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Copyright 2010 The Register-Herald

The Register-Herald (Beckley, West Virginia) 

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News 

February 23, 2010 Tuesday 

SECTION: STATE AND REGIONAL NEWS 

ACC-NO: 20100223-WZ-Optometrists-win-battle-in-surgery-bill-0223 

LENGTH: 601 words 

HEADLINE: Optometrists win battle in surgery bill 

BYLINE: Mannix Porterfield, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. 

BODY:

   Feb. 23--CHARLESTON -- West Virginia optometrists scored a major victory Monday in an amended Senate bill that expands their scope of practice to embrace three types of laser surgery to treat glaucoma patients.

   After weeks of intense debate and lobbying, the Senate accepted an amendment by Judiciary Chairman Jeffrey Kessler to widen the range of practice, setting up a showdown today on the bill itself.

   Before his amendment was adopted, Government Organization Chairman Ed Bowman, D-Hancock, sought to compromise the bill by narrowing laser surgery to a single one. Originally, the bill allowed four lines of surgery.

   Kessler said optometrists have been treating glaucoma cases since 1976, but Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, countered that no lasers have been involved.

   "It's a far cry from simply treating it with a drug to this type of procedure," Foster maintained.

 

   Kessler, however, pointed out that all three of the laser surgeries would have to be performed in collaboration with an ophthalmologist.

   What's more, he said, any optometrist would need to be trained and then fully certified by the medical board.

   "I don't want anybody operating on my eye or my family's eyes or your eye that doesn't know what he's doing," Kessler, D-Marshall, said in support of his amendment. "We're not shooting in the dark. We're not going to be blinding anybody."

   Kessler said the expanded scope would increase access to West Virginians, providing them care by properly trained and skilled physicians.

   "These are minimally invasive, simple procedures that are performed every day across the country," said Dr. David Holliday, an optometrist in Beckley for 30 years.

   "Optometrists are performing these procedures in certain states. We're not the exception by any means. We feel comfortable with those procedures and fully qualified to do those jobs."

   Holliday said optometrists undergo the same level of training as ophthalmologists in laser surgery.

   After Kessler succeeded with his broader amendment, Health and Human Resources Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, sought to change the bill again, this time allowing only SLT, or standard laser turboplasty.

   Senate President Earl Ray Tom-blin, D-Logan, agreed with Kessler that the section of the bill in mind had already been amended, and the only way Prezioso could proceed would be for a senator on the prevailing side to seek a reconsideration. None did.

   "We're on a very slippery slope with scope of practices," Prezioso complained afterward. "It just got to be a runaway train. That's what you get when you don't follow procedures."

   Prezioso referred to last week's failed effort to send the bill exiting Bowman's committee to his.

   "I'm not discrediting government organization, but our committee deals with scope of practice and we're better prepared to do it," he said. "There's been a lot of disarray and discord with procedure."

   If the bill clears the Senate today, the next stop is the House, where Prezioso said he hopes for "a lot of review."

   "My hope is they will be diligent enough when it gets over there to take a real hard look at it and take out all the egos and entities that are over here," he added.

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