Eye care in Ontario is at risk.
Without immediate attention, we may lose this essential
health care service.
TAKE ACTION

Let’s open our eyes – and save eye care together.

Optometrists are proud to deliver high quality, and accessible eye care — but eye care in Ontario is at serious risk right now.

Everyone knows how badly COVID-19 has strained our health care workers and decimated local businesses. Ontario’s optometrists are both. Now, as some businesses reopen their doors, many optometrists may be forced to close theirs — or drastically reduce their services.

For 30 years, previous governments neglected to invest in eye care – so OHIP now only covers half the cost of an eye exam. Optometrists subsidize the rest. And social distancing means optometrists will only be able to see half the patients they did before COVID-19.

But it’s not just about the optometrist. It’s about you, the patient. It’s about your eyes. And your health.
Optometrists are ready for change – and are willing to work with patients and the government to save eye care in Ontario.
It’s time to open the Ontario government’s eyes to a crisis that’s about to become all too visible – and ensure these essential, accessible local health professionals don’t disappear before our eyes

Take action.

Open letter to the Government of Ontario

Dear Premier, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and MPPs

I am writing because access to eye care is important to me, my family, and my community – and it is in crisis in Ontario today. You can help prevent this crisis from getting worse.

For 30 years, previous governments neglected to invest in eye care. It is wrong that OHIP only covers half the cost of an eye exam, and that optometrists have to subsidize the rest. Now, social distancing means my optometrist can only see half the patients as before. Staying in business will be hard.
I fear what this means for my eye health – and that of my family. Without immediate attention from your government, we risk losing an essential front-line health care service in Ontario communities. And the practices that employ thousands of people across the province.
The last thing we need is more Ontarians, like me, having to wait in the ER for a service we can and should receive in our community.
Please return to the discussion table with Ontario’s optometrists. You can lead where previous governments failed — and save eye care in Ontario.

Help save eye care in Ontario.

By submitting a letter to the Ontario Premier, Minister of Health, and your local MPP, you will open the government’s eyes to this crisis – and help protect eye care in your community.

Our stories.

We need early intervention to save eye care in Ontario

In our practice, we primarily deal with pediatrics and vision rehabilitation, which means we see many patients with special needs and in an immunocompromised state.  

We expect everything to change once we reopen. With our population of immunocompromised patients, there is no room for error. We need to ensure we have all the proper supplies and that the proper systems and protocols are in place to protect our patients and our staff. The current return-to-work plan will mean a drastically reduced patient load with increased expenses to ensure we are properly equipped. 

We also worry about increased fear in the community. With extended waitlists and delays in seeing patients, we risk missing vital symptoms. The last thing we want is for people to wait until the last minute to see a doctor and for it to be too late. We need early intervention because when we don’t get to patients on time, we risk vision and we risk lives.  

This will change the whole nature of our practice and those qualifying for our services. It is impossible to continue operating the way OHIP fees are set up. With the decreased number of pediatric patients we are able to see, and the impossibly low renumeration, we will be operating at a significant loss for each OHIP patient. This could force us to prioritize our private pay patients just to keep our doors open.   

We care deeply for all of our patients. This is not what we want to implement, but it is what it will come to without immediate action and change.   

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The cracks in our system are now visible more than ever

I am proud to have a large office that has continually met the needs of all our patients. Prior to COVID, when patients called, they were typically seen within 24 hours of calling and triaged to further care if necessary. With fewer patients and staff, this is going to change.

My concern goes far beyond the significant decrease we will see in the number of patients. We have seen our operating expenses continue to climb – from rent, electricity and increased supplier costs. Over the years, as a result of the lack of increase in our fees from OHIP, we have struggled to keep our prices competitive and give our staff yearly raises. Since starting my practice 10 years ago, I have yet to see any type of wage increase.

COVID has made the cracks in the system more visible. For years, we have had to increase the number of patients we see daily just to offset the cost of operating expenses and to continue to provide patient care and take care of our staff. This is now not an option.

When we re-open, we will have fewer doctors, less staff, and have to see fewer patients to keep everyone safe. We were already seeing a loss of income per exam due to stagnant OHIP fees. It was a loss before, it is an even greater loss now.

We need action. We need to be seen.

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Let’s unite in effecting long-overdue change

We have concerns about our ability to function post-COVID in light of reduced patient numbers, increased costs of providing care, and above all, the inflexibility of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to reimburse us appropriately. 

I have a serious concern for patients. We are doing our best to deliver care to our patients under these circumstances. While telemedicine has been helpful in these times, it is not a replacement for the full patient care we provide in-office. The inability to follow-up properly – let alone triaging patients by the severity of their symptoms – will present issues which can lead to poor outcomes for many should unapparent symptoms exist.  

We are expecting months of backlog upon return and a severe drop in revenue which will cause issues with retaining and hiring new staff. It is already difficult to properly staff our practice and this will create more difficulties compounded by the fact we will have reduced income for training needs.  

I believe the return to work represents a pivotal moment for Ontario Optometry, as it will provide a favourable environment to produce change in our current OHIP reimbursement. It is imperative that our upcoming return-to-work be accompanied with decisive action, strong public education, and political lobbying from ODs across the province – by showing unity in effecting long-overdue change. 

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We should not be ignored

Every day, we are struggling to provide care, meet regulatory requirements and keep our practices afloat. And every day that we are accepting urgent care patients, we are operating at a loss.  

We are doing our best to deliver care to our patients – this includes phone calls and virtual appointments where we can for free, as we have no telemedicine codes from OHIP. We have scrambled to find PPE and we were forced to lay off the majority of our employees as our revenues are down more than 95%.   

Even before our regulatory college announced that we must provide urgent care services to patients with vision-threatening issues, we already planned to do so; we’ve been part of our community for 40+ years.  

 We did not feel it was fair for someone to go blind from a treatable eye disease due to fear of COVID-19.  

I am technically on maternity leave, but I find myself working full-time, unpaid and at a loss, to try and help my business and my patientsWe should not be ignored. If we stop accepting OHIP patients, there are not enough ophthalmologists to cover the load. 

I have been a champion of small business my entire career, but I feel ready to throw in the towel.  Especially when I see that our government places no value on preventative health care. 

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