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Letters to the Editor: Newsom was right to veto this dangerous bill on eye surgeries

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2019: Michael Poblete, right, a optometry student at Western University, right, performs an ocular health exam on Daniel Duenas, of Los Angeles, at Care Harbor, a volunteer-based healthcare charity, on the first day of the 11th annual Care Harbor L.A., a three-day clinic that provides thousands with healthcare to those with limited or no access to healthcare at The Reef in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2019. More than 700 Healthcare Professionals are scheduled to volunteer their services. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Poblete, right, an optometry student at Western University, performs an ocular health exam in Los Angeles in 2019. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I enjoy George Skelton's column, and with no disrespect to him — as he concedes that "this kind of medical stuff is way out of my bailiwick" — I disagree with him about allowing optometrists to perform certain procedures currently done by ophthalmologists.

For the last 18 years, I have been responsible for training ophthalmology residents to do the procedures that Assembly Bill 2236 would have authorized optometrists to perform. Therefore, I believe I can speak as an expert in saying that the training put forth by the bill was totally inadequate to insure patient safety.

The small number of training cases that the bill required optometrists to complete fell far short of the number of procedures that supervised ophthalmology residents perform before being set free to do surgery on California patients.

Eye surgery can have serious complications. The idea that someone could be certified to do a complex corneal surgery after just one training case was, frankly, terrifying.

The governor was right to veto AB 2236.

JoAnn Giaconi, M.D., Los Angeles

The author is professor of ophthalmology at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and chief of ophthalmology for the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration. The views here are her own.

..

To the editor: Skelton is sorely mistaken if he believes that extending privileges for the use of technology such as lasers for eye surgery will increase access to healthcare for the poor.

Does he think that optometrists will purchase a laser for $75,000 and then provide free care or accept Medi-Cal's low reimbursement rates to provide services to low-income patients?

Michael Reynard, M.D., Santa Monica

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.