Bill would give optometrists more flexibility in treating patients

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill sitting on Governor Jindal's desk would give optometrists more flexibility in treating patients, allowing them to start performing certain less-complicated eye surgeries.

But it still would not allow them to perform things like Lasik.

As it stands now,  eye surgeries can only be performed by ophthalmologists who have medical degrees specializing in eye care.

Dr. James Sandefur is in favor of the change.

"Every time we pass or attempt to pass a scope of practice bill,  the ophthalmologists fight us. It's unfortunate in eye care we have competitors. We don't have it in dentistry for instance, but we do have it in eye care," says Sandefur.

Opponents of House Bill 1065 say patients simply do not get the same quality of care from optometrists.

"Is it better to be able to get a minor surgical procedure and run the risk of a serious complication? Or if you're in a rural area and you've got to get to an ophthalmologist then it can be a big problem," says Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie.

It's Louisiana's rural areas that would likely benefit most if the governor signs off on the bil,  giving them more access to eye care.

Senator Rick Gallot represents several rural parishes.

"I thought it was certainly something that I could support and I think it would certainly enhance the access to this care that's currently not available in all areas," says Gallot.

But the ophthalmologists are urging Jindal to veto the measure. Sending him a letter Thursday signed by 106 medical societies that reads in part, "we urge you to veto HB 1065 to ensure patient safety and protect the good health of the citizens of our state."

No word from the Jindal administration on when or if he will sign the bill.

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