Ophthalmologists and optometrists battle over legislation

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Medical professionals are keeping a close watch on House Bill 527, which passed a House Committee Wednesday.

The proposed legislation would allow optometrist to perform procedures and services that are only provided by eye physicians.

Optometrists are heath care professionals who provide vision care, but are not medical doctors. Ophthalmologists on the other hand are doctors who are licensed to practice medicine and perform surgeries, but if House Bill 527 passes, job duties between the two could blur.

“House Bill 527 would simply allow optometrist to do what we consider minor surgery to the eye, eyelids things like that,” said Rep. Frank Hoffmann.

Hoffmann, who sponsored the bill, says this bill would allow better access to those in need of minor eye services.

“You have areas, rural areas, where you just don't have the services, so obviously it's an opportunity for people to get these services who typically would have to travel far.”

But ophthalmologists argue optometrists are not doctors and have not had the years of schooling and training they've had and should not perform procedures, for safety reasons.

“I have so much respect for medical professionals and ophthalmologist do great work and this is no way intended to say they don't. In fact this bill put many restrictions on what optometrist can do, they can not do major surgery inside the eye, but this does allow them to do stuff they are already trained for.” said Hoffmann.

If HB527 passes, Louisiana would be the third state in the country to approve such a bill.

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