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SANCTIONS SOUGHT AGAINST 2 OPTOMETRISTS

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State licensing regulators are seeking sanctions against the licenses of two central Utah optometrists accused of violating state law by diagnosing and treating medical conditions and failing to refer patients to medical doctors.

Optometrists are not physicians. They are specialists trained to examine eyes and prescribe glasses or contact lenses.According to a petition filed with the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, optometrist Barry Paul Cook of Price saw a patient complaining of pain in both eyes, particularly in the left eye where an usual growth had developed.

The petition said Cook diagnosed the patient with bacterial conjunctivitis, sometimes known as pinkeye, where a membrane covering the white of an eye becomes inflamed causing redness, irritation and discharge.

Without making a referral to a physician, the petition said, Cook gave the patient a prescription ointment to use three times a day and scheduled a follow-up visit in 10 days.

About three months later, the patient consulted with physicians who had the growth removed. An evaluation of the lesion showed it to be precancerous, the petition said.

Cook told state licensing investigators that he dispensed the ointment on a physician's orders, the petition said, but the physician denies authorizing the medication.

Cook then told investigators that he got the ointment from a "longtime next-door neighbor" and physician who had died two years earlier, the petition said. The state later received information that Cook had purchased numerous prescription drugs from a wholesale drug company in Tennessee, the petition said.

A hearing for Cook before the state optometrists licensing board is scheduled Aug. 9.

In a separate case, optometrist Richard Layne Luekenga, in Richfield, saw a patient who had undergone a corneal transplant or graft in his left eye 15 years ago because of damage to the cornea caused by herpes simplex, according to a petition filed with the division.

The patient went to Luekenga complaining of pain and hazy vision in his left eye. Luekenga diagnosed the condition as Fuchs' dystrophy - where the cornea swells with fluid and becomes thickened and opaque - and treated it with hypertonic sodium chloride, the petition said. He also suggested the patient use a contact lens, which is not recommended for a graft that has had herpes simplex, the petition said.

"Luekenga did not refer (the patient) to a physician, even though the patient presented a history of corneal graft, evidence of swelling of the cornea and a sudden change in vision," the patient said.

Two days later, the petition said, the patient was admitted to Veterans Administration Hospital where exams suggested a "dire emergency for the eye" and that it was unlikely his corneal graft would survive.

A hearing for Luekenga before the state optometrists licensing board is scheduled July 26.