Albertans Gain Access To Better Care

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The role of optometrists is expanding to provide Albertans with improved access to essential eye care services.
“A key strategy in improving the health and wellbeing of Albertans is providing increased access to primary health care services in communities – which is where and when Albertans need it. By increasing the scope of practice of Alberta optometrists, the need for referrals to specialists for basic eye care services can be reduced and Albertans will have immediate access to the eye care they need closer to home,” said Fred Horne, Minister of Health.
When this change comes into effect, this fiscal year, optometrists certified by the Alberta College of Optometrists will become responsible for primary eye care, which includes treating minor eye conditions.
They will also be authorized to provide four new services: prescribe certain oral and topical drugs; order lab tests; order and apply ultrasound tests; and treat certain types of glaucoma.
Alberta currently has over 645 local optometrists in more than 80 communities. The move to expand the scope of optometrists follows a similar expansion of the scope of services pharmacists now provide, which has increased primary care services to Albertans such as medication management and flu vaccinations across the province.
“These changes will enable optometrists to practice to the full extent of their training. Optometrists will also complete a certification program before providing these new services, meet rigorous standards of practice and undergo regular on-site practice reviews. Albertans can be fully confident their eye care needs will be addressed safely and effectively by a highly skilled, knowledgeable and competent eye health professional,” said Dr. Sallie Barclay, President, Alberta College of Optometrists.
Work is underway to implement the expanded scope of practice. This work includes drafting amendments to the Optometrists Profession Regulation and developing standards of practice.
“We look forward to collaborating with government, the College and stakeholders in the months ahead to prepare for these new services. Doctors of Optometry welcome this opportunity to enhance the care that we provide to Albertans closer to their homes, thus better serving them,” said Dr. Aaron Patel, President, Alberta Association of Optometrists.
Specialists will continue to be responsible for the medical and surgical treatment of complex eye conditions. There are 132 ophthalmologists in eight Alberta communities.
Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta’s resources to ensure we’re able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.

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