Melbourne optometrists have returned to provide the full scope of routine face-to-face services, ending a 10-week period of heavy operating restrictions.
Victorian Premier Mr Dan Andrews delivered the news for all allied health professionals on Sunday 18 October, with optometrists now recalling and prioritising tens of thousands of patients who haven’t accessed care since early August.
It will come as relief to optometry providers and advocates who for months have lobbied for an earlier resumption of routine care, stating that practices have adequate hygiene and triage protocols.
Metropolitan Melbourne optometrists have been limited to in-person care for urgent cases since 6 August, with that criteria broadened slightly on 29 September to include chronic conditions.
Sunday’s announcement now means a return to the full scope of services.
“We’re very pleased optometrists can recommence routine care for patients,” Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) CEO Mr Pete Haydon said.
“We now anticipate and hope that optometrists are going to be extremely busy over the next period and we know they have really good protocols in place to do that in a safe way.”
In recent weeks, Haydon said optometrists had become increasingly busy caring for patients with chronic conditions.
“The return to routine care and the extra opportunities that brings is great for the eye health of the community, and is much needed to support optometry practices, many of whom rely on refractive work and the sale of spectacles and other products,” he said.
“It is this part of an optometrist’s work that has suffered the most during this second lockdown, particularly in metro Melbourne.”
Haydon added: “We have supported government and community efforts to get the second wave of infections under control. At the same time, though, we have been advocating for several months that optometry is a very safe profession that could have opened up earlier. We argued that the healthcare needs of the greater public best served by people being able to see their optometrists.
“We’re therefore very pleased that the government has taken the decisions announced on Sunday and that we don’t have to wait any longer.”
OV/SA and Optometry Australia would be reminding the metropolitan Melbourne community and beyond of the importance of regular eye examinations and maintaining good eye health through its Good Vision for Life initiative and the broader media.
Mr Paul Bott is an executive director and general manager of optics for Specsavers Australia and New Zealand, which oversees 87 stores in Victoria.
“We’re obviously very pleased that in-person routine care can be re-established. This means we can recommence patient recalls and prioritise care to those who need it most,” he said.
“In addition, this is great news for our tireless teams at Specsavers stores all over Victoria, the store partners and their staff. We now look forward to a safe and sensible bounce back.”
Eyecare Plus national business development manager Mr Philip rose said the organisation’s independent Melbourne practices were already reporting strong demand for appointments.
“This resurgent demand will just need to be placed within the framework of the required ‘COVID Safe Plan’ for each practice,” he said.
“Our practices are accessing our end of year marketing tools and we are advising all practices to increase their messaging to their local communities via social media.”