Changes put glaucoma patients at risk: AMA

People with common eye diseases risk ”devastating consequences” if doctors lose control of treatment and diagnosis, the Australian Medical Association says.

A decision by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency could allow optometrists – health practitioners who have minimal therapeutic training – to independently diagnose and treat glaucoma without consulting a specialist doctor.

The regulator is facing a backlash over criticism that changes to legislation could allow health professionals, including chiropractors, psychologists and pharmacists, to expand their scope of practice without medical supervision. ”We’ve got psychologists wanting to write prescriptions for antidepressants and pharmacists who want to prescribe,” said AMA president Steve Hambleton.

Last week the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists launched legal action against the regulator amid claims the decision to allow optometrists to manage glaucoma without medical supervision would put patients at risk.

”The legislation enables constituent boards to increase their scope of practice. We are the first group within medicine to feel the effects,” said Brad Horsburgh, a former president of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists.

Glaucoma, a blinding disease that affects more than 300,000 Australians, is treated by ophthalmologists who spend up to 12 years studying to be specialists. The disease occurs when pressure inside the eye is elevated, causing damage to the optic nerve.

”Glaucoma can be notoriously difficult to diagnose and can be confused with brain tumours and neurological diseases,” said Dr Horsburgh. ”It’s a major public health issue. It enables patients to be diagnosed without oversight of medical specialists.”

The agency refused to comment as the issue is coming before the courts.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.