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Three months a long time without eye health care

To the Editor:

Premier Ford, and by extension, our MPP Todd Smith have created a non-COVID-19 health crisis unique to Ontario that is almost three months old affecting around four million Ontario citizens.

Those of us in Prince Edward County, or indeed anywhere in the province, over 65 or under 19 have not had access to eye health care since Sept. 1.

Ontario’s Optometrists reluctantly were forced to withdraw eye examines for OHIP patients to encourage the Ford government to negotiate a more realistic OHIP fee structure.

Optometrists in Ontario say they’re the lowest paid in Canada and that the province pays about $44 for an eye exam, which the group said only covers about half the cost. The province did give optometrists $39 million and offered an 8.48 per cent raise, but the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) said that doesn’t allow the profession to catch up from years of under funding.

Ford has reached out to the OAO recently, the first time in 12 months, but three months is a long time without eye health care. Several years ago during a routine yearly eye checkup at a Picton optometrist the doctor discovered a torn retina in one of my eyes. I had experienced no symptoms prior to the examination. An untreated torn retina is serious business leading to loss of sight. By four in the afternoon I had travelled to Kingston where I received emergency laser surgery and so avoided further trouble.

I shudder to think what would happen right now under current conditions. Some patients say they’re willing to pay for their eye exams, but that’s not allowed in Ontario as patients can’t pay for a service that is covered by OHIP. The only option is to go out of province.

This has got to stop. I urge you to contact Todd Smith to express the need to settle this health care crisis now. Mr Smith’s email address is

Nigel Sivel

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. SM says:

    It is good news that the provincial government has agreed to go to the bargaining table. It is instructive to note that it took a form of job action to get them there. For those that have called this withdrawal of services extortion, you must think it is extortion when teachers withheld after school services. Or perhaps when sanitation workers go on strike. Or perhaps when any group works to rule. There is an imbalance of power in this situation as well. The government decrees that services for children and seniors are to be paid by OHIP. Then they establish a rate of pay that does not cover the cost of service. Optometrists complain for decades and it is not until services are withdrawn and public pressure is put on the them that the government deigns to talk. They haven’t agreed to the request of Optometrists but only to talk about it. In response the Optometrists immediately began to offer service.

  2. Nigel J. Sivel says:

    Just heard on the news (Monday Nov. 22) that eye examines are now available (Tomorrow) as the Ford Government has come forward to initiate talks to settle the issues. Fingers crossed.

  3. Teena says:

    We will all take a hit one way or another for these services. Pay now. Pay later. OHIP is the best case scenario, to get everyone covered, I think.

  4. Fred says:

    With eyes, teeth and hearing, we would have to be prepared for a huge, huge tax increase.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    One way to stop this kind of imbalance in our healthcare system is make eyes, teeth and hearing part of OHIP!!

  6. Bruce Nicholson says:

    This situation has not just occurred during the current government’s tenure. Optometrists were paid just under $40 back in 1989. The 13 year liberal reign in Ontario did not address the inadequate rates for seniors and children either.
    And yes…this type of action is called extortion!

  7. angela says:

    Optometrists are not to blame for the government’s inaction but they are responsible for leaving their patients in the lurch. Certainly they are entitled to proper compensation but they have no right to put anyone at risk. When they are disrespectful of their patients they are not deserving of respect themselves. As Nigel Sivel pointed out in his letter, he had no symptoms of a potentially serious eye problem. A retinal tear was discovered in a routine exam and action taken to avert a serious problem. I have no respect for a profession whose members attempt to blackmail the government by refusing treatment to their patients. And trying to blame the government for this tactic does not wash. It’s not negotiation it is extortion.

  8. Ruth says:

    Further, fighting for dignity and respect is not extortion. It’s called self respect and everyone deserves to feel they are being treated respectfully and not being exploited by a government that had Fullerton in the role of a minister who has long been working to privatize services in Ontario. It says all I need to know about this government values.

  9. Ruth says:

    How are optometrists to blame for the governments inaction? Are nurses also to blame for being underpaid below the rate of inflation by this government? Are nurses supposed to crumble from stress and pressure and get ptsd from the trauma of their workloads through this pandemic and just accept poor treatment at the hands of this government? The issue with this government is they care about money and not about people. Look at their handling of LTC, autism, nurses and more. This is just ONE other example of a government that doesn’t care about us regular folks and YES optometrist are allowed to stand up for themselves and demand dignity and respect, just like nurses and it doesn’t make them selfish or make their patients “pawns”

  10. Mike Rodgers says:

    Mr. Ford has the misfortune to inherit enormous debt from the previous government. Well I do not agree with him not giving the nurses in this province descent pay hikes and also other medical professionals increases he has a hard row to hoe trying to bring down the debt plus dealing with a pandemic and giving everyone what they want. Hopefully when life starts to return to normal this government can make reasonable and timely decisions. The previous government almost broke us hopefully the present government can get us back on track.

  11. SM says:

    There are options for individuals who cannot access the services of an optometrist. You may see your physician. You may attend the emergency department of the hospital. No one is being denied service if they need it. FYI, I am someone who would be denied service at the optometrists and who in fact would regularly go to the optometrist.
    Consider that in order to become an optometrist, one needs a 3 year undergraduate degree and either a 4 or 5 year optometry program. It is estimated that education costs will be $100,000.00 and up. In 1989 OHIP paid $39.15 for an eye exam and in 2021, it will pay $44.65. An eye exam can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. That works out to about $89.00 / hour to as low as $30.00 / hour. In contrast, my plumber charges over $100.00 / hour with a minimum one hour charge.

  12. Bruce Nicholson says:

    We may agree that optometrists in Ontario are underfunded. However, using Ontario’s seniors and children as pawns to get their rate increases is not acceptable. This type of extortion by Ontario optometrists should not be encouraged or supported.

  13. angela says:

    The government may be at fault but if just one person should lose sight as a result of the optometrists’ present stand it should be condemned. what if medical doctors took the same position? Would we support their actions? Optometrists have a right to fair payment for their services. In reading Mr. Sivel’s letter you can understand how quickly this could happen. Optometrists do not have the right to endanger their patients’ vision. I find it hard to respect them for the tool they have chosen to increase their income.

  14. SM says:

    OHIP only covers services for children and seniors. All others pay the full cost of the service. Optometrists are not allowed to bill over the OHIP amount. Ontario pays the lowest rate of all provinces for these services. Instead of condemning optometrists for seeking to be paid the cost of providing service, one should be condemning the the various provincial governments that have chronically underfunded this area of health care for decades.

  15. Ruth says:

    This is the same taking points we hear that keeps nurses underpaid below the rate of inflation. To pretend healthcare workers, who are caring, compassionate, and genuinely care are just self interested is what people like Doug Ford say so they can treat them poorly while they allow private services to take over.

  16. angela says:

    Underpaid they may be but where is their conscience? Withholding eye care in an effort to force the government to increase their income is not an admirable solution. Based on a visit to my optometrist’s office last year I did not leave feeling the doctor must have been underpaid for a long time. There was very modern equipment in that office, a much larger staff than there had ever been in the past and a larger clientele. If these optometrists are so underpaid how can they afford to close their offices and try to outwait the government for a raise? Obviously, they are not in need of money. They appear to have a genuine grievance but making their patients their weapon in an effort to earn more is disgusting. They need to get back to work and find another way to reach their goal.

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