Legislators to take up bills to allow nurses, optometrists, to treat patients

06 - UMMA Clinic Nursing

Christopher Okula/KPCC

Rosaura Guizar, a patient at the UMMA Clinic in South Los Angeles, receives medical treatment on March 12 from Simmi Gandhi, nurse practitioner. This clinic and others like it are relying more on the skills of its nursing staff as the growing number of patients strains the ratio between caregivers and those in need of medical attention.

Two bills that would broaden the ability of nurses and optometrists to treat patients will go before legislators this week.

  • The Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protections Committee has agreed on Tuesday to reconsider SB 491, which would allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without consulting a doctor.
  • The committee will also take up te companion bill, SB 492, which would allow optometrists to treat specified diseases.

SB 491 is one of three measures by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) that would expand the role of certain health professionals to address California's doctor shortage, which is expected to worsen in January. That's when the Affordable Care Act — known popularly as "Obamacare" — will require more than 5 million uninsured Californians to buy heath insurance or face a tax penalty.

RELATEDPharmacists would be allowed to provide more care to Californians under SB493

Committee members last week unanimously passed a third Hernandez measure that allows pharmacists to administer routine vaccinations and to prescribe certain drugs.  

That measure, SB 493, would also create standards for advanced practice pharmacists who could, among other duties, perform patient assessments. SB 493 is expected to go before a full vote of the assembly later this month.

The California Medical Association, which represents physicians, opposes SB 491 and SB 492. It has adopted a "neutral" position on SB 493. 

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