8:55am

Thu September 15, 2011
Science/Health

Optometrists Closer to Performing Some Surgery

New regulations that would allow optometrists in Kentucky to perform certain laser eye surgeries are making their way through state legislature. The regulations are a response to Senate Bill 110, which paves the way for optometrists to perform procedures previously done only by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. It was signed into law earlier this year as a way of expanding patient access to care. But first, the state must approve regulatory changes for specific procedures.

The regulations have cleared the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee and now go to the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations. But those who dispute the new regulations were hoping the subcommittee would find the regulations deficient.

State Senator Joe Bowen, R-8, said the subcommittee’s job is not to determine how the regulations were formed, but whether they apply to state law. But Bowen did question the regulations, said Dr. Woodruff Van Meter, president of the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

“Sen. Bowen who was the chairman, twice asked them if they would withdraw the regulations because of the controversy surrounding it,” said Van Meter.

Part of the controversy is that SB 110 allows a governor-appointed task force to propose regulations regarding optometric surgeries. Instead, the Kentucky Optometric Association created its own committee, which proposed expanding optometrist surgeries and it’s unclear whether those meetings were part of new legislation.

But KOA said it’s aware it’s not the governor’s appointed task force, and that it only created its committee to provide the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners with recommendations, said Ben Gaddie with KOA.

“They obviously considered many of our recommendations and considered many of our recommendations, but that doesn’t mean that the task force was responsible for producing the regulations. We just gave our input,” he said.

The subcommittee decided the regulations met the purpose of SB 110, which is to expand access to certain eye-surgeries. Van Meter said he understands the subcommittee’s purpose, but continues to contest the way the regulations were created.