The Ontario Government approved a regulation on April 6, 2011 that allows Ontario's optometrists to start prescribing medications for their patients. Optometrists will now be able to prescribe treatments for conditions ranging from routine bacterial eye infections to more serious diseases including glaucoma.
The change will alleviate wait times in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for patients with eye-related problems.
"This is great news for our patients and everyone in Ontario," notes Dr. John Mastronardi of Windsor, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). "Most of our members have been educated and trained to prescribe medications for years. We are pleased that the Ontario government has made changes that will broaden access to medically necessary services across the province."
While Ontario is one of the last provinces to en-act this regulation, the new regulation has the widest scope in Canada and brings about the most benefits to patients.
For patient Jason Secord of Acton, he applauds the decision. "A few years ago, I almost lost the vision in my right eye because of a condition called iritis. I went to my optometrist and he knew what was wrong but he couldn't prescribe the drops that I needed. Now if I ever have a problem again, I can go to my optometrist right away without putting my eye health at risk by waiting to see three different doctors for treatment."
Today's decision by the Ontario government means better healthcare and shorter wait times for patients while reducing costs for taxpayers.
The Executive Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Ontario, Paul Ting, also applauded the news. "This will make great strides in the treatment of all eye care," says Ting. "Seventy five percent of vision loss is preventable or treatable. Preventing blindness is an urgent challenge with an aging population, and this will drastically improve access to clinical care."
Optometrists are eye doctors who are university educated and clinically trained to diagnose and treat disorders of the eye and visual system. Optometrists complete a four year professional doctorate degree program and are regulated by the College of Optometrists of Ontario.
For more information on the eye conditions that optometrists can now treat and prescribe, please visit the Ontario Association of Optometrists website.