Newmarket-Aurora Eye Care Update Nov 1

Published on November 01, 2021

We know many residents in Newmarket and Aurora continue to be concerned about their eye and vision care. The government has been hard at work ensuring that patients have access to the care they need, when they need it. This includes eye and vision care for all Ontarians. We recognize the valuable service that optometrists provide to people living in Ontario. We also recognize that compensation increases for optometrists have been long neglected by previous governments.

To be clear, the government continues to fund these optometry services through OHIP. Any decision to withdraw services is the decision of individual optometrists. Their regulatory body, the College of Optometrists of Ontario, has made clear that if an optometrist decides to withhold care from their patients, they are expected to take steps to ensure patients can continue to receive appropriate care such as providing urgent services or providing referrals for non-urgent services.

While we had hoped that the discussions would lead to a positive outcome, we are extremely disappointed that, at the urging of the OAO, some optometrists have chosen to withhold publicly-funded services from youth and seniors. This is especially unfair for families, since the OAO continues to decline the independent, third-party mediator's conditions to resume negotiations. The current impasse lays squarely at the feet of the OAO, which, instead of good-faith negotiations, is choosing to demand an outcome before allowing them to start.

We thank the many optometrists who continue to provide care to their most vulnerable patients and bill OHIP.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions to our Constituency Office

What are the details of the government's offer to the OAO?

 

Ontario has put forward a fair and reasonable proposal that is designed to take immediate action to address years of neglect and represents a starting point for further discussions. It includes a one-time payment of $39 million. The province also offered an immediate OHIP fee increase of 8.48%, retroactive to April 1, 2021. This reflects a “catch up” of fee increases similar to what doctors received over the past decade while optometrists were left without an agreement, and represents a significant increase in today’s highly constrained fiscal environment. 

 

As part of this offer we have also proposed to immediately set up a joint working group, to dig deeply into these and other issues as quickly as possible. This includes a thorough understanding of the costs optometrists incur in delivering their services to Ontarians. As we wait for the OAO to return to the table, optometrists will receive $39M as part of their October OHIP payments, regardless of whether there is an agreement in place or not.

 

My optometrist claims that they are no longer able to provide services to patients?

 

To be very clear, the government will continue to fund these optometry services through OHIP. Any decision to withdraw services is the decision of individual optometrists.

The fact is 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. 

The Ministry of Health agreed to the conditions of the third-party mediator to continue discussions and we urge the OAO to do the same.

Optometrists are required to fulfill their professional obligations to arrange care for their patients if they choose to withdraw service.

 

An optometrist claims that under the current cost structures, the province reimburses 55 per cent per OHIP-covered eyecare exam, forcing optometrists to pay the remainder. Is this the case?

 

The OAO study that was commissioned by the OAO was not "independent". That’s why we are asking the OAO to return to the table so that this can review together, with the continued support of a mediator, the impact of optometry overhead costs and future fee increases.

It would not be reasonable or responsible of the government to agree to any other fee increase without due diligence in validating the evidence used to support such an increase. This is especially true when an increase is characterized as the principal reason for service withdrawal. Optometrists carry out both OHIP insured services and patient-pay services (e.g. glasses, contact lens) and the ministry requires more detailed information from optometrists on their overall overhead expenses, as well as revenue, to have a proper understanding of overhead costs for delivering OHIP-insured services

 

Some optometrists say they won’t end the job action until the government commits to ensuring the operating costs of eye exams are entirely covered?

 

By saying that we need to agree to cover overhead costs, the OAO is presupposing the outcome of the negotiation. We need to agree to a process to determine the costs first. As with any negotiation process, the province has started with a commitment to engage in meaningful dialogue with the OAO and has tabled a comprehensive proposal with the OAO that is fair, sustainable and effective in supporting the province’s optometrists in delivering high-quality care to Ontarians now and into the future.

 

We are so 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. It is not reasonable or responsible for the government to agree to any other increase without first engaging in a process of due diligence to validate the facts.

 

That is why as part of the offer we have proposed to immediately set up a joint working group, to dig deeply into these and other issues as quickly as possible. This includes a thorough understanding of the costs optometrists incur in delivering their services to Ontarians.

 

We urge the OAO to commit to working with us to ensure Ontarians continue to access the care they need and deserve.

 

According to my optometrist's office, Ontario optometrists are the lowest paid in the country. Is this true? 

 

This does not provide the full context of vision care in Canada. Insured optometry services vary considerably by province, including fees paid and other restrictions (e.g., age, elements of service, etc.). 

 

Many provinces don’t even fund optometrists at all. Others fund eye exams only every other year while Ontario funds insured eye exams every year. Six other provinces/territories don’t insure seniors eye exams (Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nunavut and North West Territories) and five other provinces/territories don’t insure children’s annual eye exam under their provincial insurance plan (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nunavut and North West Territories). 

 

Ontario is also the only province where patients don’t have to pay an additional amount out of their own pockets for an insured eye exam, in the same way they are not required to pay any extra fees for other OHIP insured services, like physician and hospital services.

 

OAO members claim that they’re happy to come back to the negotiating table and that they’re willing to start having discussions again but the government is not willing. What is the real story? 

 

To be very clear, the fact is 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. The Ministry of Health agreed to the conditions of the third-party mediator to continue discussions and we urge the OAO to do the same.

 

What if my Optometrist cancels my appointment?

 

If an optometrist proceeds to withdraw services, they must take steps to mitigate any adverse effects on patients and public. Additionally, optometrists must continue to provide urgent care, or any treatment needed to prevent harm, suffering and/or deterioration during a job action.

 

If an optometrist is unable to provide care, alternate care must be arranged for the patient within an appropriate timeline. In determining urgent care, an optometrist must use their clinical judgement and consider their professional responsibility to ensure a patient’s well-being when assessing that patient’s individual needs.

 

A refusal to treat or a referral that results in a delayed treatment is not in patients’ best interests. The College of Optometrists of Ontario, has made clear that if an individual optometrist decides to withhold care from their patient, they are expected to take steps to ensure patients can continue to receive appropriate care such as referrals.

 

Additionally, we have written to the College to stress the importance of ensuring that during any job action its members conduct themselves appropriately in accordance with the College’s policies and guidelines.

 

Where can I find a new Optometrist?

 

All registered Ontario Optometrists can be found on the Colleges website here: PublicRegisterMember (collegeoptom.on.ca)

 

Any decision to withdraw services is the decision of individual optometrists. It’s important to note that the Ontario Association of Optometrists is a voluntary association and that there are over 700 Optometrists in Ontario who are not members.

 

We encourage you to reach out to your individual Optometrist directly if you have any concerns.

 

What if I feel like my optometrist is not acting in my best interest?

 

When you visit an optometrist, you have the right to expect safe, quality eye care. If you have an unresolved concern with an optometrist, the College of Optometrists of Ontario encourages you first to speak directly with the optometrist in an effort to reach a solution to the problem. If this approach is unsuccessful, you may wish to submit a formal written complaint.

If you wish to make a complaint against a member of the College, please complete and submit the Complaint Form

 

The College has assured us that they remain focused on its mandate to protect the public and will be ready to receive and investigate any complaints if an issue should arise.