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Conflict of Interest – It’s Time

My job as OOA Executive Director takes me down many pathways from things like public relations to legislation and education.  Over the years I served as your President I worked with many groups both provincially and nationally.  I’ve also developed working relationships with allied professional associations and colleges.  I have always believed that collaboration is the best way groups with competing interests can move forward.  In Health Care, regardless of the specialty the common goal is to find practice models that work toward public safety.  Self-regulation is not equal to self-protection.  In other words every regulation must pass the test or reasonableness by answering the question, “Does this regulation ensure better health protection or does it merely enable turf protection?”  True collaboration with allied professionals is the only way opticians can practice to the full extent of their scope of practice and that the public can have access to best practice care.

We believe Ontario optometrists had an opportunity when drafting their proposed Conflict of Interest regulation to use a collaborative approach and invite the OOA to comment at an early enough stage so that the final document would be considerate of opticians’ concerns.  Instead we have been met with indifference.  There are some corporate entities that believe the current draft regulation works for their dispensing model.  Although we are not clear on how they intend to mould their current model to accommodate the requirements of the proposed regulation.  What we do understand is our legal advice…it just won’t work for the average optician and/or independent optician/owner. And we further do not believe that opticians should have to ‘figure out a way to get around’ the regulation as some from other organizations have suggested.

Conflict of Interest – What Does It Mean?

It’s appropriate for the OOA as the official advocate of Ontario Opticians to critique regulations and practices of allied vision care professionals when we believe they interfere with Opticians pursuing their profession to the full extent of their capabilities.  But we also need to do a ‘gut check’ every once in awhile to make sure we are not guilty of the very transgressions we criticize.

When a vision care professional prescribes for or recommends to a patient the fundamental ‘gut check’ question is, “Am I prescribing or recommending an action or a product that is in the best interest of this person’s vision health OR am I prescribing/recommending based on what is good for my company’s bottom line?  We interpret our patient’s prescription, educate, and make recommendations to insure that an informed decision is made and our patient receives the best product and service that their eye care dollars can buy.

All vision care professionals have to make a living including optometrists.  But our issue with the optometrists’ regulation is that in considering equal partnership between an optician and an optometrist as a conflict of interest optometrists are saying either that opticians are profit motivated and in a partnership would be a threat to the professional ethics of optometrists OR they’re saying that optometrists have such fragile ethics that they would be easily swayed by being in a retail partnership.  This is pure rot!

Further, although optometrists oppose opticians gaining an increased scope of practice to include refracting on the basis of their belief that the public would be unsafe in our hands, they also accuse our lobby of being profit motivated.  They can’t have it both ways.  Either we’re all professionals or neither group is professional.

We believe optometrists as a profession are ethical and their practises are patient-centred.  We would like to see their official policies and practise models reflect a similar respect for the professional ethics and practise models of opticians.


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