COVID-19 – Information for Patients

The College of Optometrists of Ontario has been working closely with the Ministry of Health to keep optometrists up to date with the latest information relevant to optometry care.

The public can find valuable information on the Ministry of Health website, including a self-assessment tool. The Ontario government is asking everyone to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Effective May 26, 2020, optometrists can begin the gradual return to work providing non-urgent care. The College has provided optometrists with guidance to help with this transition. Optometrists can begin seeing patients for non-urgent care provided they follow both the College guidance and recommendations from the Ministry of Health. Learn more about these recommendations.

Optometry offices may apply this guidance differently depending on their size, space, and ability; however, all optometrists will be implementing increased screening, disinfection, and physical distancing practices.

When optometry offices resume non-urgent care in person, what will it mean for patients? Patients will notice that in-person care is different than it used to be but can be certain that optometrists are working to ensure they are providing the safest care possible.

What has changed?

  • Patients will be asked if they are ill or have COVID-19 symptoms when booking appointments, and likely when they arrive at the office.
  • Patients will be asked to make appointments, rather than come for walk-in care, and will be asked to come at the appointment time (not early or late). This will help ensure the waiting room has the fewest number of people at any one time.
  • When you schedule an appointment, your optometrist will ask you to bring your own mask. If you do not have a mask, they may be able to provide one, or may have to reschedule your appointment until a mask is available.
  • A hand sanitizing station will be available at the office entrance. You will be required to sanitize your hands when you enter the office.
  • Optometrists and staff that you interact with will be wearing personal protective equipment (like masks or other shields) that covers their mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Optometrists may perform different tests and procedures than in the past, choosing to do only those that are needed in the moment and waiting to perform others until a later time.

Optometry Care Frequently Asked Questions

What if I’m having issues with my eyes?
Optometrists can see patients for both urgent and non-urgent issues, so long as they follow both the College guidance and recommendations from the Ministry of Health. Learn more about these recommendations. If you already have an optometrist, contact them to see how they can help you and what steps you need to follow. If you do not have an optometrist, you can search the Public Register to find an optometrist in your local area.

What if I can’t reach my optometrist?
If you can’t reach your optometrist or you are unsure how to reach your optometrist, contact the College.

What if I need to have an eye exam to renew my driver’s licence?
The Government of Ontario has extended the time your driver’s licence is valid. If your licence is expiring soon, you do not need to renew it until the government has resumed these services.

Now that offices are reopening, patients are being asked to bring masks. What if I don’t have a mask?
When physical distancing is not possible (such as during an eye exam) and when receiving an essential service, it is important to cover your face. Medical masks should be reserved for health care providers; however, the public should consider wearing homemade or non-surgical masks. Learn more about the importance of masks and face coverings.

The public is being asked to wear a mask when coming to an optometry office. Some optometry offices may have a supply of disposable masks for patients who do not have one, however, masks are in short supply. If you do not have your own mask/face covering, check with your optometrist before coming to the appointment.

What if I can’t wear a mask?
Providing optometry care does not allow for physical distancing. The College guidance and recommendations were developed after careful review of infection prevention and control information from public health, specific recommendations related to COVID-19, and best practices for optometry. However, optometrists should use their professional judgement in individual circumstances.

Speak to your optometrist about your concerns. They may be able to provide care in person, virtually (phone or video), or may recommend moving your appointment to a later date if your concerns are not urgent.

Can my optometrist charge me for a mask?
For some patients (those age 19 years and younger, age 65 years and older, or those with specific medical conditions) optometry care is covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). These patients cannot be charged for a mask; masks are equipment that is already part of OHIP-insured services.

Fees charged to patients not covered by OHIP must be reasonable and not excessive. Patients should be informed of any fees in advance of an appointment.

Can optometrists do contact lens fittings again?
Effective June 26, 2020, we have revised our guidance so that new contact lens fittings are no longer prohibited, however, these fittings require optometrists and patients to be in close contact and make physical distancing a challenge.

Some optometrists will be able to provide new contact lens fittings, but to ensure it is done safely, may offer patients some of the contact lens training virtually, may offer patients instructional videos for parts of the training (such as how to properly clean or store contacts), or they may do the fittings in the office with additional personal protective equipment and barriers in place.

Some optometrists may not be able to provide fittings at this time based on their ability to safely do so in their individual practice location. If an optometrist is unable to provide new contact lens fittings, they should let patients know when they can expect these kinds of appointments or refer patients to another optometrist who can offer contact lens fittings safely.


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