Sudbury optometrist reacts as provincial job action continues
Optometrists in Ontario have not been providing OHIP-funded eye exams since Sept. 1, in an attempt to pressure the province to increase the fees.
Optometrists such as Sudbury's Dr. David Chisholm, who has been in practice since 1994, said it costs them money to provide the service under the current OHIP system.
Since he began working in Ontario, Chisholm said he has only seen a four-cent increase in what OHIP pays him.
“We really have not had a significant raise in the OHIP-provided fee in 30 some years," he said. "Right now … to provide that service we’re losing about $40 or $50 every time."
But Chisholm said the province hasn't budged since Sept. 1, or contacted them to negotiate.
“The government has not reached out to the optometrists at all," he said. "There’s been no phone calls, no email. The minister makes a big deal of standing up in the house and saying that they want to negotiate, but we have yet to hear from them.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health sent CTV this lengthy statement:
“The bottom line is this: the (Ontario Association of Optometrists) continues to decline the invitation from our independent, third-party mediator, who was chosen by the OAO, to resume negotiations.
"This is especially concerning as they continue to tell the public they are at the table when they are in fact, not. The current impasse lays squarely at the feet of the OAO, which, instead of participating in good-faith negotiations, is choosing to demand an outcome before allowing them to start.
"We know that optometrists have been treated unfairly by previous governments. That’s why despite the OAO’s refusal to come back to the table, we are making a one-time payment of $39 million to the province’s 2,500 optometrists to support their delivery of high-quality care for patients, both now and into the future.
"Starting Oct. 5, optometrists received confirmation of their payment, and payments flowed to optometrists across Ontario on Oct. 15.
"In addition to this one-time funding boost, our government has also offered to increase OHIP fee reimbursements to optometrists by 8.48 per cent, retroactive to April 1, 2021, as well as immediately strike a joint working group to collaborate on investigating the cost of overhead, which we know is important to optometrists. This is the start of what we are willing to do to support optometrists, not the end.
"It is our sincere hope that this good-faith gesture will demonstrate our government’s commitment to reach a fair and long-term agreement. The OAO should say yes to our joint mediator’s invitation so we can continue discussions, and work with us to ensure Ontarians continue to access the care they need and deserve.”
Sudbury MPP Jamie West said his office is receiving tons of backlash from people in the community.
“I have a stack of them here (petitions)," West said.
"I’ve already tabled seven pounds -- it was quicker to weigh them than to count the pages of petitions from Sudbury ... We thought instead of replying to everybody individually, which we are also doing, that we’d have some local optometrists talk about the crisis."
Tuesday night, West will host a Town Hall with Chisholm and Dr. Jamie Maki on his Facebook page from 6:30-7:30 p.m. He is encouraging constituents to tune in to ask questions and learn more about the crisis.