Immediate agreement between optometrists, the province out of sight
September 1, 2021 12:44 p.m.
Many OHIP-insured patients have had their eye appointments canceled as talks between the province and the Association of Optometrists of Ontario (OAO) stalled.
The OAO has warned that it will withdraw services from OHIP, effective September 1, if an agreement cannot be reached. The OAO said that while it recognizes the inconvenience this decision has for patients, they have no other option.
“The OAO will remain seated at the negotiating table on September 1, directly opposite the chairs that have been empty for the past 30 years,” read a tweet from the OAO.
The association has lobbied the provincial government to tackle chronic underfunding for eye care, saying Ontario’s optometrists are the least well-funded optometrists in Canada.
Medicare covers eye exams for people 19 years of age and under, as well as those 65 years of age and older and those with special health problems.
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Christine Elliott said a fair plan had been put on the table, adding that the OAO had said “no” to mediation over the weekend.
In an open letter to optometrists on August 23, Elliott said a government offer included an immediate pay increase that would be retroactive to April 1, a one-time payment of $ 39 million and a commitment to ensure monthly discussions with the OAO.
Today I wrote a letter to each of the optometrists in Ontario directly.
I want to be transparent with them and that means sharing exactly what we have put on the table through high profile negotiations. pic.twitter.com/1KSgIJLL13
– Christine Elliott (@celliottability) 23 Aug 2021
In a statement released Wednesday, Elliott said an invitation had been extended to resume mediation.
âThe department has accepted the terms of the mediator and has indicated its continued willingness to resume mediation, and is ready, willing and able to do so. Although the OAO maintains that they are at the table, it is not known at which table they are seated given that they have declined the terms of the mediator. We are waiting for a change of mind from the OAO, âsaid Elliott. âI want to say that our government will continue to fund these optometric services through OHIP. Any decision to withdraw services is the decision of the individual optometrists.
During the current work action, local optometrists have been asked to direct all media inquiries to the OAO.
Blackburn News has contacted the OAO but a representative did not respond to an interview request at the time of publication.