A slight easing of restrictions that permit face-to-face care for chronic conditions has led to an uptick in appointments for Melbourne optometrists, with the sector’s peak industry body increasingly confident of a return to routine care from 19 October.
Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) representatives joined other allied health disciplines in a meeting with Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer Adjunct Associate Professor Donna Markham on Tuesday 29 September to seek further clarification about service provision levels.
Following two months of heavy restrictions, optometry in particular has been pushing for allied health professionals to return to routine care in the belief practices have adequate hygiene and triage protocols.
However, OV/SA CEO Mr Pete Haydon confirmed this was still off-limits for metropolitan Melbourne practices after Tuesday’s meeting.
“But we are now increasingly confident that routine care will be able to be provided from step three of reopening [to be announced on 19 October]. We will eagerly await that announcement because it will give members certainty around planning,” he said.
“While we continue to advocate that optometry could undertake routine care right now, we haven’t been cleared to do so, but what is encouraging is that people with chronic conditions are being seen and that’s provided an uptick in the patients.”
Under the current guidelines, Melbourne allied healthcare providers can provide face-to-face services:
- To prevent a significant deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs (such as increased frequency in treatment, significant increase in pain, specialist input, or substantial increase in recovery time as a result of delayed care).
- For assessment and diagnostic purposes for those people whose care has been delayed during Stage 4 restrictions, and where further delay likely to result in deterioration (e.g. diagnostic imaging and assessment for prescription of assistive technology)
- To provide essential pre-operative or post-operative elective surgery care.
According to OV/SA, this means optometrists can provide a broader range of face-to-face care that is necessary to prevent deterioration of visual function or eye health. Patients with chronic conditions who have had appointments delayed during this period should also continue to access the care necessary to manage their conditions.
When Victoria moves to the ‘third step’ of easing of restrictions, Markham expects people in metropolitan Melbourne can resume accessing allied health services “for all elements of their healthcare needs”, except for indoor group classes.
Haydon hoped Melbourne optometrists would have warning around the resumption of routine care so they could send patient recalls and prepare to scale up their operations.
“And now that optometrists are seeing more patients, it’s also absolutely critical they follow their COVID-safe plan in their workplaces,” he added.
Regional Victorian practices – which has been at step three of the roadmap plan since 18 September – have returned to ‘business as usual’ with a COVID-safe plan.