COVID 2nd Wave – What to do about my eye care?
It seems like we just got to relax a little after our COVID shut down earlier this year. In Sydney, it has recently started to feel safe to go back to the shops, and to catch up with friends and family. Even our older and immune suppressed members of the community were starting to emerge from an even harsher lockdown than a lot of us had to go through. As one of the doctors at Nexus Eyecare, I have got to hear many of your stories about how you have coped through it all and what it has cost you to sacrifice your freedoms for the common good – to beat the first wave of this Pandemic.
And it has come at a high cost to some of our patients. By putting off regular eye care and socially isolating during February to June, I personally know of three patients who have become blind in an eye. A preventable blindness had they been able to keep their regular eye care appointments.
Two of these patients lost vision from wet macular degeneration when they were unable to come in for their regular eye injections. And one person lost his sight because of extremely high eye pressure causing glaucoma. All of this could have been treated.
It reminds me that, every day, we have an immense responsibility at Nexus Eyecare to help maintain people’s vision.
Sometimes it seems that what we do can seem routine, but I have realised that everyone coming to see us has the potential for visual loss and that appointments for eye care can only be delayed for so long before disasters happen. We have learned that no appointment can be considered ‘routine’.
That’s the lesson we have learned from the first wave of COVID restrictions. Now we are starting to see a new wave coming into the Sydney community. People are starting to wonder how much and how soon to self-isolate again; to avoid going out. To get strict again about hand washing and keeping social distancing.
And what about the ongoing appointments with the doctor? Should you start thinking about putting it off again? Will elective surgery, such as cataract procedures, be cancelled again?
If we suffer a second wave that restricts us again, I think we will be in a much better position to manage it. Sure, some things will be restricted, but other things will continue, because we have adapted to the risk. We have learned a lot from the first wave.
For instance, visits to the eye doctor will probably continue unless the strongest lockdown measures are imposed on the area you live in.
But many people are starting to worry about whether it is safe to go out for routine appointments.
In terms of your visit to Nexus Eyecare, let me say that firstly, we don’t consider any appointment to be routine. Visual loss creeps up silently, often and once lost, the vision may not be recoverable.
But how safe is it to get your eyes checked?
This is one of the many questions that people are asking. The top medical journal in the world, the New England Journal of Medicine, recently published an article listening to and addressing these patient concerns:
“In a survey of more than 1,300 patients at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, they said their biggest fear in returning to routine health care is the risk of getting sick from other patients. Under the appropriate circumstances and with key safety measures in place, patients are expressing a guarded willingness to reengage the health care system and resume routine care. As was the case before the pandemic, patients primarily will place their trust in health care providers.”
Our Safety Protocols to Protect You
So what can we say to help earn your trust in keeping your eye appointment or eye treatment at Nexus Eyecare or at Lakeview Private hospital?
As many of our patients already know, our Nexus Eyecare waiting rooms have been transformed to allow generous social distancing spacing. Our protocols when you arrive will question whether you or other patients are at high risk of having or spreading the coronavirus. Our waiting times are now significantly reduced in the rooms, and you will notice that you are not on the premises nearly as long as before COVID.
Masks will be worn by patients and staff when there is community spread of the virus occurring, as the eye examination often requires quite close proximity. To this end, however, we now have diagnostic equipment such as OCT scanning and ultrawide field OPTOS photography that can examine the eye without as much face to face risk of disease transmission. This is on top of our standard safety protocols:
- Every patient is required to hand sanitise before entry to the practice and at the desk (if a patient refuses to sanitise, gloves are to be worn or cannot be seen)
- Eftpos machine is wiped after every patient
- Reception desk, chairs in waiting room and front door are sanitised every hour
- Staff are trained to triage patients to reduce any risk in the practice
- Shields on instruments and equipment is sanitised after every patient
- Our staff wear gloves and/or hand sanitise after every patient
- Practice is cleaned daily by professional cleaners
Where possible, we try to make use of Telehealth consultations in situations where advice of monitoring of symptoms is all that is required. Unfortunately, however, in most cases, we will still need to examine your eyes personally if we are to do a proper job.
Keep Your Eye Appointment
So as we look ahead to the next few months, we are saying to our referrers and patients alike, that we will not be deferring regular eye care appointments, now that we have safe patient flow and social distancing sorted out. Covid will be with us for some time to come and we are determined that no further blindness will occur due to this pandemic, while at the same time keeping your visit to our rooms as safe as possible.
We have had no patients or staff catch COVID-19 on our premises and we will keep it that way.
Thank you for your support.