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Calls to OA reveal issues optometrists are most concerned about

One in 10 Optometry Australia (OA) members surveyed during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reported contacting the organisation for advice on issues ranging from employment and tax matters, to practice hygiene.

One-third (33%) of all calls to OA’s member support service related to employee entitlements, 29% were about the JobKeeper program and 20% were on patient management and infection control, according to OA’s survey findings.

Details on the types of issues affecting optometrists were outlined in a survey OA conducted in late May involving 3,290 members to understand the impact of the initial lockdown.

“Not only were the members that we spoke to grateful for the call, their resilience shone through with the majority saying that they were travelling OK,” OA stated.

In addition to its one-on-one member support service, OA coopted the services of Optometry Finance Australia and RMS Accounting which also offered advice on JobKeeper, JobSeeker, tax, rental assistance and business continuity as well as Industry Legal Group who provided human resources advice for employees and employers.

The organisation noted an increased anxiety among members about the future, with 61% surveyed believing it would become increasingly difficult to find employment as an optometrist and 76% believing salaries would be compromised due to oversupply.

Cost-saving measures and communication tools were among the top three most valued services offered to members in April 2020, the report found.

The majority (92%) of members nominated OA’s 50% membership fee discount offer as highly valuable.

“We understood that the pandemic would have a significant impact on members’ financial wellbeing. We worked with all state divisions to offer a discount on FY20/21 membership fees with no payment required until October 2020 and a promise that no member services would be impacted as a result of federation’s reduced income,” OA reported.

Access to the organisation’s webcasts was the second most valued service with 79% of members nominating OA’s webcasts as highly valuable. This came amid growing anxiety among optometrists surrounding their CPD commitments in line with Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) regulations.

“We set ourselves a goal to ensure members had access to quality accredited face-to-face education during the lockdown and beyond by ramping up delivery of our popular webcasts. Normally offered every six to eight weeks, we delivered four in April and have followed up every 10-15 days since,” OA said.

The organisation’s online COVID-19 hub also proved popular during the first wave of the pandemic, with 3,020 members visiting the hub in April.

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