Canadian optometrists fail to deliver promised care in controversial optometric contract

Written by CNN Staff Last summer, Ontario optometrists (one of the state’s six specialist physician groups) agreed to new contracts with eye health organizations and patient groups that promised to make new eye exams…

Canadian optometrists fail to deliver promised care in controversial optometric contract

Written by CNN Staff

Last summer, Ontario optometrists (one of the state’s six specialist physician groups) agreed to new contracts with eye health organizations and patient groups that promised to make new eye exams more comprehensive and cover a wider range of care.

But so far, the optometrists haven’t delivered on these new promises — and now a coalition of patient groups has filed a complaint with the Ontario ombudsman, Paul Dube, alleging that the optometrists have breached their new contracts by failing to monitor the plan’s progress or communicate their efforts with patients.

“Patients have no way of knowing if their care has been improved by optometrists,” the complaint said.

One recent case involved Danielle Harni, who spent over $8,000 after a family crisis made her lose her job as a communications associate at a health research facility and get suspended from school for an extended period.

Danielle Harni paid $8,500 to optometrists in the past year to cover her annual eye exam, as required by new optometrist contracts but she was worried they would not fulfill the promises. Credit: Courtesy Danielle Harni

“Since then, my eyesight has gone from horrible to less than great,” Harni told CNN. “I realize that optometrists should not be prescribing medication or treat diseases.”

Optometrists hold the keys to your vision

Optometrists — one of the health care professions that are integrated into Canadian healthcare in Canadian province Ontario — are heavily regulated by the province’s Ombudsman office.

Since 2004, Ontario and its aligned provinces — Alberta, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador — have forced optometrists to work out of a centralized facility that offers one of four primary care surgeries — a corneal transplant, lens implant, corneal palate and the return-to-surgery procedure (a corrective procedure for patients who have changed their eye position due to traumatic injuries, such as when they are traveling in heavy weather).

They must also receive training in three areas that include gynaecological care, trauma, sports medicine and additional areas.

From now on, Ontario optometrists have a contract with patient groups that promised to deliver eye exams and make them more comprehensive. Credit: Josh Deprenat

But the optometrists also have a central facility that offers many other high-end medical specialties. While about 83% of Ontario optometrists are employed by patient groups, the remaining 19% are employed by specialized health organizations, which are — like dentists — privately owned and privately regulated.

Optometrists contracted with patients’ groups must now diagnose eye disorders by using a comprehensive set of advanced equipment and provide treatment by using individualized prescription treatments, though patients can receive both. But it remains unclear what levels of care patients will receive from both groups.

Also, following the new contracts, optometrists agreed to form patient groups — called care advisory councils — to oversee the plan’s implementation and provide a continuous external review of the plans.

Leave a Comment