Page 693 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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treatment of minor eye infections. I understand that New South Wales has had this in place for some time. The Liberal Party will be supporting this bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.51): The Optometrists Legislation Amendment Bill will give optometrists the capacity to prescribe and administer a limited range of drugs consistent with current optometry practice. That means that optometrists in the ACT will be able to prescribe for their patients a specific range of drugs to treat eye disorders, as they can in New South Wales and elsewhere across Australia. Under this bill, ACT optometrists will be able to use diagnostic medicines during consultation, again reflecting contemporary practice.

The key operational mechanism of this bill is the link between the schedule of medicines that optometrists can use or prescribe in the ACT and the conditions or applications they are used for under New South Wales requirements. There is also provision in this bill for the controls on sale and use to echo those in Victoria, which are designed to ensure that optometrists cannot set themselves up as commercial drug suppliers. I understand that the Optometrists Board of the ACT has considered this legislation. I do not see this bill as contentious in any way and I am pleased to support it.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.51), in reply: The Optometrists Legislation Amendment Bill proposes to make amendments to the Optometrists Act and other related legislation to allow optometrists in the ACT to use and prescribe a limited range of medicines for the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions in their patients.

Under current ACT legislation, optometrists are not able to possess, use or prescribe medicines for their patients. A person who has an eye condition requiring some professional assistance must seek the advice of a doctor or a pharmacist. This means that patients who need medicines for the treatment of an eye condition are limited in terms of the types of health care practitioners to whom they can go. As other members have rightly pointed out, in New South Wales and a number of other jurisdictions, optometrists are permitted to use and prescribe medicines and a legislative regime exists for determining what medicines they may prescribe.

The government’s bill will provide for optometrists in the ACT to prescribe medicines for patients who have various eye disorders. A person who has an eye condition requiring treatment will then be able to seek assistance from an optometrist as well as a doctor or pharmacist, just as they are currently able to do in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. This will result in optometrists in the territory being able to provide the best possible care for their patients and will also mean there will be an increased access 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 that are preventing ACT optometrists from providing the best possible care. In considering this change, the government has conducted a public consultation and investigated a number of options. The bill has been developed after considering responses to this consultation and due consideration of the arrangements in other states and territories.

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