(Update as of Sept 22nd below)
Dear valued patients,
At Eye Care For You we are proud to have been able to provide quality and accessible eye care to your families and our community in Orléans for over 35 years. Optometrists are the front-line workers of the vision care system, and their services are at the heart of screening and diagnostic services in Ontario.
But throughout our time in business - for more than 30 years - governments have failed to invest in eye care. As a result, OHIP now only covers a fraction of the cost of an eye exam – nowhere near enough to cover the cost of staff and overhead. Which means that our clinic, and optometrists across the province, have been paying the balance of an OHIP exam out our own pockets.
Before the pandemic, this situation was unfair and unsustainable. But now more than ever, our profession is facing a crisis.
To comply with physical distancing directives from the government and the College of Optometrists of Ontario, optometrists cannot see as many patients as they did before COVID-19. With statistics showing that 1 in 3 Ontarians will have some form of vision-threatening eye disease by the age of 65, finding a sustainable solution is ever more pressing.
Multiple governments have been unwilling to address the issue. Unless they're willing to formally negotiate with us, as of September 1st, optometrists across Ontario will no longer be seeing OHIP patients. For more information, please consult the following link: www.SaveEyeCare.ca
Press release on March 30th announcing the job action: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/ontario-budget-fails-to-save-eye-care-for-patients-835001466.html
Help us save eye care in Ontario. Visit www.SaveEyeCare.ca and tell the Ontario government to reform OHIP for a more sustainable eye care system.
Thank you for your understanding and we appreciate your support,
The team at Eye Care For You
Update - Sept 22nd, 2021:
We would like to provide you with an update on our discussions with the Ontario government. Unfortunately, since September 1, millions of Ontarians have lost access to primary eye care services because the Ontario government continues to neglect optometry services. Here is a brief update on what has been happening:
- The Ministry of Health did not communicate with optometrists from December 5, 2020 until August 5, 2021.
- An independent third party accounting firm (BDO) determined that the average operating cost (rent, staff, and equipment) to provide an eye exam in Ontario (without doctor compensation) was $75.51.
- The government has offered optometrists an increase of 8.48%. Such an increase would move the average payment for an eye exam from $44.65 to $48.43 requiring the average Ontario optometrist today to still pay more than $27 out of pocket to examine an OHIP-insured patient.
- Such an offer would ensure that the eye exams Ontarians receive will continue to be the worst funded in Canada. To reach the funding levels of the next lowest-funded province (Manitoba) in the country, a 65% increase in funding is needed. Our equipment, staffing, and rent costs are not lower than those in Manitoba.
- The government also offered a one-time $39 million payment to help with underfunding of the last decade. This averages to just over $1 per exam for every optometry service performed over the last decade. It is focused on the past and does nothing to address Ontario’s broken and unsustainable eye care system. It is a complete waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
- While the government states that this offer is fair, the math is simple. Ontarians understand how this government is continuing to follow previous governments by neglecting eye care and exploiting the valuable services optometrists provide. It simply is not a sustainable solution.
- To this day, the government refuses to enter into negotiations where they will agree to either cover the complete overhead costs required to provide an exam or ensure Ontario optometrists will not remain the lowest funded in all of Canada. Ontario optometrists are waiting at the table for them to agree to either of those very basic and fair principles.
- Eye surgeons (ophthalmologists) across our province work together with optometrists to provide eye care for Ontarians. Like you, many have written letters to the Ontario government in support of fixing eye care. One Ontario ophthalmologist states:
“I believe that many in government do not fully understand the impact of the Optometric role and may minimize it’s standing in the delivery of health care to all Ontarians. The net effect of this misunderstanding, in my opinion, is exactly why Ontario Optometrists are underpaid and undervalued.”
Eye health has a direct impact on an individual’s quality of life, and we will continue to advocate for our patients whose lives are negatively impacted by the Ontario government’s lack of interest in this aspect of essential healthcare.
Please call your local MPP’s office and let them know that you need the government to fix eye care. Tell them you support your local optometrist and you value the services that they provide. You can find their contact information here: https://www.ola.org/en/members...
Thank you again for your continued support!
What does this new ‘Save Eye Care’ job action mean for me?
Along with my colleagues across the province, we have made the difficult decision that, effective September 1st 2021, we will not be seeing any OHIP covered patients. Depending on the urgency of your vision needs, we may need to defer you to ophthalmologists, family doctors or the ER. We understand this situation may inconvenience many of you so we appreciate your understanding and support.
What is an OHIP patient?
An OHIP patient is any patient who's eye exam is covered under the Ontario health insurance plan. These patients include children 0-19 years of age, seniors 65 years or age or older, as well as any adult aged 20-64 years of age with certain medical or visual conditions (diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.)
Are you threatening to stop seeing all OHIP patients?
We remain committed to seeing all patients for their comprehensive exam, as best as we can. But with OHIP covered exams making up 65-70% of our schedule, and no material increase in government funding in 30 years, we now cover half the cost of an eye exam. In a social-distancing world where we can't see as many patients as before, an unsustainable situation has become a crisis, and we are forced to take action. So yes, as of September 1st, we will not be seeing any more OHIP patients until the government agrees to formal negotations.
Are you overcharging private-pay patients to make up for your losses from OHIP?
No. Optometrists follow the fee guide published by the Ontario Association of Optometrists and we are aligned with those fees charged in other provinces. In reality, we are actually charging less than the suggested rates (like most other clinics).
Is this why I have to pay for imaging (or other ancillary testing)? Because OHIP doesn’t pay you enough?
No. The tests that I recommend are based on your medical needs. And the fees go to cover the cost of that equipment. The technology and complexity of an eye exam has changed significantly in the past 30 years, and is now the standard of care for managing many eye health issues. Unfortunately, the government has failed to recognize the value of the service that we provide.
Can I just pay for my visit instead?
Unfortunately, if you are normally covered under OHIP for you comprehensive eye exam, it is considered fraud to charge a patient for a covered service. The clinic could be liable for huge fines and penalties.
You are seeing me every 3-4 monthsto monitor my eye condition. Are you still going to see me for that follow-up? What about other visits
after September 1st, like emergencies?
We are hoping that we can still manage to follow-up with you in a timely fashion. If we get to September 1st without a resolution to our funding, then we can push back your appointment a little bit if needed. If it looks like the job action will be more prolonged then we will refer you to the appropriate surgeon (ophthalmologist) to take care of your eye care needs. Ophthalmologists are adequately funded to provide care; however, wait times can be long.
What if no one else will see me and I’m scared to go to the ER. Why won’t you help me?
We understand your frustration. We feel it as well. We chose this profession because we are committed to helping people. But we are in an emergency situation and we regret that we just won't be able to provide OHIP exams at this time. We understand this situation is far from ideal, but with proper funding from our government, we can solve this over the long term.
How can you justify putting pressure on the government during a global pandemic?
OHIP has been underfunding eye care for over 30 years, covering only half the cost of delivering OHIP insured services. The pandemic has been devastating to many on many levels. We have had to close our doors for 3 months and are now able to stay open with increased costs to ensure patient safety, and at lowered patient volume to respect social distancing. This is now about the survival of our livelihood. COVID-19 has ignited the crisis, but it’s been fueled by 30 years of failing to invest in eye care.
Why should I suffer if you are in a fight with the government?
I appreciate that this situation is unfair to you, our valued patients, but the government has left optometrists in Ontario with no alternative. Operating at a loss is not sustainable. We are fighting not just for our survival, but to find a permanent solution that protects patients and the public interest in the long term.
Why can’t you use telemedicine to assess my vision?
Optometrists have actually been quick to road-test this novel approach, and we can offer some consultations with virtual means. But we’re limited in what we can do virtually because most of our diagnostics are conducted with specialized equipment.
What can I do to help?
Click www.SaveEyeCare.ca to be directed to a website that is calling on the government to better fund eye care. It would be greatly appreciated if through this link, you could sign your name to a letter to your MPP, the Minister of Health and Premier. It will take no more than 5 minutes and can help save our practice and eye care in Ontario.