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Letter: Sudbury optometrist says he can’t afford to provide OHIP-funded eye exams anymore

He said the government is not adequately compensating optometrists for their services

Editor's note: The following is an open letter to Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier Chrstine Elliott.

I am an optometrist in Sudbury. I regret to inform you that I can no longer afford to provide OHIP covered eye exams. I graduated in 1992 and at that time I was receiving $39.15 for an eye exam. Little did I know that it would be 12 years until I would see an increase in those fees. No cost of living increase, nothing. All provincial governments have failed to invest in eye care for 30 years. 

I am presently paying over half the cost of delivering eye exam services to my patients. This inability for my OHIP fees to keep pace with inflation has put a financial strain on my practice. 

I am subsidizing every single OHIP covered patient with my personal income. The closure of my office by our government because of the coronavirus has made this immeasurably worse. 

On March 6, 2020 your office made it clear that our fees would once again not change. You are well aware that our fees have remained unchanged since 2011 and I REPEAT NO COST OF LIVING INCREASE, NOTHING!! 

My expenses keep going up, but my OHIP fees remain unchanged. My association has worked tirelessly and admirably with your staff for decades only to be refused an increase in fees over and over again. 

My association has spent thousands of dollars and countless volunteer hours to recommend solutions to our plight and to try and help our government save money at the same time. I am continually frustrated by our government’s lack of desire to negotiate with us. 

Without the right to arbitration we have no recourse. In 2012 the association determined after a very costly consultation process with a very reputable accounting firm that it costs Ontario optometrists $70 to provide an OHIP covered exam. 

Indexed to 2020 that is closer to $80. That means that every time I provide an exam for my OHIP patients, it personally costs me a minimum of $33.00 and a maximum of $53.25 out of my pocket to provide that service. 

This cannot go on. I have to provide for my family, not subsidize OHIP patients. Due to the Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act I have no ability to recoup my losses. 

I do not know if I will financially survive my decision, but I also know that if I continue seeing OHIP covered patients I will not survive financially.

Unfortunately, patients will soon feel the impact on access to eye care in Ontario if changes are not made. Patients in Ontario will have nowhere to turn to, and some will have to go to the emergency in a time where we cannot afford to do so. 

We simply cannot continue to see patients under the current OHIP guidelines and expect to make a living. The time to save eye care in Ontario is now. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

The government needs to fix this problem.

Jamie Maki, OD, Sudbury