Some thoughts by local optometrist, Dr. Radhika Chawla.
Optometrists are the front-line workers of the vision care system, and their services are at the heart of screening and diagnostic services in Ontario.
We are passionate and proud to deliver high quality, accessible eye care, in urban centres and rural communities across the province.
Unfortunately, for more than 30 years, governments of all stripes have failed to invest in eye care. As a result, OHIP now only covers half the cost of an eye exam. We pay the rest out of our own pocket. Coupled with the devastating impact of COVID-19 on optometrists’ ability to see patients, eye care in Ontario is now at risk.
The pandemic has strained health professionals and decimated small businesses. As your local optometrist, I am both – and I’m now faced with the decision about which patients to see, and which ones will need to be referred to another provider, such as a family doctor or a hospital.
This situation is unfair and we simply cannot do it any longer.
Going to work every day knowing you will be operating at a loss is challenging enough. But even more debilitating is seeing what you devoted your entire career to – improving people’s quality of life – being dismissed as unessential.
I absolutely love what I do, not only because I can help improve your eyesight, but I also have the ability, through comprehensive eye exams, to detect the early stages of potentially life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and potential strokes. It is incredibly rewarding to help people lead healthier, happier lives.
But it’s time for Ontario’s elected officials to open their eyes to a crisis that’s about to become painfully visible for all to see. Our message to government is not one of confrontation but of collaboration. Because it doesn’t have to be this way.
With policy changes or assistance, we can avoid further straining an already overstretched healthcare system.
With statistics showing that 1 in 3 Ontarians will have some form of vision-threatening eye disease by the age of 65, finding a sustainable solution is more pressing than ever.
We owe it to our parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren, to find a better way forward.
To learn more and to add your voice to the growing number of Ontarians calling on government to work with optometrists, visit www.saveeyecare.ca.
Dr. Radhika Chawla, O.D.
Vice-President, Ontario Association of Optometrists
Owner of Richmond Hill Optometric Clinic