say COVID-19 is worsening a government funding imbalance that's been growing for 30 years.

Fees were negotiated before 'the internet was a competitor for glasses, contacts and cost of living was lower'

Optometrists in Ontario say chronic underfunding and COVID-19 are putting too much stress on their profession. (CBC)

Optometrists in Ontario say COVID-19 is worsening a government funding imbalance that's been growing for 30 years.

Sault Ste. Marie optometrist Krista Bruni says optometrists take a loss on every patient with OHIP coverage because the government doesn't cover the cost of exams. In the past, that has meant increasing the number of patients with other coverage to make up the shortfall.

But the reality of COVID-19 and physical distancing means now she can't do that.

"We are doing the best we can. Thirty percent is better than zero percent these days, but I'm not sure we'll be able to continue going."

Sudbury optometrist, Jamie Maki says it costs him between $33 and $53 dollars to provide an eye exam to every OHIP patient she sees.

Optometrists have come up with a petition asking province to help negotiate a solution.

"We'd like the province to get back to the table," Bruni said.

"There's a few options that our association has offered the province. One, being able to [introduce] a surcharge on top of the covered portion of the exam. Two, de-list us entirely. So no more OHIP-covered eye exams, or three, give us a raise. Have some sort of method going forward where we're not continually left behind. We have no type of contract that allows us for a cost of living or inflation raise on a yearly basis. We have no contract that is ever up for negotiation. We're just kind of stuck in the system."

Optometrists in Ontario say they can't see a future in which provincial payments for eye care remain status quo. They say the COVID-19 pandemic is only making things worse. Krista Bruni is an optometrist in Sault Ste. Marie and has written a letter to the province with her concerns. She says at this point, her business is at risk. She spoke with CBC's Jessica Pope. 7:26

With files from Up North CBC

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