Six Collingwood optometrists banded together to ask the municipality for help in increasing Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage for eye care.
During Tuesday night’s strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, councillors received correspondence signed by six Collingwood optometrists asking for help in lobbying the provincial government to address the chronic under-funding of eye care province-wide.
“Although it is the province that needs to fix the issue, the under-funding of eye care affects municipalities too,” reads the letter, which is signed by Dr. E. Jayne Cation, Dr. Eric Raymond, Dr. Sarah Hanmer and Dr. Wissam Toutounji of Collingwood Optometry as well as Dr. Andrew Comly of Comly Eye Care and Dr. William Tucker.
“I'm concerned about what this will mean for my patients and my community,” wrote the local optometrists. “Due to this lack of funding, optometrists are also limited in their ability to invest in their practices and access to eye care in rural areas is especially threatened. This is not acceptable.”
OHIP covers eye care for children under 19, seniors and those will certain conditions.
However, the amount of coverage OHIP provides to optometrists has only increased by about 14 per cent over the past 32 years, which the Ontario Association of Optometrists has said is not sustainable.
“This issue has been long-standing. It’s not the result of any one government, but there’s been inattention for a long period of time,” said Mayor Brian Saunderson during the meeting.
As of Sept. 1, ongoing talks between the Ontario Association Of Optometrists and the provincial government were stalled. As a result, member practices across Ontario withdrew from providing OHIP-covered services as part of province-wide job action.
Saunderson said he had been in talks with Dr. Cation to understand the situation more fulsomely.
“These rates... have not been increased in many years. The level of sophistication of equipment and the fees involved are at a point where it doesn’t even cover their operating costs,” said Saunderson.
Saunderson put forward a motion asking council to send a letter to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to get involved in lobbying the provincial government for movement on the issue.
The committee recommended passing the motion. The motion will have to be ratified at the next meeting of council on Sept. 20.