Years of acrimony between Utah optometrists and ophthalmologists are on the verge of becoming nothing more than a memory.

A Senate committee Friday unanimously approved a compromise bill that would allow optometrists greater authority to administer prescription eye drops and remove foreign objects from eyes - something optometrists had sought and ophthalmologists had opposed.The compromise legislation, which has already passed the House, permits optometrists to prescribe eye drops and treat minor eye injuries provided they consult by telephone with an ophthalmologist.

"We hope this will be a permanent solution and it won't be back before the Legislature in the future," said Dr. Robert Christensen of the Utah Ophthalmological Society.

"It is not the bill we originally wanted," agreed Dr. Jeff Keller, speaking for optometrists. "But we believe the compromises are fair and equitable."

Supporters of the legislation say it will result in better eye care for rural Utahns, who now must drive several hours to the Wasatch Front to be treated for minor eye ailments that could be treated by their local optometrist.