Albertans to have increased access to eye healthcare

legislatureby Morinville News Staff

Edmonton – Optometrists will see the scope of their work expand following a Ministry of Health announcement made Apr. 29. The government says changes will benefit Alberta’s healthcare system by alleviating the strain on hospital emergency rooms, family physicians, ophthalmologists, Primary Care Networks and Family Care Clinics.

Under the new legislation, optometrists will now be able to prescribe oral and topical drugs, order lab tests, order and apply ultrasound tests, and treat certain types of glaucoma.

“A key strategy in improving the health and wellbeing of Albertans is providing increased access to primary health care services in communities – which is where and when Albertans need it,” said Health Minister Fred Horne in a release. “By increasing the scope of practice of Alberta optometrists, the need for referrals to specialists for basic eye care services can be reduced and Albertans will have immediate access to the eye care they need closer to home.”

Changes that will make optometrists responsible for providing Albertans with primary eye care services are expected to come into effect this year. Doctors of Optometry will be required to complete a certification program, meet rigorous standards of practice and undergo regular on-site practice reviews.

The changes are welcomed by Capital Vision Care, an Edmonton-based company with a branch on 100 Street in Morinville.

“These changes to our scope will provide Albertans increased access to eye healthcare services in their home communities,” said Dr. Femida Visnani of Capital Vision Care.
“The ability for optometrists to prescribe oral medication, manage glaucoma and order laboratory tests will reduce patient wait times, travel times and multiple visits.
It will also allow optometrists to more fully practice to their level of education.”

The government says specialists will continue to be responsible for medical and surgical treatment of complex eye conditions. There are 132 opthalmologists in eight Alberta communities.

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