Optometrists poised to stop OHIP eye exams today over lack of provincial funding

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Published September 1, 2021 at 10:55 am

Starting today (September 1), Ontario optometrists are set to withdraw provincially insured eye services after a breakdown in talks with the provincial government over reimbursement of costs.

Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch, also the NDP’s Municipal Affairs critic, has long been warning the government that they have to sit at the negotiation table with the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OMO) or risk leaving the senior community vulnerable.

OMO president Dr. Sheldon Salaba repeatedly warned the government that optometrists were no longer willing to shell cash out of their own pockets to cover the underfunding of OHIP-insured eye exams.

Of the average eye exam costing $80, OHIP pays $44.65, according to Salaba. Optometrists are left to cover the remainder themselves.

When the Province made a one-time payment of $39 million in mid-August, Salaba said that only covered less than a quarter of the group’s annual funding deficit.

“(The one-time payment) does not commit to any long-term solution or mechanism to address this crisis in eye care. This omission will continue to have adverse effects on OHIP patients like children and seniors for years to come,” said Salaba.

At the time, Burch said the one-time payment was a stalling tactic at best.

“Instead of doing what’s right,” Burch said, “the Ford Government has continued with their delay tactics.

Salaba noted that as the most populated province in the country, compared to other provinces with publicly funded optometry services, Ontario is by far the lowest funded.

“For example,” he said, “the funding for seniors’ eye exams would have to increase more than 60 per cent to reach the next lowest-funded province, Manitoba, and by more than 125 per cent to reach the next lowest-funded, Québec.”

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