Speak Out for Eye Health
On May 1st, 2010, B.C.’s Ministry of Health Services made major changes to regulations for Doctors of Optometry and opticians under the Health Professions Act – changes that put the eye health and overall health of British Columbians at risk.
The BCAO and many other associations asked the government to reconsider the regulatory changes in order to protect the eye health and overall health of British Columbians. We’ve issued news releases outlining our concerns.
Overview of changes
The new regulations allow opticians to dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses from an independent “sight-test” using automated computerized equipment. This removes the eye health examination by a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist which could determine if there are underlying eye or overall health problems that the patient is not aware of. As well, internet companies selling eyeglasses and contact lenses no longer have to verify with the prescriber to ensure the prescription is correct.
Why these regulations are wrong!
The B.C. Association of Optometrists and its member Doctor’s of Optometry believe these types of “buyer beware” regulations are not appropriate for health products and services. Your vision, eye health and overall health are too important.
- The new regulations will result in eye disease going undetected.Without a Doctor of Optometry or ophthalmologist examining your eyes, there is no way to know if your eyes are healthy, or if your vision change is a result of eye disease. People with eye disease don’t always have symptoms that are noticeable in early stages, when their condition is most treatable.
- Allowing online sale of eyeglasses and contacts without verifying the prescription shifts the responsibility for accuracy to you, the patient, instead of the prescriber or seller.This is wrong. Health regulations should protect you, regardless of where you choose to buy your eyewear – whether online, at an optical store or at a Doctor of Optometry’s office.
- These health care regulations go against the recommendations of eye health professionals and are out of step with standards across North America. The regulatory bodies for optometry and medicine (ophthalmology) have determined that a sight-test (refraction) should never be done without conducting a thorough eye examination – because of the very real risk of undetected eye disease.
There is no jurisdiction in North America where you can purchase contact lenses or glasses without evidence of a valid prescription. Nowhere else in North America is it legal to dispense eyeglasses or contacts from an unsupervised sight test by an optician.
- These new regulations aren’t about protecting health.The government news release indicated that an October 2009 decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal found that Coastal Contacts, a B.C.-based online eyewear seller with approximately 120 employees, is contravening the regulations by dispensing contact lens refills without seeing a prescription and that “these regulatory changes will address the court decision.”