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  • FAQ for Optometrists re: PPE and urgent, in-person care

    March 27, 2020

    1. Why are there new recommendations about PPE?

    The College continues to monitor the situation, consult with stakeholders, and update our recommendations based on currently available information. Our recommendations on providing urgent care during COVID-19 are intended to ensure patients have access to urgent care, while reducing the number of patients who visit emergency rooms.

    Our recommendations to the profession are based on the information we have at the time. At this time, optometrists are being asked to follow stricter recommendations regarding protection.

    2. I have already been providing urgent care in-person without PPE – am I at risk?

    Since early March, optometrists have been screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms and rescheduling patients who are feeling unwell. Optometrists have also been following standard cleaning and hand hygiene protocols. These steps reduce the risk of transmission.

    There is now stronger evidence for community-based transmission of COVID-19, which has led to stricter recommendations regarding protection.

    Optometrists who have returned from out-of-country travel, or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, should be self-isolating and seeking care as needed.

    3. What if I don’t have PPE?

    If you do not have access to PPE, you do not need to acquire it. PPE is in short supply and still being prioritized for front-line care providers.

    Optometrists who do not have PPE can take patient calls and emails to assess if a patient’s issue is urgent. Depending on the situation, optometrists may be able to offer care remotely (e.g., by phone).

    If a patient has an urgent eye issue and is not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing), optometrists without PPE can refer them to a colleague who has access to PPE and is providing urgent in-person care. Optometrists can search the Public Register to see which optometrists are providing care.

    Patients with COVID-19 symptoms and urgent eye issues should be referred to the local emergency room.

    4. What if I do have PPE?

    If you have PPE and are currently providing in-person urgent care, continue to do so. Urgent cases should be considered conditions or injuries to the eye that threaten loss of vision.

    If you have not already done so, update your profile in the Member Login to indicate you are providing care. The public, and other optometrists, can search the Public Register to confirm who is providing urgent care at this time.

    If you have PPE and are not providing in-person care, consider donating it to a colleague who is providing in-person care or your nearest hospital.

    5. If I don’t have PPE, where do I send patients?

    Optometrists can search the Public Register to see which optometrists are providing care to both their own or others’ patients.

    Patients with COVID-19 symptoms and urgent eye issues should be referred to the local emergency room.

    6. Is a particular brand of gloves/mask/PPE recommended?

    The College is not in a position to recommend specific brands of various PPE, other than N-95 masks, which represent the best protection.

    Public Health Ontario has resources related to infection control practices that may be helpful to optometrists. Optometric colleagues, interprofessional colleagues, and the Ontario Association of Optometrists may be able to answer specific questions or provide recommendations as to PPE currently in use.

    7. Do I need every piece of PPE listed? i.e., mask, gloves, slit lamp shield, goggles.

    Ideally, hands, mouth, nose, and eyes should be covered by PPE. In some cases, two items may serve the same purpose – for example, goggles and other face shields may both be covering the eyes.

    Optometrists should use their professional judgement and knowledge of the products available to them to determine if they are appropriately covering all high-risk areas.