When we think about Vision 2020 : 'The Right to Sight' initiative we cannot separate both Optometrist and Ophthalmic Assistant as both are the integral part of the primary eye care. Recently there is confusion among some of our senior colleagues about this terminology.
In India, Optometrists deal with primary eye care with particular emphasis on Refraction & Dispensing, Contact Lens, detection of eye diseases and rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system, mostly from cities. Ophthalmic Assistants are also doing Refraction and Prescription in addition to the identification of eye diseases at early stages and its associated timely treatment within the purview of primary eye care at village level.
Optometrists are mostly in urban setup both in private and Govt. sectors (In Govt, Govt Hospitals, Medical college Hospitals and RIO's all are in cities). Since Ophthalmologist and Optometrist are mostly in cities there is a need for Ophthalmic medical personnel namely Ophthalmic Assistant to take care of the primary eye care exclusively for our rural common poor people.
In the absence of Ophthalmic Assistants, even for simple vision testing and treatments they have to travel more than 40 to 70 kilometers unnecessarily. Removal of foreign body and other minor day to day eye ailments are the regular responsibilities of the Ophthalmic Assistants. As per Vision 2020 there are lot of responsibilities lie on both Optometrist and Ophthalmic Assistants. Hence it is time to join hands with each other for strengthening and up gradation of our cadres.