Welland mom says one-year-old son is victim of Ontario government's dispute with eye doctors

eye dr. boy

A Welland mother says her son is a victim of the Ontario government's dispute with the province's optometrists.

Laurel Legault says her one-year-old son, Khatchiar, was stung by a bee, and has yet to be seen by an eye doctor due to the ongoing dispute.

She says he was seen by a pediatrician, but has still not been assessed by an optometrist to see if his vision is impaired.

“He was unable to see an eye doctor due to the government refusing to settle with the optometrists. Thankfully, his pediatrician saw him, but he needs to be evaluated by an eye doctor. He cannot tell me if his vision is impaired - he needs an experienced professional to assess him. The optometrists have helped the public to their own detriment. Now there is nothing left - now my baby suffers. How is that right?”

Niagara Centre NDP MPP Jeff Burch has sent a letter to the government asking officials to get back to the bargaining table with optometrists.

The job action by eye doctors started at the beginning of September as they stopped seeing patients covered by OHIP.

That means kids under 18, those 65 and older, and people with certain eligible eye conditions won't be getting appointments.

The heart of the job action is that doctors are only reimbursed by the government about $45 for each patient, but the argument is that the real cost of an appointment is about $80.

A government spokesperson reached out to CKTB today saying they are waiting for the eye doctor's association to return to the table, and in the meantime optometrists will receive $39M as part of their October OHIP payments, regardless of whether there is an agreement in place.

"We also know many Ontarians are concerned about what this means for their eye and vision care. I want to be clear that our government will continue to fund these optometry services through OHIP and any decision to withdraw optometry services is the decision of the OAO alone."

"We urge the OAO to commit to working with us to ensure Ontarians continue to access the care they need and deserve."

Here is Burch's letter:

September 22, 2021     

Hon. Doug Ford, MPP                     URGENT OPEN LETTER

Premier of Ontario 

Room 281

Legislative Building, Queen's Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Hon. Christine Elliott, MPP

Minister of Health

777 Bay Street, 5th Floor

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

 

Dear Premier Ford and Minister Elliott: 

Many people already dealing with this ongoing pandemic and now having eye care services under OHIP stopped is really the last straw. 

The Ontario Association of Optometrists says eye doctors are the lowest paid in the country and that OHIP has underfunded eye exams for decades. 

My office has stacks of petitions from area optometrists and their patients demanding your government resolve this crisis in eye care coverage. They're not even asking to make money at it. They are just saying, “Let’s negotiate something that covers our costs.”

With these vital services withdrawn, patients are not be able to pay for eye exams even if they want to since there is a law that prohibits patients from paying for a service that is covered by OHIP.

Laurel Legault of Welland is appalled this is happening at the expense of her one-year-old son Khatchiar who was stung by a bee. A picture is attached. 

She told me in an email: “He was unable to see an eye doctor due to the government refusing to settle with the optometrists. Thankfully, his pediatrician saw him, but he needs to be evaluated by an eye doctor. He cannot tell me if his vision is impaired - he needs an experienced professional to assess him. The optometrists have helped the public to their own detriment. Now there is nothing left - now my baby suffers. How is that right?”

I can truthfully say that optometrists in Niagara would much rather be taking care of their patients than be involved in this job action. However, in its current state, how your government funds eye care is no longer sustainable.

This pandemic has turned our lives upside down and we really do not need our eye care now put in jeopardy. This is targeting children and seniors. 

Please Premier and Minister Elliott, get back to serious discussions with our optometrists. Recall the Legislature and have an emergency debate on this eye care crisis only your government can resolve. 

Sincerely,

Jeff Burch, MPP