The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society Med Journal March 2020 Final 2 - Page 4

Medical Board Legal Issues? What Have We Done For You Lately? The Eyes Have It by DAVid wroten executive vice president Call Pharmacist/Attorney Darren O’Quinn 1-800-455-0581 Little Rock, Arkansas MAKE THE SMART CHOICE, P rior to the 2019 legislative session, Ar- kansas optometrists launched a massive (and successful) grassroots campaign to convince legislators to pass legislation to allow them to perform certain surgical pro- cedures on the eye and eyelid. That legislation became Act 579 of 2019. Legislators were misled into believing that what optometrists wanted to do was only a few “minor” procedures that they were properly trained to perform. Well, that wasn’t true. Leg- islators were misled into believing that passing this legislation would increase access to vision care. Well, that wasn’t true either. Despite poll- ing that clearly showed overwhelming public op- position, the Legislature passed the bill and the governor signed it into law. Optometrists are good at what they do, but they are not medical doctors. They do not go to medical school, and they are not residency trained. It boggles the mind to suggest that at- tending a weekend course in laser surgery is ad- equate to provide the high-quality care provided by a residency-trained ophthalmologist. The value of your medical education and training, regardless of your specialty, is clearly under attack by the stream of legislation pro- posing to expand the scope of practice by lesser trained providers. But you have an opportunity in this case to stand up for your patients and your profession. Safe Surgery Arkansas (SSA) is a coalition of patients and physicians formed in response to ADVERTISE IN: For more advertising information, contact Penny Henderson at 501.224.8967 or [email protected] 196 • The Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society Do voters believe that non- medical doctors should be performing surgery? Absolutely not. A recent poll conducted by SSA shows that nearly 90% of voters are likely to vote against Act 579. Act 579. SSA has secured 64,027 valid signatures to place a referendum on the November 2020 ballot. A referendum gives the public an oppor- tunity to vote on the legislation. A “no” vote in the election will be a vote to repeal Act 579. Fur- thermore, because the signatures were turned in to the secretary of state prior to the effective date of the Act, the legislation cannot be imple- mented pending the outcome of the election. This is the first time, in any state, that a scope of practice expansion will be decided by voters rather than politicians. If we are success- ful, it will set a new (national) standard for op- posing inappropriate scope of practice expan- sions. Do the voters value the education and training of physicians? Apparently, they do. Do voters believe that non-medical doctors should be performing surgery? Absolutely not. A recent poll conducted by SSA shows that nearly 90% of voters are likely to vote against Act 579. But we have a lot of work to do between now and November. Because of the national ramifica- tions of this repeal effort, you can expect optom- etrists to raise massive amounts of money from their out-of-state colleagues. They have already tried legal action to keep the referendum off the ballot, and we can expect them to do more. Physicians cannot allow our state’s oph- thalmologists to fight this battle alone. Act 579 threatens patient safety and is an attack on the value of medical school and residency training for all physicians. You will be hearing more over the next few months about how you can help. Meanwhile, you can donate to Safe Surgery Ar- kansas to help raise the necessary funds that will be needed to get out the vote in November. Donations can be made to Safe Surgery Arkansas, PO Box 56170, Little Rock, AR 72215 or online at Dona- tions can be personal or corporate, unlimited in amount, are not tax deductible, and are subject to reporting requirements (by SSA). Give gener- ously! Next time, it could be your specialty.