Efforts are afoot to ensure that India will have an Optometry Council of India (OCI) soon to regulate the profession of optometry. Optometry is the profession that involves measuring eyesight, prescribing corrective lenses and detecting eye diseases.
Just like the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) that register medical and dental practitioners, respectively, the OCI is aiming to be one. While currently it is a self-regulatory council, in future it hopes that the government will take over the council and let it function like MCI and DCI.
As of now ophthalmologists do the job of optometrists. “Everywhere in the world, the optometry council started as a self-regulatory body, and would be later taken over by the government,” said Lakshmi Shinde, CEO, Optometry Council of India. For a start, the council is registering trained optometrists. OCI began registering optometrists in the past year and it has begun to slowly register optometry colleges. Currently, there are 140 optometry colleges in the country.
As of now about 1,000 optometrists are registered with the council. Once its strength reaches 5,000-6,000, the OCI plans to approach the government to take it over and make it a regulatory body. Once there’s adequate data, OCI will push the government to make it a statutory body. “We can now ask people to go to a registered optometry practitioner,” Shinde told Business Standard.
To start with, optometry education in India is now being standardised with the Common Minimum Optometry Curriculum (CMOC) developed by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) and the Indian Optometry Federation (IOF). The CMOC has now been accepted by nine universities in India.
The country has about 16,500 ophthalmologists today. In the west, there are five optometrists for every ophthalmologist. Given the ratio of optometrists to population, it provides immense opportunity and, that too, with a course costing about Rs 70,000.
With about 42 per cent of the population having issues with their eyes, India has an acute shortage of optometrists. Currently, only 1,000 optometrist graduates are produced per annum in India. With five optometrists required per ophthalmologist, India will have a shortage of 45,000 optometrists. “At this rate, India will take 45 years to overcome the backlog,” Vivek Mendonsa, President, ASCO, told Business Standard.
With the opportunity that the profession provides, many corporates that have universities have started optometry as a discipline. It could cost Rs 40 lakh to Rs 50 lakh to start an optometry college with an intake of 30. According to Mendonsa, the government should allow for more such schools to come up. Global firms like Essilor have shown interest in starting such schools.
The CMOC developed here in India has now been accepted as a standard in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Source: Business Standards