California optometrists are saying that ophthalmologists and other M.D.s are using the incident at the Palo Alto VA to choke legislation (S.B. 1406) that would expand California O.D.s’ scope of practice to treat glaucoma.
In mid-October, the American Glaucoma Society, the California Medical Association, and the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons petitioned the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) for an investigation into the care of eight veterans who went blind, as well as other veterans who had vision loss, while being treated for glaucoma by O.D.s at the VA hospital in Palo Alto.
“A proper investigation of the details of the Palo Alto VA cases of blindness may call into question the quality of the optometry school training and necessitate additional requirements as provided by S.B. 1406,” the petition stated.
Further, the petition asked the Department of Consumer Affairs to withdraw its recommendations on the glaucoma legislation “until a thorough investigation of the Palo Alto VA scandal is complete and its findings and recommendations can be included in the implementation of S.B. 1406.”
At issue: A special consultant—Tony Carnevali, O.D.—was added to the advisory committee for the glaucoma legislation. But, Dr. Carnevali, a past president of the California Optometric Association (COA) and an associate professor at the Southern California College of Optometry, was therefore a biased participant with a conflict of interest, the petition alleged.
In response, Brian J. Stiger, the director of the Department of Consumer Affairs, wrote that he would not withdraw the DCA’s recommendations on the glaucoma legislation. However, Mr. Stiger did formally request that the California Board of Optometry, together with the Medical Board of California, investigate the occurrences at the Palo Alto VA Hospital regarding the eye care provided to veterans, and that the results of this investigation be made public.
Mr. Stiger also asked the Board of Optometry “to re-evaluate its decision to proceed with these [glaucoma] regulations.”
Hilary Hawthorne, O.D., COA president, also responded to the petition in a letter to Mr. Stiger. “The Petitioners have approached COA both prior to and after publication of Dr. Carnevali’s report. The process was open and public … At no time during these discussions was there any condemnation of Dr. Carnevali’s involvement,” Dr. Hawthorne wrote. “To raise the situation in Palo Alto as important to S.B. 1406 is not only noxious, but a specious argument completely. Not only were the doctors ultimately vindicated, but the situation is not relevant since the optometrists in question were not California certified.”
Dr. Hawthorne also asked the DCA to allow the Board of Optometry to continue its implementation of the glaucoma legislation, with a reminder of what this legislation is all about: “This law will allow consumers, who are being dangerously ignored by the present eye care delivery system, access to quality patient care from qualified optometrists.”