save eye care hero1

My husband asked me if I had to go to work today, and I answered that no I don’t have to go to work, I GET to go to work today. I truly love my job, and having little to no work these past few weeks has made me realize how much I enjoy being an optometrist and helping people with their vision problems.

Ontario optometrists are currently in OHIP-withdrawal due to the government’s refusal to formally negotiate with optometrists. For over 30 years, the fees paid for an eye exam have barely budged, never mind kept up with inflation. Imagine running a business but not being able to raise prices to cover your costs? Every OHIP-insured exam that Ontario optometrists provide COSTS us money. The amount paid by the government covers about half the cost of providing that exam. How are we supposed to keep up with technology and pay fair wages to our staff when we are paid in 1989 dollars?

People may think that we are “greedy” and that we are just looking for a way to make money. Yes, we need to make money to pay our staff, our overhead, our taxes and to contribute to the community. We sponsor local events, sports teams and charities and we buy local services. And guess what? After a minimum of 8 years of university not to mention student loans, we also deserve to make a living. We have no pension plan or paid sick days. When our patients don’t show up, we don’t get paid. Snow day, we don’t get paid. I personally only took two months unpaid maternity leave, as we don’t get any benefits.

Unlike some of our colleagues, we did not get a billing code for phone exams during the COVID lockdown, so many of us did those exams for free just to reduce the burden on the health-care system. We see emergency patients for which we get paid even less. The fee for a partial exam is currently $25.15. Compare that for a trip to the emergency room and it’s obvious that we are saving the Ontario government money by keeping these patients out of hospital. We deserve to be remunerated properly.

We aren’t greedy. We simply want to build a sustainable model for eye care in Ontario and we have been repeatedly ignored, forgotten or dismissed by each successive Ontario government, yet we are an essential part of community health-care in this province. Not every dental office takes Healthy Smiles patients and not all legal clinics accept Legal Aid clients because those programs, while absolutely critical, don’t pay the bills. Offices accept subsidized programs or work pro-bono because they care, but caring shouldn’t bankrupt you. In our area, OHIP-insured exams make up the bulk of our days and we can no longer operate at a loss. Either the government negotiates with our association to find a solution, or we may no longer be able to see these patients.

It’s been hard for me to advocate on our behalf when there are so many people out there who are struggling, but I fear that if I don’t speak up, we may lose eye care for good. Please help me save eye care in Ontario by writing to your MPP or signing the petition at

Thank you.

Michelle Lafleur, OD
Owen Sound