Guest column: Optometrists not treated fairly in battle with Ontario government

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A thank you to the Government of Ontario for their continued support of the development of our regional mega-hospital.


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But I think there is still an irritating unfinished business.

Ontario optometrists are on strike. I believe that the Ontario Association of Optometrists is legitimately concerned about the future and the future of many of its patients.

The view matters. My late friend and colleague Professor Gerald Dirks, after age 14, lived his life with artificial eyes.

We began our friendship at UBC and reconnected at the University of Toronto, where he completed his Ph.D.

As a professor of political science at Brock University, Dirks authored papers on immigration and refugee policy, and was also a CNIB volunteer. He played a role in establishing Voiceprint in Canada.

In 2008, Dirks died prematurely and unexpectedly in Victoria.


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Gerry taught me many things about managing a disability. Significantly, he emphasized the importance of sight given that he lost his due to an undetected illness when he was young.

“Sight matters” was his phrase. Once he wrote it in braille on a card that I keep in his memory.

Eyes matter and sight is really important for older people as age tends to wear down acuity – the ability to see, hear, or understand things easily and clearly as age progresses.

Ontario optometrists fight for the sight of older residents and for the continued protection of those under the age of 19 through preventive eye exams.

Perhaps if my friend Gerald Dirks had undergone eye exams earlier, his eyes could have been saved instead of becoming glass implants.


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I think our family optometrist saved my life.

Twice I had experienced a strange blurry vision in one eye that I described as “like looking through a purple fishbowl.”

Upon completion of a routine eye exam performed by our family optometrist in Kingsville, he asked if there was anything else he should know.

I replied that twice I had experienced strange blurred vision in my right eye. His response was “this is serious, we will contact your GP.”

And so I found out that I had experienced two transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) that are characteristic of strokes or precursors to stroke.

Within days, I was in the old Hotel-Dieu hospital undergoing carotid artery surgery performed by a great local cardiovascular surgeon.


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My optometrist realized the severity of the peculiar behavior of my eye and that triggered the operation that probably saved my life.

So why do I think vision is both important and optometrists really matter? I am still functioning and my wife and my life partner are not without their spouse.

Given that I believe that optometrists play a key role in the health of both the young and our aging population, I think it is worth asking the Ontario government and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, why can’t it be paid? fairly to optometrists for the qualified professional services they offer to their clients?

The Optometrists Association of Ontario (OAO) has estimated that an average eye exam for seniors, children and youth under the age of 19 and those with glaucoma and diabetes costs at least $ 80 per exam.


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However, the Ontario health insurance plan currently offers $ 45 per exam.

Salaries for elected members of the Ontario legislature, our MPPs, have risen much faster than OHIP fees for eye exams. Seriously, do we really care more about our elected politicians in Ontario than about those who have the ability to save our sight, perhaps our lives?

Without consultation or negotiation, the Ontario government offered a one-time sum of $ 39 million to be deposited directly into the optometrist accounts of the 2,100 OAO members.

Trying to buy a profession currently on a fairly passive strike suggests an odd way to negotiate sustainable service fees.

I think the sight of most older people and many young people is at stake. I cannot sympathize with a provincial government, which will soon seek reelection, that behaves perniciously with those responsible for the view that matters.


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An early diagnosis of an eye disease may have saved the eyes of my colleague Gerald Dirks.

What does the Ontario government have against the view? Also, what is the problem that the Ontario government wants to avoid by failing to ensure that young people under the age of 19 receive regular eye health evaluations?

My Kingsville optometrist saved my life, and my family and I remain very grateful for his professional skill.

Let’s support our local optometrists in their fight with the Ontario government for a fair return on their skills.

Lloyd Brown-John is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Windsor. He can be reached at [email protected].


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