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Mediation proposed in stalemate between Ford government and optometrists

An eye chart is seen through a pair of glasses. UNSPLASH/David Travis

The Ford government has proposed third-party mediation in an attempt to revive stalled talks with the province’s optometrists on a new cost-sharing agreement.

The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) has threatened to stop conducting OHIP-covered eye exams for patients aged 0-19, 65+, and adults with specific medical conditions as of September 1 unless the province agrees to boost the amount of money it pays for the exams.

According to the OAO, the government now covers an average of 55 per cent of the cost of an OHIP-insured eye exam, leaving optometrists’ clinics to absorb the remaining 45 percent. They would like the province to fund these services at least to the cost of delivery.

They’ve asked for the province to commit to a formal negotiation process with optometrists — the same way they do with other health care sectors. In May, OAO president Dr. Sheldon Salaba said they last met with provincial health ministry officials last December and “haven’t heard anything from them since.”

On Friday, the province issued a statement proposing third-party mediation, adding that the OAO was “considering this option.”

“We understand the frustration that Ontario’s optometrists have historically experienced,” read the statement. “The Ministry of Health stands ready to continue meaningful and productive discussions, and our invitation to enter into mediation stands. We are ready to keep talking.”

The OAO had yet to publicly respond to the government’s offer.

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