Legislative Session

Apr 22, 2013 11:50 PM by Chris Welty

Louisiana Eye Care Facing Possible Changes

Changes could be on the way for eye care in Louisiana.

Under House Bill 527, optometrists could perform procedures now performed by medical doctors. A board may determine whether optometrists could give certain injections or perform laser surgery.

Eye care doctors across the state are at odds because there is a difference in the way some are certified.

Ophthalmologists go to medical school and then complete a one-year internship and a three-year residency.

Optometrists, who are not considered medical doctors, spend four years after college to earn a degree in optometry. Some, though, do undergo additional clinical training.

The bill would allow optometrists, like Dr. Crystal Mirza to perform non-invasive treatments and procedures, like anesthetic injections and simple laser procedures.

"Every optometrist who wanted to perform these procedures would have to be certified and go through extensive laboratory and clinical training to be able to perform them," said Mirza.

Although an optometry board would regulate optometrists, ophthalmologists are against the proposal.

"You cannot shortcut an education through legislation."

Dr. Leon LaHaye has been in practice more than thirty years.

"Go back, get your medical school training, get your ophthalmology residency training and then do this. Why pass a bill? You don't pass a bill then go back to do the training. Get the training and then do it."

Optometrists say if the bill passes, it'll give rural residents better opportunities for eye care.

"If they have to go outside their parish to receive treatment, it's a cost burden to the patient as well as the insurance system having to pay for multiple office visits," said Mirza.

Dr. LaHaye disagrees saying, "Why would a patient in a rural community want to receive care from someone who isn't trained to do it in the first place?"

"Technology is changing. Every field of medicine is changing. This is what optometrists are able to provide and we want to provide this care for our patients," said Mirza.

The bill is up for debate this Wednesday after the House Health and Welfare Committee approved it last Wednesday.

If this bill passes, once rules and regulations are established for optometrists, those regulations could not change without legislative approval.

Chris Welty



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