Hot! One-stop eye care

TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Sat Apr 09 2011.

Optometrists can now prescribe medications for their patients. That’s certainly an improvement from the old system of telling patients what was wrong — and then sending them to a doctor to get it fixed. It’s also a small, but important, step toward the kind of cost-effective, integrated care that will make Ontario’s health-care system stronger and more sustainable.

One-stop care, in this case for eye patients, frees up doctors to see other patients. Ultimately it saves taxpayers from footing the bill for unnecessary medical appointments. That’s a win for everyone. With a health budget of $47.6 billion, we need more of those.

In 2009, the province passed legislation to expand powers for other medical practitioners, including allowing pharmacists to renew or alter prescriptions without calling a doctor’s office; physiotherapists to order X-rays; and nurse practitioners to set a fracture.

The government should monitor these changes with a view to taking bolder steps. Many health-care professionals get far more training than they used to receive and can take on a bigger role in our health-care system.

Too many Ontarians still don’t have a family doctor; even those who do can find themselves attending multiple appointments to get the help they need. Allowing other medical professionals to provide some services that have long been the exclusive purview of doctors is a good step toward providing better care and curbing rising costs.

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