Sunday, February 25, 2024

HOLLIS: Don’t Allow Optometrists At VA Hospitals To Perform Surgeries

Eight years ago, I fought against House Bill 1065 in the Louisiana State Legislature – a bill that sought to authorize optometrists to perform eye surgery even though they are neither medical doctors nor trained surgeons. I argued that just as chiropractors do not perform surgery on bones and joints, optometrists should not be allowed to perform eye surgery.

I am disappointed to now learn the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently made changes signaling the consideration of new national standards that could allow optometrists in the VA network to perform surgeries on our nation’s veterans.

This should not even be a conversation. 

Optometrists are not qualified to perform surgeries. The only medical doctors licensed and trained to perform eye surgeries are ophthalmologists.Ophthalmologists go through years of extensive training with clinical and surgical residencies. Surgical courses available to optometrists are optional and involve no actual procedures on live patients. Simply put, optometrists are neither qualified nor equipped to handle the intricacies of eye surgery.

Today, the Veteran Administration’s policies allow only ophthalmologists to perform eye surgeries on veterans. This could change with the release of new national standards. This is completely unacceptable and puts our veterans at risk of receiving low-quality care and incurring the risk of severe complications.

Our veterans have earned the right to the highest quality of care from the VA and its providers. There are no substitutions for trained and qualified professionals, and our nation’s warriors deserve the best.

I appreciate Senator Bill Cassidy’s leadership on this issue and urge him, as a medical doctor and a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, to call upon the VA to maintain its long-standing policy of allowing only ophthalmologists to perform eye surgery on veterans. We must continue to give our heroes the quality of care they deserve.

Rep. Paul Hollis 

Louisiana House District 104

St. Tammany Parish