Out of sight: Optometrists preparing for job action
Ontario optometrists have voted overwhelmingly in favour of job action, taking effect September 1st.
The move would result in OHIP patients losing access to service.
“Access to quality eye care is at risk,” says John Mastronardi, an optometrist in Windsor.
There are two competing views on the cost of an eye exam, leading to a dispute between eye doctors and the province.
“This is something we’ve tried to avoid. It’s something we don’t want to do but it only seems to be the only way to get the ear of the government,” says Mastronardi.
He hopes the government will hear them out.
“Believe it or not for 32 years we have not had a formal negotiation process with the Ontario government.”
The issue surrounds OHIP patients.
OHIP covers eye exams for seniors, children under the age of 19 and adults with medical conditions.
Optometrists are reimbursed for services provided to people in these groups.
“In 1989 the Ontario government paid $39 and change for an eye exam and today, 32 years later it’s moved $5 to $44,” Mastronardi claims.
Sheldon Salaba, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists says it now costs eye doctors over $80 to provide and eye exam.
“I think the average is right around $89 is what it costs for us to pay for staff, our rent, our utility, our equipment to deliver these services.”
Optometrists argue the province hasn’t kept pace with the rising costs.
Should eye doctors take job action September 1st, those not covered by OHIP who are able to pay out of pocket or with third party insurance would still receive service.
Mastronardi claims the two sides haven’t spoken since last December.
A statement to CTV News from the Ministry of Health says:
“Our government will continue to fund OHIP optometry services and that funding continues to increase year-over-year with utilization.
The Ministry of Health has been engaged in discussions with the Ontario Association of Optometrists. Discussions are focused on evidence, best practices and how to improve patient outcomes.”
Differing visions, making the future for OHIP patients blurry.