Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners Alleged To Have Violated Kentucky's Open Meetings Act in Developing Eye Surgery Regulation

Sep 08, 2011, 17:21 ET from Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons from ,Kentucky Medical Association

Formal Complaint Lodged by the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. Law Continues to Threaten Patient Safety. Legislators to Review Regulation on Tuesday, September 13

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 8, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the Kentucky Medical Association lodged a formal complaint with the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners (Board). The two organizations are charging that the Board and its task force violated Kentucky's Open Meetings Act as it developed regulations for a new eye surgery law that allows optometrists, who are not medical doctors, to perform delicate eye surgery. A task force (initially identified by the Board as being appointed by the Governor) developed and the Board approved the regulation for the training they believe is needed for optometrists. They did so without following the tenets of the law, requiring open meetings in order for debate and discussion to be held. Although the Board stated in meeting minutes that the task force was appointed by the Governor, the Governor's office today denied ever appointing such a task force. Instead the Governor's office clarified that a task force was appointed by the Kentucky Optometric Association, but that no members of the task force were recommended or appointed by the Governor. These developments add further uncertainty to how the regulation was drafted.  

"By avoiding public notice and debate in an open meeting, the Board violated the Kentucky Open Meetings Act when it approved the regulation. This process and the resulting regulation place patients at risk. We owe it to all Kentucky citizens to be sure that the process is open for all," said Woodford S. Van Meter, MD, president of the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. "Legislators reviewing the regulation should nullify them and send them back to the drawing board in order to protect the safety of patients. This adds further evidence that this entire process - the legislative to regulatory phase - is flawed and should be re-examined."

The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, made up of eight state legislators, will meet next Tuesday, September 13 in Frankfort to review the regulation.

SB 110, which was signed into law in February, allows optometrists to perform various eye surgeries using lasers, scalpels, needles, ultrasound, ionizing radiation and tools that burn and freeze tissue to treat complicated conditions such as potentially cancerous eyelid tumors, glaucoma and post-cataract surgery complications. Each of these surgeries can have blinding complications.

Under the proposed regulations, an optometrist, who is not a medical doctor, may gain surgery authorization from the Board by taking an additional 32 hours of instruction and by performing a surgical procedure on just one human eye, with very little one-on-one training. Such limited classroom experience is deemed sufficient by the Board in order to certify an optometrist to perform eye surgery on patients in Kentucky.

By comparison, ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors, spend more than 17,000 hours of hands-on clinical training before they are licensed to perform surgery by themselves. They are required to perform hundreds of surgeries on patients, under the direct supervision of a seasoned surgeon before they are certified. This training takes place over eight years or more of honing their surgical and medical skills − four years of medical school, a one-year hospital internship, and three years of surgical residency.

Yet, as the regulation stands, in Kentucky, an optometrist is only going to need as little as a couple of weekend courses to be certified to perform delicate eye surgeries.

As outlined in the complaint, the Board followed the recommendations of a special "task force" that met and developed a draft of the proposed regulation without any public notice or input. The principal behind Kentucky's Open Meetings Act demands that "the formation of public policy . . . not be conducted in secret."

"The fact is there should be no short cuts to a medical degree. You simply can't do away with the need for rigorous surgical training," said Gordon Tobin, MD, President of the Kentucky Medical Association. "The regulation does not adequately ensure patient safety. And now, we've learned that the Open Meetings Act was apparently ignored and the identity of task force members was unclear to those who approved the regulation. This chaotic process for drafting important regulations meant to protect the people of the Commonwealth should concern everyone"

Kentucky joins Oklahoma as the only states to pass this kind of law. Similarly in Oklahoma, the law did not mandate sufficient training for optometrists. Pam Odum, of Owasso, OK, had surgery performed by an optometrist and was left nearly blind.  

"I didn't know that a law or a bill had been passed that would allow an optometrist to do an ophthalmologist's job. Now my vision is permanently damaged," said Odum.

A poll in Kentucky by CN/2 just after the law's passage confirms that citizens in the state want surgery to be performed by trained medical doctors. It found that nearly 80 percent of Kentuckians want any eye surgery to be performed by ophthalmologists. Citizens in rural areas felt even more strongly that surgery should be left to trained medical doctors.

Citizens wishing to express their concern should call their legislators at 1-800-372-7181 or attend the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee meeting starting at 1 pm, on Tuesday, September 13, in Frankfort at the Capitol Annex, room 149.

About the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons
The Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons is the professional organization of Eye M.D.s comprised of 112 ophthalmologists from all parts of the Kentucky. Ophthalmologists are Medical Doctors (M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) who specialize in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and in the prevention of eye disease and injury. Please visit our website at www.kyeyemds.org for more information about eye health and related issues. 

About the Kentucky Medical Association
The Kentucky Medical Association is a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization that supports physician members and their patients with a variety of services. The KMA was established in 1851 and has grown to represent and support nearly 7,000 physicians, physician residents, and medical students across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Learn more about the KMA at www.kyma.org.

SOURCE Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons; Kentucky Medical Association



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