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ONTARIO: Government hoping mediator can resolve pending OHIP eye care coverage issue

A spokesperson for the minister of health blames previous provincial governments for 'failing to build a meaningful relationship with the Ontario Association of Optometrists.'
Eye care

The Ontario Ministry of Health is looking to a third-party mediator to find a resolution in its talks with the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO), so that residents can continue to have vision care covered by OHIP beyond September 1.

The OAO says it's been fighting for more funding as the government currently covers roughly 55 per cent of the costs of an OHIP covered eye exam, which according to an Ottawa doctor, has left optometrists to cover a variety of additional costs. So, the association made the decision earlier this year to withdraw from OHIP, giving patients who need the coverage a September deadline.

According to a statement released by the ministry of health, Friday, August 6, the OAO is considering the mediator option.

In an report published by CityNews Ottawa, Friday, Ottawa optometrist and past president of the OAO Dr. Joshua Smith said the government had stopped communicating with the association as of December last year.

Friday's statement, attributed to Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the minister of health, reads: 

"Since day one our government has been committed to building a connected and sustainable health care system centred around the needs of patients. 

The Ministry of Health values the ongoing commitment of optometrists to provide high-quality eye health and vision care for Ontarians as the province continues to fight COVID-19. 

We would like to take the opportunity to provide an update that recently, the Ministry and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) resumed discussions concerning our shared commitment to develop a plan that is fair, sustainable and effective in supporting the province’s optometrists in delivering high-quality care to Ontarians now and into the future.

To that end, today the Ministry proposed to engage a third-party expert mediator to assist us in finding a resolution and the OAO is considering this option.

We understand the frustration that Ontario’s optometrists have historically experienced. Previous governments have failed to build a meaningful relationship with the OAO. The Ministry of Health stands ready to continue meaningful and productive discussions, and our invitation to enter into mediation stands. We are ready to keep talking. 

The people of Ontario expect and deserve both parties to do everything possible to come to an agreement that is fair to all – most importantly, patients. 

We urge the OAO to commit to working with us to reach an agreement to ensure Ontarians can continue to access the high-quality eye health and vision care services they deserve. 

We will communicate additional information as it becomes available."