Ontario optometrists to resume eye exams for kids and seniors as job action is paused

It’s been 80 days since Ontario’s optometrists withdrew services covered by the province’s health plan. Patients remain stuck in the middle and little progress has been made to get the talks going again. Matthew Bingley reports.

TORONTO – Optometrists in Ontario say they will start resuming eye exams for children and seniors on Tuesday.

The optometrists withdrew provincially insured eye services on Sept. 1 in a funding dispute with the province.

The Ontario Association of Optometrists said in a statement Monday that it had agreed to enter formal negotiations with the Ministry of Health.

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It said “as a sign of good faith” it will pause its job action as of Tuesday.

“The OAO is committed to negotiating a sustainable funding model that aligns with how optometric care is funded in other Canadian jurisdictions,” it said in a statement.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is ready to reach a fair and timely agreement.

“I am pleased that the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) has agreed to join us in resuming direct face-to-face negotiations,” she said in a statement.

The optometrists say the province has been underfunding the OHIP-covered services, leaving them paying around 45 per cent out of pocket.

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Elliott has said the government has committed to paying $39 million in retroactive costs and is prepared to increase reimbursement by 8.48 per cent going forward,

But the optometrists say that $39 million amounts to just over $1 for each optometry service performed in that retroactive period.

The proposed 8.48 per cent increase in reimbursement would only bring the covered cost up to $48, but eye exams are between $75 and $80, the optometrists say.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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