Page 228 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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jurisdictions, optometrists are permitted to use and prescribe medicines, and a legislative regime exists for determining what medicines they may prescribe.

The government’s proposed amendments will provide for optometrists in the ACT to prescribe medicines for their patients who have various eye conditions. A person who has an eye condition requiring treatment will then be able to seek assistance from an optometrist as well as from a doctor or pharmacist, just as they are currently able to do in New South Wales. This will result in optometrists in the territory being able to provide the best possible care for their patients and will mean that there will be increased access to and choice of professional providers of eye care services.

The bill also seeks to update the ACT’s legislation to reflect the fact that optometrists need to use medicines for diagnostic purposes during their consultations. By making sure that the ACT’s legislation takes account of recent advances and expansions of optometric education and training, we can remove current obstacles which are preventing ACT optometrists from providing the best possible care. We can also bring the ACT into step with best practice in the diagnosis of eye conditions compared with other states which currently allow the use of diagnostic medicines by optometrists.

In the past few years New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania have enacted changes to their legislation to give postgraduate, qualified optometrists the right to prescribe a limited range of medicines for use in the eye. Other jurisdictions, including Queensland and the Northern Territory, are considering similar changes. The adoption of these arrangements in the ACT would result in our legislation being consistent with that of other jurisdictions.

In considering this change, the government has conducted a public consultation process and investigated a number of options. The Optometrists Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 has been developed after considering the responses to this consultation and after due consideration of the arrangements in other states and territories.

The bill presented today recommends that the Optometrists Board of the ACT allow a registered optometrist to prescribe and use certain medicines in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients’ eye conditions if the board is satisfied that the optometrist meets the competency standards approved by the New South Wales optometrists drug authority committee.

Under the proposed amendments, an optometrist in the ACT who meets the competency standards of the New South Wales optometrists drug authority committee will be able to prescribe the same medicines as would an equally qualified optometrist in New South Wales. This means that it would not be necessary to establish a separate ACT infrastructure to govern separate administrative arrangements. Most importantly, the people of the ACT will have improved access to and choice of professionals to provide them with care for their eyes. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

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