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    B.C. Optometrists Can Now Prescribe Medications

    Vancouver, April 1, 2009 – Qualified B.C. optometrists can now prescribe medications to treat certain eye conditions such as infections, inflammations, allergies and injuries.

    “This change will provide direct and first-line treatment to patients,” says Dr. Marnie Spino, vice-president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists. “It is especially good for patients in smaller towns who sometimes have to travel long distances to access certain health care services. Optometrists are well distributed across B.C. and can therefore provide more easily accessible eye care.”

    B.C. optometrists can now treat the following eye conditions:

    • Bacterial and viral eye infections (pink eye)
    • Red eye secondary to contact lens wear
    • Eyelid infection and inflammation (blepharitis)
    • Tender bumps on eyelids (styes)
    • Inflammation of the eye
    • Eye pain
    • Allergies affecting the eyes
    • Superficial foreign body removal

    Historically, patients often experienced lengthy wait times for ophthalmology referrals at GP offices, walk-in clinics or emergency rooms to have their acute eye conditions treated. Seeing your local optometrist for immediate assessment can lead to faster diagnosis and treatment of your eye condition. A referral is not needed to visit a B.C. optometrist.

    “This expansion to our scope of practice is one of the most important changes to our profession in recent years, aligning us with our North American colleagues who have been treating eye conditions for many years,” says Dr. Antoinette Dumalo, president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists. “We expect to work collaboratively with other health care professionals to help reduce wait times, emergency room visits, and duplication of health care services.”

    The scope of practice for B.C. optometrists was expanded March 1, 2009 when the profession of optometry was brought under the Health Professions Act and optometrists were granted the use of therapeutic pharmaceutical agents (TPA).

    Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. It’s important children have a complete eye exam by six months, at three years, before entering school and regularly thereafter. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year.

    For more information on eye health, or to locate an optometrist near you, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.

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    For more information contact:

    Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007