An on-going dispute between Ontario Optometrists and the Provincial government has made its way to the New Tecumseth Council chambers in the way of a motion asking for Council support. Optometrists in the province are protesting what they describe as underfunding by the province.
Ontario optometrists started directing some patients to emergency rooms during the summer as a part of a negotiation tactic that was costing the public health system $250,000 a day.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan covers optometry services for people under 20 or 65 years of age and older, as well as individuals of any age with certain medical conditions.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists say remuneration for their services has barely changed over the last 30 years and the modest increases they have receive are eaten away by the cost of inflation.
Since 1989, funding for eye care has only increased 14 per cent over 32 years.
As of September 1, 98 per cent of optometrists are withholding their services from 2.9 million patients in the province who are covered for eye care under the provincial plan.
The OAO has recommended its members withdraw services to put pressure on the province to hike the amount it pays per examination.
However, one month later there has been no progress and talks are at a standstill.
Council received correspondence from the New Tecumseth Optometry Clinic asking Town Council to call on the Ontario government to immediately enter into formal negotiations and address the chronic underfunding of eye care.
“I would like to move this request by the local optometrist,” said Councillor Fran Sainsbury at Monday’s (Sept. 27) Council meeting. “It has become quite a serious situation and we do need to have a meeting immediately with the provincial government and the ministry of health and resolve this issue. If they can’t do this through OHIP we have so many people who can’t get proper eye care, and it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money, you still can’t get an appointment. We have to go through our OHIP process. Until they resolve it, nobody is getting eye appointments in the shortterm.”
The motion to receive the request was accepted by Council.
The motion states, “the Council of the Town of New Tecumseth requests the province of Ontario to work with the OAO to resolve OHIP’s funding for eye care service.”
All council members voted in favour of the motion.
Several other municipalities in Ontario have received and passed similar motions calling on the provincial government to get back to negotiations and resolve the issue so people can return to their optometrist for eye care.
Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times