The novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease has fundamentally changed the way we live and work around the world. It has had significant impacts on eye care. The safety of our patients is of paramount importance to us. We are following all local, state and national guidance on dealing with the pandemic. As eye specialists need to get close to the eye to examine and operate on it, this represents a risk of transmitting the virus.
There is currently conflicting evidence about whether the virus can be shed and transmitted in tears. At least one report suggests tears from infected patients may contain coronavirus, and hence may be a potential source of infection. Appropriate PPE measures for ophthalmologists and patients are critical for safe eye examination and treatment.
Impact on consultation
Our practices have rapidly implemented many changes to ensure the safety of patients and staff.
- Cleaning our equipment and technology even more thoroughly and regularly.
- Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Introducing shields on our equipment
- Reduced number of daily appointments – in line with social distancing recommendations.
- Checking temperature and screening all patients and staff for symptoms on a daily basis.
- Restricted some eye tests which cannot be performed safely due to concerns about disinfection.
Telemedicine is an excellent alternative for many patients who are at high risk. I am happy to perform telemedicine video consultations and can perform basic eye assessment in children and adults using web-based and mobile apps.
Impact on surgery
Elective eye surgery had initially been restricted by the Australian Federal Government, but is now opening up slowly. Some surgery has had to be deferred. Each surgical case is assessed on urgency and will be performed as soon as it is safe to do so. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists guidelines can be found here. The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s guidelines are here. If you have any questions on how we are addressing coronavirus in our practice, please contact us.