Eye Care update from Minister Elliott

Published on September 03, 2021

Since day one, our government has been hard at work ensuring that patients have access to the care they need — when they need it.

Our government has made every effort possible to lay the foundation for a long-term relationship with the Ontario Association of Optometrists. This includes engaging a third-party mediator to assist us in reaching an agreement and offering a one-time lump sum payment as well as an immediate OHIP fee increase. This represents a significant and sustainable increase in today’s highly-constrained fiscal environment.

While we had hoped that these discussions would lead to a positive outcome, we are extremely disappointed in the OAO’s decision to decline to resume mediation, as well as the OAO’s encouragement of Ontario’s optometrists to withdraw services, starting today, that many vulnerable Ontarians rely on. To do so as Ontario faces the fourth wave of the pandemic is unconscionable.

The mediator left the parties this weekend with a standing invitation to resume mediation. The ministry has accepted the mediator’s conditions and communicated its continued willingness to return to mediation, and is ready, willing, and able to do just that. Despite the OAO maintaining they are at the table, it’s unclear what table they are sitting at given they have declined the mediator’s conditions. We await a change of heart from the OAO.

I want to be clear that our government will continue to fund these optometry services through OHIP. Any decision to withdraw services is the decision of individual optometrists. The College of Optometrists of Ontario has made clear that if an individual optometrist decides to withhold care from a patient, they are expected to take steps to ensure the patient can continue to receive appropriate care.

My goal remains to arrive at a solution that would support the province’s 2,500 optometrists in delivering high-quality care for patients, both now and into the future. Our government’s offer is an extremely fair and reasonable one, and I urge the OAO to stop withholding care from patients and commit to reaching an agreement today.

What did our government offer?

The Minister of Health has put a fair and reasonable offer on the table. This offer includes:

An immediate compensation increase of 8.48% at the fee code level, retroactive to April 1, 2021. This represents a “catch up” of fee increases calculated to reflect similar increases applied to physicians over the past decade.

A one-time payment of $39 million. Like the fee increases described above, this payment would cover a retroactive period over the past decade and was calculated to reflect similar increases applied to physicians during this time.

Future fee increases to align with increases provided to physicians under the upcoming Physician Services Agreement, including any increases physicians receive beginning April 1, 2021.

A commitment to immediately establish a Working Group with the OAO that would continue to be supported by a mediator and would allow us to come to a common understanding on the overhead costs associated with delivering publicly funded optometry services, and inform ongoing negotiations associated with the fees for the delivery of optometry services.

A commitment to ensure ongoing monthly discussions with the OAO through establishing an Insured Optometry Services Review Committee to:

  • Develop recommendations on the implementation of the fee increases; and
  • Provide a mechanism to continue to discuss health care policy and system issues affecting optometrists.

Where can people seek eye care if optometrists stop covering OHIP covered services?

Our government will continue 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 individual optometrist decides to withhold care from their patient, they are expected to take steps to ensure patients can continue to receive appropriate care.

This might be for example, through other optometrists who did not decide to withhold care from their patients. Please reach out to the College of Optometrists of Ontario for more information.

Where can I find a new Optometrist?

All registered Ontario Optometrists can be found on the Colleges website here: https://members.collegeoptom.on.ca/COO/PublicDirectory/Public_Directory_Member/Public_Register/PublicRegisterMember.aspx