O=MEGA21 organisers have cancelled the event scheduled for September 2-4 in Melbourne, stating that it would have been unwise to postpone due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 lockdowns across Australia.
On Monday 26 July, Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) and the Optical Distributors & Manufacturers Association (ODMA) confirmed the biennial event – which is the southern hemisphere’s largest optometry conference and trade show – wouldn’t go ahead after a recent survey of exhibitors and feedback from conference delegates.
However, the CPD educational component will proceed virtually on the same dates as part of a relaunched Southern Regional Congress (SRC).
“As two leading bodies in this sector ODMA and OV/SA have an obligation to do what is best for not only our members but the industry and the profession as a whole,” OV/SA president Ms Elise Pocknee-Clem said.
ODMA chair Mr Robert Sparkes said the safety and wellbeing of members, exhibitors, visitors, staff and contractors was extremely important to ODMA and OV/SA, and given the restrictions imposed by governments, both organisations felt cancellation was the best decision.
“While there was a possibility that O=MEGA21 could be rescheduled in its original format, uncertainty around the ongoing spread of COVID‐19 together with many people’s reluctance or inability to travel, meant postponing would have been an unwise decision,” he said.
“The upcoming O=MEGA21 trade show was already a sell-out and we know everyone was excited at the prospect of meeting, and learning, face-to-face again. It is disappointing that we have had to cancel, but we would like to thank everyone involved for your ongoing understanding and support during these challenging times.”
The event will next be held in September 2023, when O=MEGA23 will be presented in conjunction with the 4th World Congress of Optometry at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.
The decision to cancel is disappointing for ODMA after its other key event – the O-Show – was cancelled last year in near identical circumstances.
Optometry education goes virtual as SRC Online
For optometrists who were relying on O=MEGA21 to obtain CPD requirements, OV/SA announced the return of SRC as a virtual education conference to take place during the O=MEGA21 dates.
OV/SA CEO Mr Pete Haydon said most lectures that were part of the O=MEGA21 program have been transferred to SRC Online and all registrations have been carried across to make it simple for delegates
“The OV/SA office will work with all delegates to ensure their CPD needs are met. While we’re saddened that we’ve needed to cancel O=MEGA21, I’m certain that SRC Online will be a great virtual conference for everyone who can come along,” he said.
“We’re working closely with production company Scene Change, who did a fabulous job with us at the hybrid Blue Sky conference earlier this year. SRC Online won’t look like a static webcam stream – it’ll look much more like a TV broadcast. It’ll be interactive, colourful, educational and fun. I encourage everyone who can come to register.”
Previously held annually between 2000 and 2018, SRC was the leading optometry clinical conference in Australia. It offered eyecare professionals a chance to come together and learn about the latest developments in the field, while viewing the latest equipment.
The program for SRC Online will be announced in the coming days.
Eyecare Plus conference postponed
Meanwhile, independent optometry group Eyecare Plus has confirmed the postponement of its biennial conference that was to be held on the Gold Coast.
It was scheduled to take place at The Star Gold Coast from 29-31 October.
“Unfortunately, the potential for extended and/or new lockdowns means planning now for interstate travel in October is almost impossible,” chair Mr Justin Durkin said, following an extraordinary board meeting.
“Even if the current outbreak that has millions of Australians in lockdown is brought under control, the threat of further outbreaks causing further lockdowns and border closures will remain high for the foreseeable future.
“Therefore, in addition to the threat of potential exposure to the virus, the risk of interstate delegates being caught up in hotel quarantine due to snap border closures is too high to be acceptable. We know this is disappointing news, and this decision has not been made lightly, but after exploring all available options we believe the decision to postpone at this time is the only prudent course of action.”
Eyecare Plus is working with venue to secure new dates for 2022.