Ophthalmologists and optometrists don’t see eye to eye on new legislation

Ophthalmologists and optometrists don’t see eye to eye on new legislation
Photo taken by NBC33 staff
Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 4:00pm

UPDATED: Friday, April 26, 2013 - 4:04pm

Dr. Pam Williams has been an ophthalmologist for nine years, she also went through nine years of school and surgery residency to train for her job.

“There’s a specific skill set that is necessary and we sit one on one with a trained surgeon during our ophthalmology residency to learn how to perform these procedures," Dr. Williams explained.

So she was worried when she heard lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would allow optometrists with less years of training to start performing some of the same surgeries.

"Patients can go blind from this, so it's very serious, absolutely. And patient safety is our number one concern here," added Dr. Williams.

But representatives who've moved the bill forward and attached their name to it say the goal is to help those with limited access to eye doctors get treatment faster.

"The wait in some urban areas for Medicaid patients and others is about four months and so it's become a growing concern," said Democratic Representative Katrina Jackson.

Representative Katrina Jackson is a co-author on the bill. She said the bill's author is working hard to make sure optometrists' new duties don't put any patients in danger.

"I know Representative Hoffman, when we last spoke, is working on amendments to ensure that those restrictions are in there and they're very clear and so the bill was returned to the calendar recently while they continue to work on amendments," shared Jackson.

Two other states have passed a similar law, Oklahoma and Kentucky. This same piece of legislation has also been proposed in other states but defeated.

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