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Are optometrists required to lock down?


So, the question remains: are optometrists supposed to go into total lock down?


This is what I have so far: From the President’s speech, here is a piece of the transcript.

Enabling Services (note: not essential services)
To assist in the Covid19 response, the following services are required to continue operations:

  • All healthcare related services be they public or private.

That includes optometry – right?

Then last night from Minister Pillay: he explained in detail how those businesses considered to be essential, should go about applying for accreditation, and here’s the thing. He then said anybody registered with the HPCSA is not required to apply for accreditation, which I take to mean, you are required to remain open.

It then begs the question, how did the SAOA and Iso Leso arrive at the decision to strongly advise their members to go into total lock down? In the case of the SAOA communication, they acknowledge in the opening remarks that they didn’t have possession of an official directive. In the case of Iso Leso, they submit in support, a directive from OSSA, which apparently made them rush to the decision to advise a lock down of their shareholders. This was done without consultation with the full Iso Leso board. Panic!

So clearly, some people took the decision upon themselves that it would be unsafe to continue to service patients. That, in my opinion, is the individual professional’s choice, although many who took the same oath, don’t have the luxury of choice. They have to put their lives and that of their families on the line, in order to save lives. Moreover, the worst is still to come. Since I don’t know the circumstances of each optometrist, which may include factors of health, family risk and other circumstance, I don’t see it as my place to criticise any colleague for being open or not. Yet, mudslinging has been the order of the day in some social media groups; “If money is your God”, “Irresponsible by escalating the spread of the virus” and this without knowledge of what measures to safeguard staff and patients were put in place. One would think, since optometry is a primary healthcare provider, an emergency service must be essential during the lock down.

I am a retired optometrist and not in the mix, so to speak, but several cases came across my proverbial desk just during the last three days. The worst was my personal friend, S. She called me for advice 3 days ago with classic detachment symptoms. She was booked for IOLs on 28 March in any case. I naturally told her she needed care immediately. Over the week-end there was nobody on call at “her” ophthalmologist’s practice. On Monday morning, she was offered an appointment the next day! Another OS saw her immediately, and operated the same afternoon. She is not doing well and doesn’t know when she will get to see the OS again. These sight threatening cases happen every day and optometry has a primary role to play in directing them.

I also know of an optometrist group who are providing emergency service at this time (I’m sure others are too). Just during the first day of lock down, they have dealt with several emergencies. Two were not their own patients, but they were in dire straits. To mention a few;  -5,00 no contact lenses, – 3,50 dog ate the specs,  granny 80 yrs lost multis. As President Ramposa said; “all health related services are required to remain open”, because our help is needed.

This is a tough time for all of us. Who knows who and what will remain standing after the storm. However, let us not lose our dignity in the process. This is a time for ubuntu, not a time to be katterig!