Optometrists in Ontario won’t stop trying to sell a company

Patients in Ontario are being held hostage. And guess what? It’s their optometrists.

Optometrists in the province of Ontario are refusing to give any more time to the Liberals to convince the province’s health care regulators to approve the sale of a Montreal-based ophthalmology equipment manufacturer. It’s a very simple and straightforward request: We need more time to look at the company’s sale because this particular product is so important to our profession. And please, we’re willing to give. We agree. We’ve given in the past. We’re willing to give again.

But, the optometrists aren’t taking “no” for an answer, and they’re threatened with losing their collective bargaining status, which would mean they’d have to accept whatever wage they could get.

It’s an outrageous position. Optometrists are, after all, part of the healthcare system. No physician in Ontario writes a prescription. We often offer exams and preventative care before patients need them, and we also can diagnose and treat disease. And our license and credentials mean we have to follow all of the guidelines and regulations written by our profession’s public oversight body.

But optometrists don’t control the healthcare system themselves, of course. So why should the optometrists be trusted with the immense responsibility that comes with following those rules?

That’s why it was so important to strike a deal with the Ontario Government for a much needed day-to-day insurance program. We’re not asking for a welfare-state-style health care system. Optometrists would only provide such services to patients who would already be getting them with out-of-pocket spending. Optometrists wouldn’t be treating public sector patients like patients. If a patient came to us because they had a family doctor, we’d treat them just like we treat private sector patients in Ontario.

But we need a day-to-day insurance program, just like a taxi driver or a nurse would be entitled to in the United States. It’s time for the province to act. Optometrists could have agreed to take another two weeks for the matter to be resolved, and if we need more time, we’d be happy to accept it. The health care regulators in Ontario have given us that opportunity.

I never dreamt that my family eye exam and the treatment I got for a large infection would change my life and the lives of other people. But my family appointment in 2008 changed my life and the lives of tens of thousands of others. It was the first time I had my eyes evaluated since I had been born. I had never thought my blurry vision, double vision, pain in my eye and complaints from other parts of my body could be associated with an eye condition.

Then, without me giving it a second thought, I was able to have multiple eyes exams and other diagnostic tests. I found out about an infection I had never had before. And in 2010, I was able to get antibiotic eye drops to treat the infection and correct a myriad of other eye problems that I never would have had the funds to get corrected.

The back surgery, my laser eye surgery, the laser eye surgery that corrected my vision further, laser cataract surgery, my corneal transplant, the corneal transplant, the vision advisory disc, the laser eye surgeries, the laser distal surface repair, the laser to eliminate the off-center dry eye—all were made possible by my encounter with my optometrist’s office.

I couldn’t be more grateful to the optometrists who helped me get the care I needed.

I hope Ontario’s government will stand up for patients who can’t afford their own prescription drug or vision care.

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