Ontario optometrists warning - Protect yourself from illegal eye exams

TORONTO, Sept. 16 /CNW/ - The Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) is warning the public to ensure their eye examinations are only conducted by a physician or optometrist. Currently in Ontario, Great Glasses is ignoring numerous court rulings to stop and is illegally performing eye exams and dispensing eyewear without a prescription from a physician or optometrist - a direct violation of the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA).

The OAO is optimistic that a further judicial decision, expected tomorrow, in a Newmarket courtroom will protect Ontarians from ongoing illegal eye examinations at Great Glasses stores across Southern Ontario.

Since 2003, no fewer than three court rulings have determined that Great Glasses founder Bruce Bergez and Great Glasses employees were illegally performing eye exams and dispensing eyewear without a prescription from a physician or optometrist. These court actions were brought about by the College of Optometrists of Ontario (COO) as part of their mandate to protect public welfare. The eye exams offered at Great Glasses locations are putting the public at risk for undiagnosed eye disease and vision loss.

A November 2006 contempt of court ruling by Justice David Crane upheld the original 2003 court decision of Justice J. Harris, and imposed a record one million dollar fine with an additional fine of $50,000 per day of non-compliance. To date, Mr. Bergez has racked up more than $45 million in fines.

The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the lower court findings. In their ruling, Justice J.A. Wyatt stated "He (Bergez) is an experienced businessman who has reaped substantial financial rewards from his burgeoning empire of Great Glasses stores. He continues to operate his business as he sees fit, in open contravention of governing legislation and in plain defiance of a court order."

Despite the court rulings, existing Great Glasses stores continue to operate. In 2008 OAO launched its own legal action against four employees at a Great Glasses location for illegally prescribing eyewear. OAO believes that a court ruling against these Great Glasses employees would serve to make other employees aware that their employer is requiring them to break the law and put people at risk for undiagnosed eye disease.

For many years the Ontario Association of Optometrists has warned the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care about the risk to the vision and health of Ontarians posed by Great Glasses stores as customers are unwittingly duped out of essential healthcare services which should be provided by a trained health professional.

OAO is now broadening our appeal and urging all Ontarians to learn how to protect themselves from businesses such as Great Glasses that utilize point-and-shoot technology as a replacement for professional training and experience.

"When you go in to have your eyes and vision examined, make sure there is a degree on the wall that says the person performing the exam is either a medical doctor or a doctor of optometry," says Dr. Christopher Nicol of the OAO. "Otherwise you are being cheated out of the healthcare services you deserve and you are putting your vision at risk."

Founded in 1909, OAO is the voluntary professional organization that represents more than 1,300 optometrists in Ontario. The Association proudly serves the profession by undertaking government advocacy, membership education and public awareness initiatives.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Optometrists

For further information: For further information: Christine Morrison, Government Relations Manager, (905) 826-3522 ext 223, Email: cmorrison@optom.on.ca

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Ontario Association of Optometrists

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