Ontario optometrists call on premier to step up

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Premier Doug Ford needs to step in to help resolve an impasse that has impacted eye care treatment for many residents of the province, cautions the president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO).

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Close to 95% of OAO members are no longer providing OHIP-covered services for patients, including children, teens and seniors, as the government refuses to negotiate reasonable compensation, said Dr. Sheldon Salaba.

“Our members are very committed, and the next step is up to the government,” Salaba said Monday. “A year ago, in a press conference at Queen’s Park, Premier Ford said to us publicly on television to call him if we were having difficulty resolving these issues. And we’re putting that call out now — we need to speak to the premier… We really need at this point the premier to step in to help us fix this problem.”

The OAO says Ontario pays $47 for a senior’s eye exam, well below Alberta’s $137.

“In 1989, the Ontario government paid $39.15 for an eye exam. In 2021, 32 years later, they pay an average of $44.65,” the OAO website says. “This amount does not come close to covering the cost (including rent, staff, utilities, equipment, taxes and supplies) to provide an eye exam.”

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The government has also offered to set up a joint working group to look at OAO concerns, including optometrists’ costs, said Hilkene.

“We are disappointed that the OAO recently declined the third-party mediator’s conditions that would allow us to resume mediation and reach a deal that supports high-quality vision care for Ontarians,” she added.

Salaba said the government has not spoken to the OAO since August and has bargained in bad faith by putting its offer out during negotiations — an offer that would not bring Ontario anywhere near even the province with the second-lowest paid eye exams.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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