For a decade or more, optometrists in Puerto Rico have been submitting scope of practice bills to the legislature—only to see those bills shot down again and again.

A new petition hopes to bring attention to the situation and change all that.

“The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction of the United States where licensed Doctors of Optometry are not allowed to use therapeutic pharmaceutical agents in the treatment of ocular health conditions in their patients,” states the petition, which was written and posted online by optometrist Osvaldo Negrón, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

“Organized optometry in Puerto Rico has unsuccessfully presented legislation in the past, leaving the almost four million citizens of the island with only about 100 ophthalmologists to care for their ocular health,” the petition says. About 475 optometrists are in practice there. “This situation is not acceptable under the basic standard of care that the rest of the citizens of the United States enjoy in their particular jurisdictions by certified Doctors of Optometry.”

At press time, the online petition had more than 500 electronic signatures.

“Restrictions on the practice of optometry in Puerto Rico have a tremendous negative impact on the delivery of quality eye care in the territory,” says Bobby Jarrell, O.D., executive committee chair of the AOA State Government Relations Center. “The petition in Puerto Rico will have the same effect on their legislative effort as it would here in the United States—it would serve to raise public awareness of the need to pass legislation.”
In addition to alerting optometrists and the public nationwide, members of the Colegio de Optometras de Puerto Rico (its equivalent of a state association) have also been working on a grassroots level with lawmakers, Dr. Jarrell says.

“The optometrists in Puerto Rico are every bit as politically-talented and motivated as any here in the United States,” he says. “We have seen a lot of progress from the COPR leadership and we are confident they will pass TPA legislation in the near future.”

For now, though, “The government of Puerto Rico, by not allowing this legislation to be successful, is systematically discriminating against its own citizens and purposely allowing a substandard of care,” Dr. Negrón’s petition says.

To read the full petition, go to: