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Bills could give Virginians quicker access to critical eye care, but not all in field are in support

Two bills at the state Capitol could soon help Virginians get better access to critical eye care.
Two bills at the state Capitol could soon help Virginians get better access to critical eye care.(NBC12)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:30 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 5:41 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Two bills at the state Capitol could soon help Virginians get quicker access to critical eye care, but not all medical professionals are in support.

If passed, the bills will allow optometrists to use lasers for three in-office procedures to treat glaucoma and provide after-cataract surgery care - procedures that are historically performed by eye surgeons.

The Virginia Optometric Association held a demonstration Wednesday highlighting the procedures.

The association says these bills would increase access to care and reduce potential complications for patients, who would otherwise have to wait for treatment.

“Not every optometrist in the state performs these procedures...so there is some issues with access or care. Basically, what happens now is identifying the problem in the patient and I have to refer to another ophthalmologist, which takes time and more money, probably another co-pay,” Dr. Jerry Neidigh, optometrist and chair of the Virginia Optometric Association’s legislative committee, said.

Neidigh said even though these procedures have been around for decades, Virginia law prevents optometrists from getting certified.

However, Dr. Michael Keverline, President of the Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons, believes that eye surgery should be performed by eye surgeons, who have the experience, education and training.

“Optometrists play a key role in eye and vision care, but it is important to understand where their scope of practice should end, and that is with surgery. Ophthalmologists are the only physicians qualified to perform eye surgery and prepared to manage surgical complications that can and do occur,” Keverline said.

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