Eyeball Wars rage as dozens of medical groups oppose optometrists, claiming 'serious threat' to care - Florida Politics

Eyeball Wars rage as dozens of medical groups oppose optometrists, claiming ‘serious threat’ to care

A growing number of medical professionals have joined forces in a wave of disapproval of optometrists in Florida’s “Eyeball Wars,” which is now making way through Tallahassee.

HB 1037, which seeks to allow optometrists to perform surgery and prescribe opiates, among other things, now sits on the agenda of the House Health & Human Services Committee.

This week, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at University of Miami School of Medicine became the latest medical group to publicly oppose the bill, adding its name to a list that now stands at two dozen.

Each of these highly regarded medical professionals — which include the American Medical Association, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) — strongly argue that the passage of HB 1037 would pose a serious threat to the health and safety of millions of Floridians.

The bill seeks to expand optometry further into the practice of medicine and laser surgery, a move fiercely opposed by ophthalmologists, who raise concern over the comparative lack of instruction for optometrists. HB 1037 would expand the scope of optometry compared to ophthalmologists — who have the required training and education — to include the practice of medicine and surgery, as defined by both the ACS and Florida Statute.

In the letter released Tuesday, Bascom Palmer Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, joined by Vice Chair Dr. Steven Gedde and Medical Director Dr. Stephen Schwartz, warn:

“There are no shortcuts to learning to safely perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists complete four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical education, one year of internship, and then three years of ophthalmology residency training, such as that provided at Bascom Palmer.”

“In summary, we believe that HB 1037 and [Senate companion] SB 1168 represent a serious threat to patient safety, public welfare, and quality of care … The citizens of Florida deserve far better than the superficial and inadequate ‘training’ that is provided for in these bills.”

Ophthalmologists — licensed to practice medicine and surgery — contend that HB 1037 (as Dr. David Hoyt, executive director of the American College of Surgeons, wrote recently) works against the “interest of patient safety and maintaining the highest standards of surgical care.”

Professional medical groups so far opposed to HB 1037 include:

Florida Society of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Florida Medical Association

American Medical Association

American College of Surgeons

Florida Chapter of the American College of Surgeons

Florida Society of Anesthesiologists

Florida Osteopathic Medical Association

Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians

Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons

Florida Radiological Society

Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgeons

Florida Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons

Florida Orthopaedic Society

Florida Society of Nephrology

Florida College of Emergency Physicians

Florida Orthopedic Society

Florida Society of Rheumatology

Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians

Florida Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics

Florida Academy of Family Physicians

Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (FSIPP)

Florida Psychiatric Society

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Florida Society of Pathologists

 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and nightclub reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for an online metaphysical website among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul.

2 Comments

  1. This is ridiculous coming from this institution. They know better and are being swayed by big bucks and peer pressure. I myself am an optometry student (almost OD, graduate in 7 days,) and I have performed all of the procedures Florida optometrists are asking for while on externship in Oklahoma. If you don’t know, Oklahoma is one of FIVE states that already allow optometrists to perform these procedures. Surprisingly, NO ONE HAS DIED and there have been no negative health risks. Not only is this misinformation, but it’s offensive. I am more than, “superficially” trained to do these procedures, I have been extensively trained and have already performed hundreds of them successfully.

  2. Medicine always cries wolf. Optometry always takes care of their patients in an excellent manner. The public benefits. I wish Mr. Amman would have been a better journalist and told both sides of this story.

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