Regulations for KY eye surgery law fuel more controversy

LOUISVILLE, KY-(WAVE) The controversial eye surgery law that passed in Kentucky last February, is raising red flags once again. The Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the Kentucky Medical Association filed a formal complaint regarding how the regulations for the bill were formulated.

The two groups believed that the regulations should have been discussed in open meetings with public and medical input, but today in Frankfort a subcommittee approved the regulations sending them on through the legislative process.

The main concern is whether Optometrists, who will soon perform certain surgeries under the new law, will not be appropriately trained to do the procedures that once required a medical degree to perform.

"That is what the board of optometry has said is adequate to be able to perform surgeries if you have 32 hours of training" says Ophthalmologist, Dr. Susan Berberich.

She believes the bill was passed without appropriate medical input and that now these regulations are getting approved in much the same way.

Unlike and Optometrist, an Ophthalmologist is required to complete 4 years of medical school and another 4 years of residency and internships. "For all of those 4 years we are training on hundreds and hundreds of patients, hundreds of procedures with experienced physicians" Berberich says.

But supporters of the law believe the regulations are in line with what surgeries Optometrists will be performing.

President of the Kentucky Optometric Association, Dr. Ben Gaddie gave this comment, " We are confident that this regulation complies with the law, which gives the board the authority to determine the scope of practice and set standards as other doctoral level regulatory boards do. The regulation will ensure patient safety and better access to quality eye care for all Kentuckians."

Dr. Mark Lynn who owns Dr. Bizer's Vision World supports the bill. When it passed in February he also said the law will provide better care. "The very simple procedures, the in-office procedures with local anesthesia, we can now do those and keep the patients from having to travel so far" Lynn says.

Patients do often travel major miles to get a not so major surgery.  But those with experience in the operating rooms like Berberich are warning patients that no surgery is a guaranteed simple procedure. "It can be very straight forward but it can also have some serious, serious complications, blinding complications" Berberich says.

With the regulations approval in Frankfort on Tuesday, it will likely take another month or two to complete the legislative process. At that point, it will be up to patients to decide where they trust their care.