Since February, Moroccan opticians and ophthalmologists have been at war over a new law on the right to practice refraction tests. Opticiens protested again today outside Parliament.
Rabat – The refraction test, also simply called a vision test, determines what type of prescription is needed for glasses or contact lenses.
A controversial legal provision proposal, Article 6 of Law 45-13, states opticians will no longer have the right to perform vision tests, unless permitted by regulations.
Opticians are furious. They are currently able to perform vision tests and prescribe glasses to their clients, and they want to retain that right.
On the other hand, ophthalmologists claim that refraction is a medical procedure, which therefore falls in their field of expertise, in accordance with law 131-13 on medical practice. They claim on that basis that opticians should not have the right to perform vision tests.
They also argue that opticians have a conflict of interest by both performing vision tests and selling glasses. They warn against the free vision tests offered by opticians, in a bid to boost glasses sales.
While the conflict between the two professions only gathered momentum at the start of 2019, the plan to amend the law started back in 2015.
In 2015, the Ministry of Health proposed a law which allowed opticians to perform refraction tests in certain specific circumstances. Opticians criticized the proposal as it made its way through the parliamentary process.
Ophthalmologists only became aware of the proposal in early 2019, so until then were absent from the debate. On finding out about the law, they jumped on an opportunity to seek an amendment before the amendment deadline in March 2019.
A legislative battle followed, with opticians and ophthalmologists each proposing amendments.
On June 3, opthamologists protested outside the Ministry of Health in Rabat.
On June 4, the Ministry of Health proposed the latest version, under which opticians will no longer have the right to perform the vision tests.
On June 12, over 2000 opticians this time, from across Morocco, protested outside the Ministry, and again on June 19.
The law is currently sitting with the House of Representatives. The date of the second reading has not yet been set. The law could again be modified.
In the meantime, opticians are ramping up their protests. The Moroccan National Syndicate of Opticians argues their right to refraction comes from training approved by the Ministry of National Education. They emphasize that they have been exercising it for 65 years, under a decree from 1954 regulating their profession.
On June 26, the opticians syndicate organized another strike and a sit-in outside Parliament in Rabat.
A further strike and sit-in will take place on July 3 and July 10.