• 17 MAR 20

    COVID-19 FAQ for Optometrists

    Updated March 25: the College recommends that only optometrists with access to PPE provide in-person, urgent care.

    1. Am I required to close my office?

    The College of Optometrists is strongly recommending that optometry offices offer urgent care only at this time. Optometrist should be available to patients to answer questions, either by phone or email, and provide urgent care as needed.

    The College cannot require a closure. However, optometrists should consider the best interests of their patients and communities in light of the fact that Ontario has declared a state of emergency, and that the Canadian government has strongly urged all Canadians to practice social distancing.

    2. How do we determine what is “urgent care”?

    Optometrists should use their clinical judgment in determining what is urgent and requires immediate care. Generally, it is any issue that could be vision-threatening, based on symptoms, conditions, patient history, or injury.

    3. What do I do if a patient calls with an urgent situation, but is feeling unwell or has recently returned from outside of Canada and should be self-isolating?

    Optometrists need to be available to patients, as indicated in the College’s statement regarding urgent care. This can be done via phone or email.

    If a patient has possible symptoms of COVID-19 and urgent care may be required, you should consult an ophthalmologist or access the ophthalmologist on-call, depending on the arrangements in your community. If no other options are available, patients with symptoms of COVID-19 who require urgent eye care can be referred to the emergency room.

    4. Do we have the right to refuse to treat someone who has cough, fever or is generally unwell?

    Optometrists need to be available to patients, as indicated in the College’s statement regarding urgent care. This can be done via phone or email. It does not need to happen in person.

    If a patient has possible symptoms of COVID-19 and urgent care may be required, you should consult an ophthalmologist or access the ophthalmologist on-call, depending on the arrangements in your community. If no other options are available, patients with symptoms of COVID-19 who require urgent eye care can be referred to the emergency room.

    5. Can we get access to masks or other personal protective equipment (PPE)?

    We recognize that most optometrists do not have access to PPE.  Based on information from public health units, that is unlikely to change. PPE is currently being prioritized for front-line workers.

    6. I’m an independent contractor who only sees non-urgent cases. Do I simply stop working? If I stop working, what financial supports are available?

    Independent contractors determine what professional services are provided to patients and it is appropriate to defer routine care for the time being, per the College’s statement regarding urgent care.

    Optometrists should use their professional judgment and consider

    • How they will remain available to respond to patients who may be experiencing emergencies (either by phone and/or email);
    • How they will triage urgencies (e.g., will you come into the office, or are you aware of colleagues whose clinics will be open and better able to accommodate emergencies).

    Questions related to financial support, employment insurance, and business practices would be best answered by the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). Tel: 800-540-3837

    7. How do I manage staffing for urgent-only care? Should staff be laid off so they can access employment insurance? Should I reduce staff?

    The OAO is best suited to answering questions regarding business practices. Tel: 800-540-3837

    8. Can I bill OHIP for services provided over the phone?

    Optometrists cannot bill telemedicine consult fees to OHIP at this time. The OAO is currently working on this issue.

    9. What if patients need to pick up glasses or contact lenses that were ordered prior to COVID-19 and are now ready?

    In most cases, patients can be asked to wait to pick up new glasses or contact lenses. For those who wear contact lenses and are running out, check if the patient has backup glasses that can be used in the interim.

    If the patient truly requires the new glasses or contact lenses within the next two weeks, schedule a specific time when they can come pick up the devices, after confirming they are not experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath. As per a recent update to OPR 6.4 Spectacle Therapy, optometrists can also deliver eye wear without an in-person fitting (i.e., by mail) as appropriate.

    10. What if I have recently been selected for a random practice assessment?

    The College will suspend random practice assessment notifications until further notice.

    For optometrists who have already been notified and are in the process of accumulating patient records for their assessments, the College will be in touch.