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By David K. Talley, OD, FAAO
President, Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians
Optometrists in Tennessee hoped to gain legislative approval to administer injectable anesthetic while performing primary eyecare procedures of the eyelid. Currently, ODs in Tennessee are able to use topical anesthetics for procedures, such as removing skin tags, papillomas, and chalazia. To that end, both SB220 and HB555 were rolled until January 2014: SB220 was assigned to the general subcommittee of the Senate and action was deferred on HB555 in the House health subcommittee.
The legislation remains viable. Hearings took place, but no votes took place in either committee. Rolling bills until the next session is not uncommon with controversial matters. The Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians (TAOP) will continue to work with Tennessee legislators to prepare for the January 2014 vote.
At the last minute, an intense negotiation with representatives of ophthalmology took place in an attempt to finalize a bill that everyone concerned could support. Ophthalmology’s response was not to negotiate in good faith with optometry’s representatives but to challenge optometry’s accomplishments. Several undecided legislators saw optometry’s effort to compromise with ophthalmology and were angry at ophthalmology’s unwillingness to negotiate. This recognition could help optometry in the future.
During negotiations, ophthalmology was concerned only with optometry’s current scope of practice. In fact, ophthalmology appeared to be surprised at the extent of our scope of practice. Optometry’s lobbyist pointed out the profession’s outstanding track record; however, the ophthalmology team replied that it wasn’t impressed with optometry’s track record, and it is something to sell to the legislature, not to ophthalmology.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) stepped in and began using scare tactics. The AAO began running negative radio ads across Tennessee. AAO representatives also called patients at home to ask if they wanted optometrists performing reconstructive lid surgery.ODT
Dr. Talley is part of a group private practice in Memphis, TN.
SB220 and HB555 would allow ODs to utilize injectable anesthetic while performing primary eyecare procedures of the eyelid.