In April, optometrists in Ontario, Canada gained expanded scope of practice privileges, which will allow them to prescribe medications for conditions ranging from routine bacterial eye infections to more serious diseases, including glaucoma.

“This is great news for our patients and everyone in Ontario,” notes John Mastronardi, O.D., of Windsor, President of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). “Most of our members have been educated and trained to prescribe medications for years. We are pleased that the Ontario government has made changes that will broaden access to medically necessary services across the province."

The change is also expected to alleviate wait times in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for patients with eye-related problems. While Ontario is one of the last Canadian provinces to enact this regulation, this new regulation has the widest scope in Canada and brings about the most benefits to patients, according to the OAO.

Effective immediately, accredited Ontario optometrists can prescribe medication to treat eye diseases and conditions, including:

  • Bacterial and viral eye infections
  • Red eye due to contact lens wear
  • Eyelid infection and inflammation
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Eye pain
  • Allergies affecting the eyes
  • Superficial foreign bodies
  • Glaucoma

In addition to Ontario’s recent legislation, the Alberta Association of Optometrists recently ratified a new three-year agreement with Alberta Health and Wellness that expands coverage for medically necessary optometry services to all Albertans under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.

Since October 2007, Albertans between 19 and 64 years of age who required medical treatment for eye-related diseases and illness had been covered under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. Starting this October, that coverage expands to include all Albertans, no matter their age, who need an optometrist to provide certain medically required services. Examples of treatments include the following diseases/conditions: diabetes mellitus; glaucoma; cataracts; removal of foreign bodies from the eye; retinal detachments, defects, and other retinal disorders; and disorders of the eye, globe, eyelids and cornea.

Previously, Albertans 65 years of age and older or 18 years of age and younger, would have had medically necessary treatments paid for through a mix of Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan coverage or private insurance plans.

The new agreement will run from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2014.