Optometrists, ophthalmologists renew battle over optometrists’ ability to perform medical procedures

Ophthalmologists renewed their fight yesterday against new rules “that would allow optometrists to perform more complex procedures that critics say will endanger patients,” Mike Wynn of The Courier-Journal reports. The Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners held the hearing on regulations that would implement a law passed quickly by the General Assembly after a years-long lobbying effort by optometrists and their trade group’s executive director, Darlene Eakin, left. (C-J photo by Pam Spaulding)
The law allows optometrists to do limited laser treatments, “injections of medicine and removal of benign lesions from eyelids,” Wynn writes. The only other state that allows them to do so is Oklahoma, but critics say no problems have been reported in that state and have noted that only 41 Kentucky counties have ophthalmologists.
Ophthalmologists “charged that the rules are not stringent enough to ensure optometrists — who are not medically licensed — can perform the treatments without causing harm,” Wynn writes. The rules would require optometrists who want to expand their practice to take classes on more than 20 medical topics, pass tests, get clinical experience and “demonstrate competency to a board-approved expert,” Wynn notes. “Lexington ophthalmologist Ken Weaver said wording in the draft resembles ‘vague ideas,’ rather than medical standards, and could allow an optometrist to perform eye surgeries after a 16-hour course from an unqualified instructor.” (Read more)
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