Optometrists, like pharmacists, will soon have limited powers to write prescriptions in P.E.I.
The list of drugs that optometrists will be able to prescribe is still to be written, but should cover a range of eye ailments.
“Any allergy, itchy red eye, inflammation or infection,” Joe Hickey, treasurer of the P.E.I. Optometrist Association, told CBC News. “And infection would need an antibiotic.”
The province passed legislation in the spring of 2008, allowing optometrists to have certain prescription rights.
P.E.I. pharamcists also recently gained the power to renew some prescriptions.
The changes in prescribing powers are part of a general move toward having other health-care workers provide services that were previously provided exclusively by doctors.
Hickey said the inability of optometrists to write prescriptions has often led to patients bouncing around to different health professionals, from their family doctor to an optometrist, then back again — possibly including a trip to an ophthalmologist or even the emergency department.
“I did have an elderly lady just two weeks ago, or three, she did need a strong medication,” Hickey said.
“I sent her to outpatients [at a hospital] with a note. And I found out from her the next day that she waited several hours there, into the early evening, and left, and was seen the next day, finally. To her it was quite a long wait.”
The problem can be compounded, says the P.E.I. Seniors’ Federation, for someone who doesn’t have a family doctor. The federation welcomes the change.
“A lot of people don’t have family doctors,” said federation president Eric Hammill.
“If now they can go to the pharmacy for certain drugs, that’s going to be a big step in the right direction — ease a lot of the burden — and the same with the optometrists. It will give you more flexibility, a little more independence.”
Optometrists who didn’t graduate recently will have to upgrade their schooling with 100 hours of course work. Those who have sufficient schooling will be writing prescriptions soon.