The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect everything from staff shortages at restaurants and less produce at grocery stores to limited mask supplies at hardware shops and overbooked doctor’s offices.
And that includes eye doctors.
Some optometry offices in the Historic Triangle have been seeing a lot of patients during the coronavirus.
“We were busy from the get-go,” said Dr. Richard Lodwick, an optometrist at Williamsburg Eye Care.
The practice closed for the month of April but doctors were available for emergencies such as people with suddenly experiencing blurry vision and people with broken glasses who are dependent on them.
He said the practice has been busy since they reopened in the beginning of May.
The office takes several precautions such as staggering appointment times, having patients wait in their cars until their appointment time and getting them in the exam room as soon as possible, he added.
Lodwick said they try to keep their appointments on time and are seeing both emergency and regular patients.
“We keep a cancelation list,” he said. “If somebody cancels at 10 o’clock for a 1 o’clock appointment…they can get that open spot filled.”
Common eye issues the practice is seeing now are people with diabetes, those with glaucoma, cataracts, flashes and floaters, dry and even people who are in need of more contact lenses or broken glasses.
He said for patients with glaucoma, it’s important to follow up with them on a three or four month basis. But when the coronavirus hit, some people had to reschedule their appointments from March and are coming in now, four months past their initial follow up time.
In addition to seeing regular and emergency patients, the practice is also seeing new patients and they don’t have to wait long to get an appointment.
“They don’t,” he said. “Because new patients are in need of something so it’s important to get them in.”
But not every optometry office can take new patients at this time.
Colonial Eye Care is booked until the last week of August and those waiting for an annual exam won’t been seen until beginning of September.
“We try to take priority patients,” said Bethany Adkins, office manager for the practice. “Of course we make accommodations.”
The office closed from March to May but continued to do telehealth visits, she said.
Since the practice reopened, they starting seeing emergency patients before expanding their services to pediatric appointments and contact lenses exams in June.
Now they see everyone.
“The biggest things we’re seeing now is just kind of a backup of volume,” Adkins said. “So it’s not that there is a bunch different types of appointments now, we feel the pressure to see as many people as possible.”
Adkins said they have certain protocols in place like locking the front door, requiring patients to call first, temperature testing patients and asking them the COVID-19 questionnaire.
All staff wear masks and they have hand sanitizer stations throughout the office.
She said all glasses are disinfected after someone touches them and they recently bought a UV cabinet to disinfect the glasses.
“It’s like the size of a full size bookshelf,” she said, adding they previously used a saline spray to disinfect the glasses. “Any surface that can be sanitized is being sanitized.”
“The precautions and protocols have slowed things down,” she added.
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