A crisis for all to see

Dr Bruce Lidkea

Dear editor,

Optometrists are the front line workers of the vision care system, and their services are at the heart of screening and diagnostic service in Ontario.
We are passionate and proud to deliver high quality, highly accessible eyecare, 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 pocket. Coupled with the devastating impact of COVID-19 on Optometrists’ ability to see patients, eyecare in Ontario is now at risk.
The pandemic has strained health professionals and decimated small business. As your local Optometrist, I am both – and I’m now faced with the gut-wrenching 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 without courting bankruptcy.
Going to work every day knowing you will be working 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 health care system.

Dr Bruce Lidkea