Shift in eye care after COVID-19

The Novel Coronavirus-2 invaded humankind in late 2019, orchestrating unprecedented global health havoc for over a year now. We seem to know much about the virus, but it is still so little to implement actions against it. New knowledge would impart a change in the pre-existing COVID guidelines.

What we used to do in the yesteryear has become a nightmare now. Therefore, not only from economy to society, humanity has come across a paradigm shift in every other aspect—eye care sector not being an exception.

The world quite recently witnessed a massive layoff of the eye care workforce. One because of institutional financial constraints, and two, there wasn’t any work left to be done as travel restrictions caused lesser client counts. On the contrary, non-urgent ocular and visual problems kept on accumulating in the community.

Care providers were returning home, and care seekers were homebound. At one point in time, this imbalance will create a service delivery crisis.

Many practices have been formally institutionalised in the health facilities, like soap and a bucket of water at the front gate of the hospital with a “No entry without mask” sign, sanitiser in each entry room, geometric shapes scribbling on the floor for mandatory social distancing while queueing, disinfection of equipment after each patient visit, and arrangement of a robust plastic shield in the slit lamp that barricades the patient field.

Each eye care taskforce was to be provided with the personal protective equipment (PPE) from a verified source. That added masks, gloves and caps are norms. Provision of enough cross-ventilation is slated where people hoard. Administrative works were deployed as ‘work from home’ model.

Also, the World Health Organisation recommended less patient interaction time as far as possible with the clinicians.

This inevitably exacted a need for adopting newer technology, for example, communicating across the room through videoconferencing and asking the client to come in only for the check-up and then leave. Many times, consulting conversations would be facilitated by telemedicine.

So, tele-ophthalmology has become a subject of practitioners’ choice in many parts of rural India. The applicability of online platforms for delivering training and lectures greatly amplified in this tenure, literally showcasing the probable landscape of future academics.

COVID-19 has, therefore, deviated the focus and resources of eye institutions elsewhere which otherwise would have been on strengthening the specialty services and maximising community projects.