The monthslong debate over whether optometrists can perform certain eye surgeries ended – at least for the moment – after the state House decided to order a study of the issue.
Rep. Justin Burr, a Stanly County Republican, originally intended House Bill 36 to give optometrists the ability to perform some laser procedures for cataracts and glaucoma as well as removing benign lesions around the eyes. It would have forbidden optometrists from performing more than a dozen procedures.
Ophthalmologists took umbrage at the bill, saying it opens the door for optometrists to perform minor surgeries they are not properly trained to handle. Optometrists are not medical doctors, and in some cases would be able to perform procedures after taking a weekend course.
A new version of House Bill 36 directs the N.C. Institute of Medicine to study the provisions included in the original bill and report back to the General Assembly by Oct. 1, 2018. The revamped measure passed the House on Thursday in a vote of 106-9.
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Rep. Greg Murphy, a Pitt County Republican, urologist and practicing surgeon, was one of the lawmakers who were vocally opposed to the bill from the beginning. On Thursday he was less vocal about the substitute. “My mother once told me if I didn’t have something nice to say to not say it,” Murphy told the House Health Committee.
“Thank you for those comments. Your mother would be proud,” Chairman Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican, said.
Rep. Phil Shepard, an Onslow County Republican, told the committee he supported the bill but complained about the lobbying surrounding it. “Yesterday some ophthalmologists came by my office, and I know they intended very well, but they pushed their way into my office and continued to talk to me after I told them I had all the information I need.”