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Illinois doctors oppose expanding procedures to optometrists

April 8, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Many Illinois doctors are arguing that the state’s optometrists shouldn’t be allowed to perform procedures that are surgical in nature.

The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is proposing allowing optometrists to perform “low-risk” advanced optometric procedures, The State Journal-Register has reported . Optometrists would be required to have 32 hours of training to perform the procedures.

But The Illinois Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons said the proposed training is inadequate.

“These procedures are clearly surgery and will clearly jeopardize patient safety if done by someone who hasn’t attended medical school and a residency,” said Dr. Chris Albanis, an ophthalmologist in the Chicago area and a past president of the eye doctor society.

Optometrists can begin practicing after receiving bachelor’s degrees and attending four years of optometry school. In comparison, ophthalmologists go through four years of medical school and four years of residency after earning bachelor’s degrees.

Ophthalmologists are overreacting, said Dr. Matthew Jones, an optometrist in Effingham, saying the proposal would make eye care more convenient and accessible for patients who can’t travel or wait to see an ophthalmologist.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation initially proposed the draft rules in December. The Legislature enacted a law in 2016 that would allow for “advanced optometric procedures” if optometrists met educational requirements set by a newly created task force.

The task force met multiple times last year but adjourned before creating any recommendations.

The state General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is expected to make a decision on a proposed expansion within the next few months.

Illinois has between 700 and 800 ophthalmologists and about 2,500 optometrists.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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