By Elaine Moyle

The Town of Georgina has been swept into a hotly-contested funding issue that has pitted the province’s eye doctors against the Ontario government.

The dispute centres around the amount of government compensation to be provided for provincially-funded eye exams.

Talks broke off when a government offer fell short of expectations and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) subsequently withdrew provincially insured eye services September 1.

Georgina Council was asked to wade into the debate by local optometrist, Dr. Lisa Fung, who requested its support in pressuring the Ontario government to resume talks with the OAO.

Dr. Fung’s proposal was included in the September 15 Council agenda and addressed by Mayor Margaret Quirk.

She issued a motion directing the request to town staff and Chief Administrative Officer David Reddon for further review.

“I’ve seen this (matter) in the news but I’m not sure if we have enough information right now,” said Mayor Quirk. “I am referring this to staff and the CAO’s office to see what we can do to learn more about this and have them come back to us with any comments.”

The withdrawal of provincially-funded eye services impacts patients 19 years of age and younger, those 65 and older as well people with specific health conditions.

To date, a government offer paying eye doctors $39 million in retroactive fees and increased reimbursement of 8.48 per cent has been rejected by the OAO.

Dr. Fung told the Post she is appreciative Mayor Quirk is seeking further information about the funding issue.

“The fact that Town staff is dedicating time to our concerns and looking into them on our behalf goes a very long way,” she said. “It will be wonderful if Council supports our request because it will strengthen our cause.”

To date, three municipalities have supported the OAO by urging the province to resume talks. These include Oakville, Fort Frances and Rainy River.

Dr. Fung points out that in 1989, optometrists were paid $39.15 per eye exam.

“Thirty-two years later, we’re being paid an average of $44.55. That’s not even close to covering the costs of rent, staff, utilities, equipment, taxes and supplies.”

Ontario optometrists, she adds, are the lowest paid in the country behind Manitoba eye doctors who receive $77 per provincially-funded eye exam.

Dr. Fung said Georgina residents wishing to lend their support to the optometrists’ cause can sign a petition at Saveeyecare.ca or contact local MPP Caroline Mulroney.

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