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Bill threatens public safety - Optometrists

Media Release
11 October 2001
Bill threatens public safety

Glaucoma, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and strokes could go undetected
for over 80,000 New Zealanders due to confusion and a failure to recognise the
risks in a Bill currently under discussion.

The NZ Association of Optometrists says that up many life-threatening diseases will go undetected unless licenced and qualified optometrists carry out eye examinations.

Addressing 250 optometrists in Tauranga today, NZAO president, Jack Crawford, said the proposals in the Health Professionals Competency Assurance Bill will increase the chances that pathologies will go undetected.

“We have seen this in the Gisborne cervical cancer inquiry and the subsequent suffering of women, and their families, due to pathologies going undetected. Surely any new legislation should provide better controls and safety? The bill as it stands fails to do this for eye health.

“Why legislators have refused to include the eye examination as a licensed task is quite beyond me. We are also concerned that list of licensed tasks, will go through without due consultation or scrutiny,” he said.

Mr Crawford said that qualified optometrists can provide early detection of a number of life-threatening conditions. Their skills are based on a four-year university degree and is in stark contrast to the ability of a dispensing optician who does not have the diagnostic techniques or the technology to conduct a comprehensive eye examination.

Mr Crawford said there was confusion among the public and politicians as to the services provided by optometrists and dispensing opticians.

“The public is unlikely to know that a simple eye-test by a dispensing optician, to determine if they need glasses, would not consider eye-health at all. It is optometrists who provide comprehensive eye examinations and primary eye-health care.

“Twenty percent of adult blindness is preventable. There are an estimated 50,000 undiagnosed diabetics and 30,000 people with undiagnosed glaucoma – all in danger of losing their sight.

“What we need is clarity in this Bill to ensure public safety is not undermined,” Mr Crawford said.
Ends

Information from: NZ Association of Optometrists, contact Jack Crawford, NZAO president, 025 479 485
Issued by: Joanne Ruscoe, 025 925 733


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