Optometrists in Ontario have resumed eye exams for children and seniors.
On Sept. 1 optometrists withdrew services to OHIP-insured patients in a funding dispute with the Ontario Government.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists has now agreed to enter negotiations with the Ministry of Health. The OAO paused its job action on Nov. 23, allowing all OHIP-insured eye exams to resume as a sign of good faith.
According to the OAO, Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced a one-time payment of $39 million directly to optometrists in Aug. 2021. Optometrists are looking for more than a one-time payment in this negotiation.
“I’m glad that a negotiation is finally underway, it has been a hard few months not being able to treat my patients.” says Dr. Yusuf Addo, an optometrist at Northwestern Eye Association. .
Addo has been an optometrist for the last 7 years and has never witnessed anything like this. “It’s strange not being able to help those in need, I’ve never been in a situation where I had to turn away patients who needed me. That’s why I became an optometrist — it was mainly to help people,” Addo says.
The news is a relief for patients who have been waiting months to receive an eye exam. Senior Farhia Ahmed is ecstatic to finally get seen. “I’ve waited months to finally see an eye doctor, my diabetic doctor told me my blood sugar is high, so I need to see if there is damage,” Ahmed says.
Many like Ahmed, who suffers from underlying conditions that affect the eyes, have been on the sidelines waiting to see how the standstill between the government and the OAO will play out.
Optometrists have been covering 45 per cent of costs out of pocket for OHIP-insured customers. They say this is an unsustainable model.
The OAO expects negotiations to happen immediately and is hoping for a swift resolution to this issue.