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Backgrounder(s) & FactSheet(s):Backgrounder




For Immediate Release


March 1, 2009

Ministry of Health Services




VICTORIA – British Columbians now have more choice in accessing eye health services under a new Optometrists Regulation that enhances the scope of practice for optometrists and creates new requirements for eye wear prescriptions, announced Health Services Minister George Abbott today.


Abbott also appointed nine members to the board of the newly created College of Optometrists of British Columbia. The profession of optometry has now transitioned under the Health Professions Act, and the college is the official licensing and regulatory body for all optometrists in the province, replacing the Board of Examiners in Optometry.


“This new Optometrists Regulation reflects our February 2008 throne speech commitment to ensure health-care providers have the opportunity to utilize their full scope of training and expertise,” said Abbott. “I am also pleased to welcome the new board of the College of Optometrists.”


With an enhanced scope of practice, qualified optometrists have the authority to diagnose and treat common eye diseases, to prescribe, dispense and administer topical prescription medications and to remove a superficial foreign body from a patient’s eye.


To protect patient safety, the regulation requires optometrists to have successfully completed a certification course before administering, prescribing or dispensing prescription medication. The optometrist must also notify a patient’s medical doctor of any medications prescribed or administered. Additionally, beginning in April 2009, the College of Optometrists of B.C. will receive access to B.C.’s PharmaNet database system so that it can monitor optometrist prescribing patterns.  The college will also establish standards of practice for prescribing based on the recommendations of an inter-professional committee that includes a medical doctor, a pharmacist and a Ministry of Health Services representative.


“We are committed to ensuring that B.C.’s optometrists deliver the highest standards of vision care and are pleased that B.C. is moving forward and expanding the scope of practice for our profession,” said Dr. Paul Neumann, president of the B.C. Association of Optometrists. “This move recognizes the current education and training of optometrists and will benefit patients by helping to reduce delays in treatment.”


The new regulation also includes the requirement that a copy of a prescription for eyeglasses be given to a patient free of charge and that the prescription not state or imply that only an optometrist can dispense eyeglasses. If contact lenses are fitted using the prescription information, a copy of the contact lens specifications must also be given to the patient free of charge. 



As a self-regulating professional college, the new College of Optometrists of B.C. will work in the public interest to ensure the optometry profession is held accountable to defined standards of practice. The college’s newly appointed board is made up of six professional members and three public members. To ease the transition process, most of the new appointees are former Board of Examiners in Optometry members. 


Future college boards will be comprised of both elected professional members and appointed public members. The current board’s professional members will remain in place until the first election is held by June 1, 2010. The current public members’ appointments run until September 2010.


Over the past year, the Province has made a number of changes to increase the openness and transparency of B.C.’s health profession regulatory process in order to protect patients and the public. By June 2009, the professions of pharmacy, chiropractic, medicine and dentistry will also have transitioned under the Health Professions Act and, as of Nov. 1, 2008, all health profession colleges governed by the Act are required to provide the public with information about disciplinary actions taken against their members.


Additionally, in December 2008, British Columbia announced that it is the second Canadian province, after Ontario, to establish an independent health professions review body. The Health Professions Review Board will have the power to review the timeliness and outcome of health regulatory college decisions and will soon begin receiving applications for review.




High-quality audio clips of Minister Abbott speaking about the new Optometrists Regulation are available at:






 1 backgrounder(s) attached.





Bernadette Murphy

Media Relations Manager

Ministry of Health Services

250 952-1887 (media line)

250 213-9590 (cell)


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