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Thursday / August 11.
HomeminewsDoor Now Open to Overseas Optoms

Door Now Open to Overseas Optoms

The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has released a new standard that will allow overseas trained optometrists to practise in Australia. The move may come as a surprise to the industry as optometrists from overseas, in the past, have found it almost impossible to overcome the hurdles.

In essence, the OBA’s new standard says that overseas optometrists who have not completed an approved program of study will be able to apply for limited registration for postgraduate training or supervised practise and practise within a Board approved supervised practise plan.

In its Guidelines for Supervision, the OBA says that ‘supervision’ can be “direct, indirect, remote or take the form of mentoring, depending on the experience and abilities of the optometrists concerned and the requirements of the Board”. The OBA also states: “Levels of supervision are designed to ensure that the supervisee practises safely”. The supervisee is able to nominate a “suitably qualified and experienced optometrist” as their supervisor who must then be approved by the OBA.

To be eligible for supervised practice the overseas optometrist must first successfully complete the written component of the Competency in Optometry Examination (COE) conducted by the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand (OCANZ). Overseas optometrists can then sit the clinical component and, from 1 December 2014, complete the required postgraduate training in ocular therapeutics to qualify for general registration.

First they have to sit a written exam – which is entirely appropriate – and then they have to undertake a clinical component

Specsavers’ Professional Services Director, Peter Larsen, said the OBA’s decision goes some way towards alleviating the shortage of optometrists in regional Australia. “We welcome this instigation by the Board to provide greater flexibility to the workforce because there are very well qualified optometrists in countries such as the UK who have to overcome a significant hurdle to qualify in this country,” he said.

“First they have to sit a written exam – which is entirely appropriate – and then they have to undertake a clinical component, which is often just about the way we consult in our country. What the Board has appreciated is that by lowering the hurdle, there will be greater ability to get overseas optoms into the country, and that will help service areas of regional Australia currently suffering an acute shortage of optometric healthcare.”

However he said the OBA’s new registration standard will not be the panacea for the rural shortage of healthcare professionals. “What we have seen in medicine, is that migrant health care professionals are part of the solution. So while it’s not the answer to eye health shortages, applying more flexibility to the Registration Standard will help and I applaud the OBA for doing that… as I applaud any activity that is going to enable more optometric services to meet the dire healthcare needs of these communities.”

Chris Beer, Luxottica’s CEO Asia Pacific, said although the new standard “may at first glance offer a solution to the shortage of optometrists in critical regional and remote Australia… we will need to consider carefully the detail of the announcement from the Optometry Board of Australia”.

“Any move must be in line with continuing to raise the bar of eye care in Australia, while ensuring every Australian has access to world-class eye care services. There is an obvious shortage of eye care services in remote communities and Luxottica, through OPSM and its foundation, OneSight, is working hard to close this gap. We have developed a long-term, sustainable program to provide free eye care and eye health education to Indigenous Australians and Australians living in remote communities across Australia,” he added.

General Registration

The OBA has also announced that all those applying for registration for the first time from 1 December 2014 must hold qualifications in therapeutics. Optometrists who are already registered with the Board prior to this date do not need to undertake further study to maintain their registration but will have a notation stating: “the optometrist is not qualified for endorsement for scheduled medicines and is not able to prescribe schedule 4 medicines for the treatment of conditions of the eye” added to their registration. According to the OBA, this notation does not affect the practitioner’s scope of practice and can be removed from their record on completion of an approved post graduate program in ocular therapeutics.

Genevieve Quilty, CEO of Optometrists Association of Australia said the Association welcomes the release of both new registration standards.

“This is the new education standard for the profession and the registration standard provides important clarity in this area so that all initial applicants are treated equally,” said Ms. Quilty. “The Association lobbied strongly on behalf of currently practising optometrists that they be permitted to practice as they currently do without being compelled to undertake additional therapeutic training. The registration standard recognises this and allows existing registered optometrists to continue practicing without a change to their scope of practice.”

She said that OAA actively participated in the consultation processes for both registration standards on behalf of members of the Association.

“The OAA believes that both registration standards and the guideline related to supervision strike the right balance between a fair outcome for members; and the overall protection of the public through national registration in relation to the supervision of optometrists undertaking supervised practice,” said Ms. Quilty.

For details visit: www.optometryboard.gov.au.

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