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No end in sight: Optometrists and government locked in stalemate

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Windsor, Ont. -

It’s been three weeks since Ontario eye doctors withdrew provincially insured eye services after a breakdown in talks with the Ford government over reimbursement of costs.

“I think government, opening their eyes and looking at the big picture,” says Donna Carter, who’s been retired for a year and has since picked up one of her old passions-reading.

“It’s making me very anxious because I’m thinking I am having some difficulty.”

The 68-year-old had an eye exam scheduled for Sept. 16, but was cancelled due to job action by Ontario eye doctors.

“I happen to be pre-diabetic, so it’s important to have my eyes checked annually,” says Carter.

The base of the job action is that doctors are only reimbursed by the government about $45 for each patient, but the cost of the appointment is closer to $80.

The provinces health plan covers annual eye exams for residents 19 and under, 65 and older or people with specific health conditions.

“A $5 increase in 32 years doesn’t make sense,” says Windsor eye doctor, John Mastronardi.

He says the province did offer a $39 million retroactive payment and also offered to increase the reimbursement closer to $50.

“The next lowest publicly funded province for eye care is Manitoba and we would need a 70 per cent increase just to get to the second lowest,” Mastronardi tells CTV News.

Spokesperson for the Minister of Health, Alexandra Hilkene says:

“It is not reasonable or responsible for the government to agree to any other increase without first engaging in a process of due diligence to validate the facts.

As part of our offer we have proposed to immediately set up a joint working group. This includes a thorough understanding of the costs optometrists incur in delivering their services to Ontarians.”

Mastronardi says The Ontario Association of Optometrists have sent an open letter to MPP’s voicing their concerns.

“Our patients have been very understanding, the math is simple,” he says. “Ontarian’s get it.”

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