Act 579 pushing doctors head-to-head over surgery

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — An Arkansas law meant to improve access to eye care might end up in the hands of voters.

Act 579 allows optometrists to perform certain in-office procedures that would have been performed by an ophthalmologist in the past.

This act was passed in the 2019 legislative session, but petitioners submitted signatures to give voters a chance to repeal the law.

Optometrists say this is really helping people in rural areas get the care they need, but ophthalmologists say this Act is lowering the standard of care.

“Many patients may have to wait weeks or drive hours to receive care that they could receive from their local optometrist,” Optometrist Belinda Starkey said.

“All of the ophthalmologists have gone through medical training to do medical and surgical procedures. In optometry, does not go to medical school,” Ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Henry said.

The effort to put the issue on the ballot is being challenged in court.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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