by Russ Van Norman MD
Fellow Louisianians, I am writing this to urge you to contact your legislators about two very dangerous bills that are set to be heard in our current legislative session. HB 1065 by Representative Pope and SB 568 by Senator Mills are two aggressive scope of practice bills that would allow non-physician optometrists to perform surgical procedures on the eye.
Optometrists perform a four-year training period through a school of optometry. An ophthalmologist would perform four years of Medical School, one intern year, three to four years of residency training, and some performing an additional one to two years of fellowship training. The additional years of training that medical doctors do are absolutely imperative as that is the time where surgical skills are honed.
Unfortunately, these bills would bypass this training and allow unqualified non-physicians to operate on patients, and it is not just a few procedures that they are looking to perform. These bills would allow them the ability to perform over 100 different recognized surgical procedures by Medicare. However, the worst part of these pieces of legislation entails the creation of their own Board of Optometry. The State Board of Medical Examiners governs all physicians, podiatrists, physician assistants, physical therapists, etc. If optometrists create their own board it does not matter what procedures they are asking for now, as their own board would then determine exactly what surgical procedures could be performed in the future. Think about it, it would allow non-physicians to determine what surgical procedures other non-physicians could perform. A dangerous precedent would be set.
These bills represent the most aggressive legislation in the nation to allow non-physicians to perform surgery. They even have wording in the bill to call themselves physicians in an attempt to confuse patients. These bills must be defeated. The people of Louisiana deserve better. The bar should never be lowered when it comes to surgery, and physicians are the most qualified to perform surgical procedures. Please call or write your legislators in opposition to HB1065 and SB568. You can also visit www.safesurgeryla.org in order to voice your concerns.
Russ Van Norman MD