On March 18, 2020 the government of BC advised all residents to stay home. With that, most optometry offices closed – we did not. We chose to be available – to be of service – for our patients, for the patients of general practitioners whose patients needed urgent care, and for anyone who sought our help. Although we were only open Monday though Friday 8:30 am to 12:30 pm for urgent care, if the matter was urgent to you it was urgent to us. As you read on you will discover the significant cases we managed and the contribution we made as primary eye care providers – the first level of entry for people in distress.
Staff was given the choice to work or stay home. The employer paid for parking so that the staff’s risk of exposure on public transit was eliminated. In recognition of their dedication, staff received full pay even when we were only open half days.
We were prepared for what was to be required of us. The landlord closed our building to the public so we hired an attendant to help people gain access to the elevator so that they could get to our 14th floor office. Signage was posted outside of our entrance and in our reception area explaining that our office was available for urgent care – not routine care – and to not enter if the person had COVID symptoms or had travelled and had not self isolated. We had an ample supply of hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves and sanitizing wipes on hand as any health care office should for flu season and when a red eye is assessed. Patient scheduling was modified to increase social spacing so that patient-to-patient interaction was reduced and almost zero.
Eye disease does not stop during a pandemic. People still get glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes, macular degeneration and have retinal detachments, optic nerve swelling, foreign bodies lodged in their eyes and in general just need help. Some take comfort in reassurance.
From March 19 through May 1, 2020 we only saw 17% of our usual patient volume but we managed 3 new glaucoma cases, 1 new concussion, 1 laser surgery post op (laser center had closed and the person had nowhere to go), 6 retinal detachments, 1 blow out fracture, 1 acute ptosis, 2 papilledema cases (1 unilateral), 2 sudden loss of central vision (1 was a post op complication from cataract surgery and the surgeon’s office was unavailable), 1 non covid keratitis, 1 TIA, 2 corneal foreign bodies, 1 corneal abrasion, 1 corneal ulcer, 2 iritis cases (1 of these had visited the emergency room and was misdiagnosed as having “pink eye” and given an antibiotic) and one Posner-Schlossman Syndrome seen at 7 am on the holiday Monday. Of course there were other not so exciting office visits. Regardless, we were there, ready to answer the call and to be of help when help was needed.
We returned to our full day schedule on May 4th but retained our social spacing schedule and this will remain in effect until it is no longer deemed as necessary.
This clinic has served Vancouver since 1933 and it was our pleasure to be on call and available when common sense, preparation and reasonable protocols were the tools that needed to be called upon. Pandemic should not mean panic. We hope to see you soon.