Fee Increase FAQ
11.02.2020
We recently communicated details of the increase in registration fees for 2020 and would like to thank those of you who got in touch with questions about the changes. We understand that any increase in fees can be challenging for registrants and is something that was carefully considered by myself and our Board of Directors, several of whom are also Licensed Opticians and will be affected by the increase.

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify and few points that were raised and to answer the most common questions to help you understand the necessity of these changes.

1.    Is the profession deregulated in BC?
No. In 2010, the BC Ministry of Health removed some of the restrictions that allow only opticians, optometrists, or people supervised by them to dispense eyeglasses. This meant that dispensing of eyeglasses was no longer a restricted practice, but it did not deregulate the profession. Many regulated health professions, such as physiotherapy, have no restricted activities.  Being an optician is still regulated, there are just no restrictions on who can sell eyeglasses.

Licensing with your college means that you have invested in extensive education and training to work as a professional in your field. It recognizes the skills and knowledge you possess and the integrity you have in the work that you do. It shows that you are serious about public safety as a provider of healthcare and recognize the risks to the public that exists without regulation.

2.    Can I work as an optician without being registered with the College?
If you are not registered with the College of Opticians of BC (COBC) you cannot call yourself an optician, dispensing optician, contact lens fitter or any variation of the title (such as optical dispenser or the title in another language). Some activities that opticians perform are no longer restricted but performing those activities does not make someone an optician. Being an optician means that you must meet all requirements under the Health Professions Act, College Bylaws and Standards of Practice. These regulations and standards are set to ensure that the public receives a consistent level of care from an optician.  The College’s continuing education program, and standards of practice ensure that level of care is met.

Licensed Opticians are also eligible to register in other provinces thanks to the Labour Mobility agreement.

3.    What is the college going to do for me?
As a regulatory college, we have a very specific role to fulfill, as defined by the Health Professions Act. The role of a regulatory college is to ensure public safety, not protect opticians. In short, the reason we exist is not to provide you with a service but to ensure the public receives safe and competent healthcare and that there is accountability in the event that a provider’s practice puts a member of the public at risk.

This is completely different from professional associations such as the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC) that advocates on behalf of opticians with a mandate to consult with its members on key initiatives.

4.    Why is the increase as high as it is?
Between 2012 and 2018, the College’s fees remained static and saw no increase whatsoever. We did everything we could to avoid the necessary incremental fee increases during this time as we understand that it can be a challenge for our registrants. However, in 2018 our board decided that our fees were set too low for us to sustain even the minimum amount of work required for us to responsibly fulfil our mandate to protect the public. BC regulators are also operating under greater scrutiny from Government as it strives to ensure that regulators meet their public protection requirements.

We are now in a position where a significant increase has been necessary to provide us with enough revenue to fulfill our role as outlined in the Health Professions Act and without this increase we risk falling short of meeting expectations. As a not-for-profit regulatory authority created by Government under the Health Professions Act, the College is funded entirely by registrant fees. As a result of this structure, we are restricted from implementing alternative or creative revenue streams to offset our costs.

Healthcare regulation has seen significant changes and development over recent years, and we are in line for many more, as outlined in this proposal from the Ministry of Health regarding changes to regulation that will directly affect the COBC. This evolution has come with a cost to all professional health regulatory colleges and we must invest in order to keep regulation as effective as possible in these changing times. As a result, smaller incremental increases will be considered in future years to prevent the sudden need for a large increase. 

5.    What will you be spending the money on?
In a previous announcement of the fee increase, we detailed the main reasons our College specifically needs to generate more revenue but would like to elaborate on these here.

a.    Statutory programs
Our continued commitment to our existing statutory programs and developing new initiatives requires further investment. Specifically, the ongoing development and management of the Continuing Competency Program. The work for this project has so far involved designing the Continuing Competency Assessment (CCA), building the online system and providing workshops and learning sessions to registrants. We also worked closely with the National Association of Opticianry Regulators (NACOR) to redevelop the national competencies and are now working on revisions to the national exams to include Automated Refraction.

In addition to this, we are creating a Prior Learning Assessment Recognition (PLAR) program for Automated Refracting that includes an assessment
as well as bridging modules. Our Standards of Practice and Bylaws also required significant updates to meet the modern work environment of opticians while still ensuring we can fulfill our mandate to protect the public. The Standards of Practice specifically have not been updated since 2012.

b.    Increase in Complaints
2019 saw a 100% increase in complaints made to the College. This has required us to invest more in investigation processes, disciplinary hearings and human resources to deal with the risks to public safety related to these complaints. In addition to conduct complaints, in 2018-2019 we rectified 117 cases related to Right to Title violations that you can read more about on page 14 of our 2019 annual report.  We are scheduled to conduct another in depth review of Right to Title violations in 2020, which will require significant resources.

We also invested in further training for our Inquiry and Discipline Committee members to ensure consistent and effective decision making. Due to the increase in complexity of some of the inquiries, additional resources such as experienced investigators, legal counsel, and more frequent
meetings will be required in 2020.

c.    Better Information Systems
In 2018, the Alberta College and Association of Opticians (ACAO) experienced a very serious ransomware cyber attack which compromised the personal data of their entire registrant base. The cost of resolving the issue was incredibly high and raised concerns about our own system and if we were doing enough to protect our registrant’s data. Since we moved into the shared space with 10 other regulatory colleges, we have been able to take advantage of dedicated IT support and more secure systems but that has come at a price. We had been using the same system for many years and recognized that with the fast pace at which technology moves, it was no longer secure enough and we needed to invest in improvements. This included a complete review and restructuring of our registration and renewal administrative processes to make the experience more efficient, and more work needs to be completed to bring this up to expected levels.

6.    What about the rest of Canada?
Even with the increase this renewal year, COBC still has the lowest registration fees outside of the Maritimes. The chart found here shows the comparison between the registration fees of both dispensing only and dispensing and contact lens fitter license across provinces.

As a regulator, the COBC is considered one of the leading Opticianry Colleges in Canada for innovation and improvement and look forward to continuing the work that we do in the most effective and efficient ways possible. 

Thank you again to those registrants who contacted us to ask questions about fees. We encourage all of you to get in touch us whenever you have a question or concern, we are happy to help.

Registrar/Executive Director
Lisa Bannerman




 
Communications
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