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Scope Expansion is Dangerous

Contact your legislator and tell them to protect patient safety by voting NO on SB 5389

Most people don't know the difference between an ophthalmologist, and an optometrist. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors with years of experience and intense surgical training with live patients. Optometrists are not. But a new bill in Olympia, SB 5389, would allow optometrists to expand their scope and perform surgeries just like ophthalmologists. And when it comes to training and experience, they couldn't be more different.

Chris Chambers, M.D.
An ophthalmologist goes to four years of medical school where they get both medical and surgical experience and training. Then they'll do one year of a general medicine internship or surgical internship and then three more years of medical and surgical ophthalmology residency. So there have been, now, that's eight, eight years of something that has had surgical training.

Courtney Francis, M.D.
So optometrists are actually not physicians. They don't go to medical school. They don't do a surgical residency that we do in ophthalmology. They go to optometry school. They don't have hands on training to perform these laser sense couple surgeries. And so they may get certified to perform the procedures without ever having done it on a live patient. And so without any oversight, they'll be doing these surgeries in practice for the first time on a live patient.

And they're not trained to handle any complications that might ensue. One errant scalpel swipe can lead to eye damage or even blindness.

Aaron Weingeist, M.D.
An analogy I like to use is that you can be an expert at Microsoft Flight Simulator. But without 1500 hours of flight training as a pilot, you can't fly a commercial airliner. I think what optometrists are proposing in this legislation is basically to be a virtual eye surgeon. There's no requirement for hands on training.

Here are some facts about scope expansion. First, there is no public demand. This issue is driven solely by the Optometric profession. Scope expansion does not lower costs. Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance reimbursement rates are identical regardless of the billing provider. And despite optometrists arguments, access is not an issue. 96% of Washingtonians live within 30 minutes of an ophthalmologist.

Stephanie Cramer, M.D.
We're not trying to demean their profession. I work side by side with an optometrist every single day and I respect what he does. But I have to say I care about my patients and patient safety the most. And so that is why all of us here are sticking our necks out and really standing up for patient safety.

There's just no need for SB 5389. Learn more for yourself at
Then contact your legislator and tell them to protect patient safety and vote NO on SB 5389.

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