Ontario optometrists to offer hearing tests for AMD

Image copyright Miguel Prieto/Getty Images Image caption The optometrists union could strike next year if talks fail

Hearing tests for people who have early onset of age-related macular degeneration will be available in Ontario as of Tuesday as the optometrists union and province agree to talks.

Last month the optometrists said they would stop providing the tests over concerns about their value and the rise in the number of optometrists not having the right training to conduct the exams.

Doctors say they are safe and are among several exams offered at optometrist practice centres.

However, optometrists said their decision followed nearly 15 years of no raises in their fees, not to mention their lack of accreditation to carry out tests.

The province of Ontario has said it will ensure there is adequate hearing testing services in the province.

They will be offered as part of the Medicare Hearing Project for people with age-related macular degeneration , or AMD, after several weeks of discussions between the two parties.

Optometrists, who do not need to become doctors to provide vision care, have been working with the province to coordinate the services through local centres in the province.

In March, Victoria-based optometrist Miguel Prieto launched a campaign to raise awareness about optometry’s role in vision and related health in Ontario .

Some optometrists say their services are vital for millions of people.

“We have been providing affordable eye care for Ontario’s most vulnerable since 1883. We still serve thousands of people who cannot access coverage elsewhere,” said Dr Prieto in April .

Back in April , a dispute erupted between the optometrists union and the province, with the union saying that optometrists were not up to the job of doing vital eye exams for people with one of the most common types of blindness.

Then, back in August , optometrists in Ontario walked off the job after a dispute with the province over Ontario’s plan to increase the optometrist fees in the province.

The government said in August that they were creating a board that would govern optometrists practice standards and auditing payment practices .

Back in August , Ontario Premier Doug Ford said: “Optometrists are not the masters of their patients eyes. If they are not competent, they are not doing their job.”

Ontario has since agreed to talks with the optometrists union over concerns that “financial incompetence” in a number of optometrists clinic failures have led to deterioration of their job quality, unsafe staffing conditions and “a series of not-so-rosy reports” about patient safety.

According to the union’s statement, the long standing dispute involved issues such as “frequent problems with overhead lighting, inadequate lighting for patient exams, no windows for privacy and no proper hand dryers in waiting rooms”.

“The optometrists decided to withdraw their volunteer medical assistance in public health workplaces while the furthering of their demands were addressed,” they said.

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