Ontario Optometrist Job Action

Ontario optometrists will be withdrawing OHIP services as of September 1st, 2021

As of September 1st Ontario Optometrists will be withdrawing OHIP services as part of a province wide job action.

What is the problem and why are Optometrists doing this?

Currently patients under the age of 19, those over the age of 65 and those 20-64 that are diabetic or have complex vision conditions are covered by OHIP for their eye exams. Over the past 30 years these eye exams covered by OHIP have seen an increase from an average fee of $39.15 to $44.65 for a full annual eye exam. That is an average increase of just over $5 to cover an examination that takes 30-60 minutes depending on the needs of the individual. The fees provided for these services do not cover the costs of providing these services. These costs include: staffing, rent, electricity, water, heat, maintenance of property, equipment, continuing education and PPE. At this time these fees cover on average 55% of the cost of providing these services. The remaining cost of the examination is paid by your optometrist out of their pocket. When a patient comes in for a partial (or follow up) examination, the fee is $25.15 for often times the same amount of examination time, which means that your optometrist pays even more out of their pocket to provide you that service. Unlike physicians, nurses, teachers and other professionals we do not have a contract with the government and therefore do not have any right to formal negotiations over our fees. Therefore, for decades the government has given us the run around, promised us changes but never came through, or has just completely ignored us when we've tried to talk to them. Eye care is no longer sustainable. On an average day 60-80% of our patients are OHIP patients, we can no longer sustain our practices based on the reimbursement fees we are provided with. In March of 2021 when the new provincial budget was released and eye care was once again not made a priority (although the minister of health has acknowledged that optometry is grossly underfunded) and not provided any increase in the fee structure, Optometrists voted 96% in favor of a job action. We have unfortunately exhausted all of our other options. We are to date the lowest funded province with the next province paying $30 per service fee higher than Ontario. 

What are we asking for?

Optometrists are being fair. The government was made aware of the impending job action since April, but to date still refuses to concede to the following asks. We are asking for two things to end this job action: 

1. That the government agrees to enter a formal negotiation process to discuss our fees

2. That the government at the least agrees to pay the cost of providing OHIP insured service so that Optometrists are not paying out of pocket for these services

The government made an offer in August of 8.48%. Taking into account 32 year soon neglect, 8.48% does not even begin to cover inflation over the past 32 years. This amounts of about a $3.50 increase per service fee, still putting us as the lowest paid province and $27 per service fee away from the next province. The government has walked away and has refused to negotiate since making this offer. Since the strike has started the government has just gone back to ignoring Optometrists all together. 

 

How will this job action affect you?

As of September 1st, Optometrists across Ontario will not be accepting any OHIP insured patient for their routine eye care until the government agrees to the two above asks. During this time OHIP insured patients will not be able to access eye care from their Optometrists. 

Who is an OHIP insured patient?

This job action will affect the following individuals who are covered annually by OHIP for their eye exam:

1. Children 19 and under

2. Adults 20-64 years old who are diabetic, or have an ocular disease that is typically covered by OHIP

3. Seniors 65 and over

If you are an adult 20-64 years old and you currently pay out of pocket for your eye exams, this job action will not affect you as you are not an OHIP insured patient. 

Can I just pay for my eye exam and come in anyways?

No. If you fall under one of the three categories above and are covered by OHIP for your eye exams we cannot legally take payment for an OHIP covered eye exam, therefore we cannot provide you with a service during this job action. 

What happens if I am covered by OHIP and I experience an ocular emergency during the job action?

If you are a current patient of ours and are experiencing any of the following: flashes of lights, new onset of floaters in your vision, new double vision, sudden loss of vision in one eye, a new red and painful eye or a swollen and painful eyelid please call our office at 289-997-3385 and we will direct you accordingly. 

What can I do to help? 

You can visit www.saveeyecare.ca or click below to learn more and to send a letter to your local MPP to let the government know how important access to eye care is to you! The only way way to save eye care is to get the government to come back to the negotiating table and make a fair offer.