The provincial government is extending the eye-care services provided by Alberta optometrists to reduce referrals to specialists.
"A key strategy in improving the health and well-being of Albertans is providing increased access to primary health-care services in communities," said Health Minister Fred Horne in a written statement.
The changes, which come into effect this fiscal year, will allow optometrists to do the following:
- Prescribe certain oral and topical drugs.
- Order lab tests.
- Order and apply ultrasound tests.
- Treat certain types of glaucoma.
"We have the knowledge and skill base to treat a patient, but we're made to refer that patient elsewhere for the service," said Dr. Jason Pearce of Signal Hill Eye Care in Calgary.
"I think this will just help to provide for a comprehensive environment for eye care for our patients, so there is more treatment that will be done at the site of the patient's visit and less need for referral."
Optometrists will have to be certified to provide the new services.
They will still be required to refer patients with complex eye conditions to a specialist for treatment or surgery. There are more than 645 local optometrists in more than 80 communities in Alberta.