Niagara Centre MPP happy to see negotiations finally back on between optometrists and Ford government

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Published November 23, 2021 at 3:45 pm

After months of relentlessly calling on the Ford government to get to the negotiation table with Ontario’s optometrists, Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, also the NDP’s Municipal Affairs critic, have to be relieved when those negotiations was announced as back-on today (November 23).

As an added bonus, the optometrists have agreed to resume eye tests for children, teens and seniors during the negotiations.

After thanking the countless people who signed eye-care petitions, as well as “reached out to our office and advocated for the Ford Government to resume negotiations with optometrists,” Burch noted, “Hopefully this Government will finally take these talks seriously and stop playing games with seniors and children’s essential eye care services.”

Yesterday, the Optometrists Association of Ontario (OAO) said they and the Ministry of Health had agreed to enter formal negotiations regarding OHIP funding of optometric care.

“As a sign of good faith, the OAO is pausing its job action as of November 23, 2021, ensuring that millions of Ontarians insured by OHIP can again benefit from the expertise of their optometrist during these negotiations,” they added.

They noted that on October 6, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in the Ontario Legislature: “We don’t expect optometrists to pay out of pocket for the services that they provide.”

To them, that meant she offered “a public commitment that the government will ensure that the cost of delivering OHIP-insured services is not borne by optometrists. The OAO is committed to negotiating a sustainable funding model that aligns with how optometric care is funded in other Canadian jurisdictions.”

“The OAO expects robust talks to begin immediately, noting that the swift resolution of this issue is a top priority for both optometrists and their patients.”

Since September 1, optometrists have refused to see patients under OHIP coverage simply because they claim to be shelling the own cash out of pocket to do so. They are pushing to see the Province pony more cash up, saying the average cost of an OHIP visit to them (available to only children, teens and seniors) is $80. At the moment, the government is only covering $44.

In fact, optometrists add that the OHIP portion has only increased by $5 since 1989.

The province is offering to push it to $48 per visit, as well as a one-time lump payment of $39 million to the Optometrists Association of Ontario (OAO). But the OAO declined, saying that only added little more than $1 each for the 34 million visits they’ve covered out of pocket for the last decade.

The money dispute has lead to more than 15,000 cancelled eye appointments per day since the September 1 deadline for a deal between the two sides passed.

However, both sides blamed the other for the lack of negotiations with Elliot saying the optometrists walked away and the OMO countering the government’s one-time offer was woefully inadequate.

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