Making millions on our eyes.

The Toronto Star is doing a tease on the billings of Ontario doctors. Like a dancer, they keep revealing more. After years of secrecy, they have finally broken the seal on the billings of the Ontario Medical Association members. The exposé the other day was on those elite ophthalmologists who bill more than $3 million per year.

We realize, of course, that billings are not earnings. Ophthalmologists have very expensive equipment, staff salaries and office overhead before they make anything. And it is the province’s bill-for-service arrangement that is causing the huge jumps in earnings. The province is not keeping up with the advances in technology.

And for every opportunity that comes along there are the unscrupulous who will take advantage of it. Allow me to tell you of my experience with cataracts early this year.

Rather than have the wife drive me to and from Toronto and getting the procedures done more promptly, I opted to have the job done in Barrie. I still regret the experience.

In a city and market area of several hundred thousand souls we have just two ophthalmologists who seem to have a lock on eye surgery at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital. When you are sent by one of the town’s optometrists to one of these specialists, you join a parade. It took a year to join what I thought of as my chain gang. I was part of a group of 14 Ontario Hospital Insurance Program payees who lined up one cold January day to have a new lens in our left eye.

And that was all that we seemed to be told. I guess they did not want to do a wrong eye. We constantly reaffirmed that we were all having the left eye fixed.

The eye surgeon, whom you only saw briefly, never endeared himself. He tended to shout at you to open your eye(s) and stop moving. You felt that you needed to ask permission before asking a question. He never did tell us what to expect or what he was doing.

Rather than more lessons on the technology, this guy needs lessons on humanitarianism and patient relations. His main interest seemed to be selling more add-ons and prescribing non-Ontario Drug Plan eye drops. (Some patients, who buy into these ‘better’ lens and other add-ons, spend as much as $4000 over and above what the doctor bills OHIP.)

When venting about this to a medical professional who knows Barrie, I called the ophthalmologist our million-dollar man. He corrected me and told me it was over two million.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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