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. If you are sick with coronavirus symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) or have questions about your symptoms, contact Telehealth Ontario 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit. Learn more about getting tested for COVID-19 and finding an assessment centre near you.
The College has provided optometrists with guidance about providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Optometrists can see patients in person 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 carrying out increased screening, disinfection, and physical distancing practices.
What does this 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 providing the safest care possible.
What has changed?
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.
Patients are asked to bring/wear masks while in the office. 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 (possibly outside of regular business hours), virtually (phone or video), or may recommend moving your appointment to a later date if your concerns are not urgent. They may also suggest another optometrist who can provide care to patients who can’t wear masks.
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 before a service is provided.
Can optometrists do contact lens fittings again?
New contact lens fittings are now permitted, 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.
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