EDITORIAL: Optometrists are hamstrung, but still seeking freedom

This is what happens when you’re stuck in an outdated system: Optometrists know the best way to treat a patient is the best way to control their vision, but the provincial government of Ontario…

EDITORIAL: Optometrists are hamstrung, but still seeking freedom

This is what happens when you’re stuck in an outdated system: Optometrists know the best way to treat a patient is the best way to control their vision, but the provincial government of Ontario has decided, perhaps mistakenly, that optometrists are restricted in their freedom to practice.

Soon after some optometrists started treating some patients in hospitals, the rest of the optometrists demanded they be paid. Government officials have stared them down, insisting optometrists should be in the private sector and should therefore receive less compensation. The optometrists have argued that allowing them into the hospitals will protect patients and extend coverage, but we believe the government is right to prioritize affordability and accuracy over expanded access to optometrists.

The optometrists remain insistent that the existing agreements limit their flexibility. We say—but let’s hear it from the eye doctor.

Optometrists are free to practice wherever they want. But they’re limited in choosing patients and in moving from one hospital to another. Should they choose the hospital closest to their home? Should they practice when children are attending events? Should they provide glasses while a family member is at work? This burdensome system of payment, not freedom, is the real impediment.

We’ve seen across the country that insurers like OptumRx can offer coverage in the same way health plans are already available to patients. The current optometrist shortage in Canada is a result of government policies that don’t allow optometrists access to the same treatment and care as doctors, and try to steer patients to physicians when they want care. Optometrists should be able to practice where they choose, providing care in the same way a primary care doctor would.

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