RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — Two bills in the state Capitol could soon help Virginians get faster access to critical eye care, but not all medical professionals are supportive.
If passed, the bills will allow optometrists to use lasers for three in-office procedures to treat glaucoma and provide post-cataract surgery care — procedures that are historically performed by eye surgeons.
The Virginia Optometric Association held a protest on Wednesday highlighting the procedures.
The association says the bills would increase access to care and reduce potential complications for patients, who would otherwise have to wait for treatment.
“Not all optometrists in the state perform these procedures … so there are issues with access or care. Basically what’s happening now is identifying the problem in the patient and I have to refer to another eye doctor, which takes time and more money, probably another co-pay,” said Dr. Jerry Neidigh, Optometrist and Chairman of the Virginia Optometric Association Legislative Committee. , noted.
Neidigh said that even though these procedures have been around for decades, Virginia law prevents optometrists from being certified.
However, Dr. Michael Keverline, president of the Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons, believes that eye surgery should be performed by eye surgeons, who have the experience, education, and training.
“Optometrists play a key role in eye and vision care, but it’s important to understand where their scope of practice should end, which is with surgery. Ophthalmologists are the only physicians qualified to perform eye surgery and prepared to manage surgical complications that can and do occur,” Keverline said.
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