Regulations allowing optometrists to use lasers pass; opponents may sue for violation of Open Meetings Act

Though ophthalmologists and the Kentucky Medical Association strongly objected, a legislative committee passed regulations Tuesday that will allow optometrists to perform some eye surgeries using lasers. In answer, opponents says “they might file legal action against the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners, which drafted the regulations, for failing to comply with the state’s Open Meetings Act,” reports Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The regulations, authorized by Senate Bill 110 in this year’s General Assembly, now go to another legislative panel for final approval. The bill has been cause for controversy, in large part because it passed through the legislature in a swift 12 days. Oklahoma is the only other state that gives similar operating privileges to optometrists.
Ophtalmologists said Tuesday the optometric board “used a task force appointed by the state optometric association, a trade group, to develop the regulations, and those meetings were held in secret with no public input,” Musgrave reports. Legislators and optometrists disagreed, saying public comment was allowed at an open meeting in July, and the regulations were altered after task force members took the comments into consideration.
Dr. Woodford Van Meter, president of the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, said patient safety is at risk of optometrists are allowed to perform the procedures, in part because the bill states they only have to receive 32 hours of training and show they can do the procedure once before they can use lasers. By contrast, Van Meter said ophthalmologists have 17,000 hours of surgical training and perform surgeries hundreds of times before being allowed to do them on their own.
If the regulations pass, optometrists may be allowed to perform the surgeries by year’s end. (Read more)
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