Optometrists across Ontario have resumed providing OHIP-insured eye care after a nearly three-month strike.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott says the Ontario Association of Optometrists has agreed to return to the table to negotiate with Ontario, and the union says any vision care services that were previously affected by the impasse will resume as of November 23.
On September 1, 2021, 2,500 optometrists across Ontario stopped providing their services as a form of a strike against the government – leaving millions of children and seniors without proper eye care.
The stalemate between optometrists and the provincial government surrounded the cost of providing optometry services in Ontario, and how OHIP is reimbursing staff for their time.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists says the sector is chronically underfunded by the province, and staff are constantly operating at a loss. They felt that their ‘strike’ action to withhold services was the only option they had left.
An eye exam costs an optometrist $80 per patient in staff wages and equipment, but they’re only being reimbursed about $44 per exam by OHIP – a rate that’s remained relatively consistent over the last 32 years.
In response, the government offered a one-time payment of $39 million that would cover a retroactive period over the last decade. Ontario’s offer to the association worked out to be worth another $1 per exam, which was quickly turned down by the union.
The OAO and the Ministry of Health both note that the two parties have agreed to a media blackout on their negotiations.