Opticians are among 26 health professions that have been granted the privilege to regulate themselves by the provincial government. I refer to it as a privilege, as the profession’s governing standards, programs and policies are being set by subject matter experts from the profession and not laypersons with a limited understanding of the practice of opticianry. It also means complaints against Opticians are reviewed by panels that include members of the profession who contribute their experience and technical expertise to the process.
With this privilege, comes a commitment to the public that the profession will develop Standards which ensure patients receive quality and competent care. There are a number of obligations set by the government that ensure opticians continue to keep abreast of change and that when a concern is raised by the public, it is taken seriously and transacted both fairly and transparently for the benefit of all parties.
A loss of confidence in self-regulation has been observed in several jurisdictions and has resulted in reforms that reduce the professions involvement in regulating itself; instead, shifting responsibilities to boards that do not include members of the profession. In addition to public confidence, governments may intervene where there is a concern about whether the profession has the financial means to fund their own regulatory College and all the required functions and programs. In some jurisdictions such as BC, steps are being taken to amalgamate health colleges down from 20 regulators to 6 in a move to improve efficiency and reduce individual professions’ involvement in governing themselves.
Each College, regardless of the number of Registrants it regulates, is required to administer basic functions including: registering and renewing its Registrants, exams, developing Standards for the profession, operating a quality assurance program, and maintaining a complaints and discipline process. The number of staff and additional resources that are required to support these functions is what drives registration fees, not what the members of the profession are earning.
Many Opticians cite the College of Nurses’ (CNO) registration fees at $361.60/year (2021). Fees are a function of economies of scale. A large number of Registrants helps spread the regulatory administrative costs, resulting in lower fees. The CNO has over 188 000 Registrants in comparison to our 3,100 Registrants. At the other end of the spectrum, smaller colleges like the College of Midwives have a membership size of only 910 and their annual full year registration dues are $2600 (2020).
For comparison, our College is similar to the College of Optometrists in both membership size and staffing. Both Colleges have similar operating cost and as such, have similar registration fees. Once again, registration fees reflect what it costs to operate the College, not what its registrants earn. When compared to all 26 professions, the COO’s registration fees fall at the median point, neither the highest nor lowest.
The role of the College is to support Opticians in their delivery of safe and effective care to Ontarians. This includes helping Opticians meet professional obligations such as annual registration renewals and completing continuing education requirements as easily and efficiently as possible. We are able to accomplish this is through regular technological improvements to our registrant portal, and by having a right-sized and dedicated team of staff to provide effective and timely assistance to opticians.
In comparison to organizations of similar size, our College has a comparable staffing complement. Certainly, a workforce that is too large will impact operational costs. Conversely, a staff size that is too small will impact how effective we can be. To provide the staff, Board of Directors, committee members, registrants and applicants with easy access to the College, we operate from a physically accessible location in the city center with a proximity to public transit networks.
To help control costs, the College has been investing in and implementing automated and paperless processes over the past several years. In particular, labour-intensive processes such as registration renewals and processing quality assurance portfolios have moved online. Based on our surveys, this has improved user experiences and decreased processing times. In turn, Registrants are receiving renewal decals and receipts months earlier and QA portfolios are being completed well ahead of schedule.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the profession in the past year and will have a lasting, permanent impact on us all as we move forward. Thankfully over the past decade, the College has been able to run a positive budget to create a reserve fund that provided financial relief for our Registrants when it was most needed. As things begin to settle, we will be able to better predict how many Opticians are entering and exiting the profession. This will allow us to assess what new efficiencies we can pursue with virtual meetings, remote work strategies and space sharing options, as these factors will impact our office space requirements.
As we work towards replenishing our reserve fund over the next few years, be assured that the College is committed to exploring and creating opportunities for cost savings that may further reduce administrative expenses while maintaining functionality, to the benefit of its Registrants and the Public.
I hope this gives some better insight into how your registration dues are determined.
For detailed financial information about the College, we post audited financials each year which can be found here: https://collegeofopticians.ca/public/annual-reports