There is nothing good about a pandemic especially if you are part of the vulnerable group with the worst outcomes (the older patients). As a Retina Specialist, we deal with a large population of older patients that need injections of sight saving drugs on a routine basis. If these people do not get their injections on time, then there is irreversible vision loss for them. As an older physician, I am part of the group over 50 years of age and I am vulnerable as well, so keeping the practice as a safe place for these patients is of the utmost importance to all.
It is not fun getting a Covid PCR test but it is not that bad and is easily available just across from the Vidant Health Club. It took 1/2 hour to complete. I survived it and it is negative (see 12/19/20 photo). As the physician in the practice, I will also get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect my patients, my staff and myself from this disease. We are all in the high risk group and should take care to protect each other (observe the 3 “W’s”: Wear a Mask, Wait 6 feet apart, Wash hands).
The Doctor (me) has been vaccinated twice in order to protect the doctor but also to protect the patients as I am very close to the patient for exams and injections. The staff are next. I continue to wear the TWO MASKS (one paper surgical mask and a home made double layer mask on top) as that provides everyone with more protection. We started to do this last year in February to conserve the surgical masks as they were hard to get. Using two in combination allows you to use the surgical mask for several days and the cloth one can be washed as often as desired. It increases the filtration and increases the protection of everyone.
We have taken the CDC’s guidelines seriously and have made many changes to keep everyone as safe as possible. Here are a few notable changes:
1 – We have limited our patient volume to these patients that cannot skip injections of the sight saving drugs for Age Related Macular Degeneration and to emergencies like retinal detachments, vitreous hemorrhages (Diabetic) and certain acute glaucoma issues. As the stay at home orders are lifted then full service will be restored.
2 – A long time ago we renovated the building to place hand washing sinks in all the exam rooms as hand washing has always been a good idea.
3 – We keep the wait times to a minimum in order to have as few people in the office at any one time as possible (Social distancing). This means that the office visits are very focused on getting the medications given and the patient is on the way home quickly.
4 – We check the staff for symptoms and temperatures routinely and would quarantine anyone if we get that problem.
5 – We wipe down the rooms and contact surfaces like door knobs and chair handles between patients. Extra deeper cleaning is done after hours on a nightly basis.
6 – We ask all patients, drivers and staff to bring and wear masks in the building all the time.
7 – We have a telemedicine internet portal that can be used to have virtual face to face exams, test results communicated and questions answered. Exams have to be done in person but the discussion and question answering could be done from home via Telehealth Video conference limiting the time at the office.
8 – Only the new patients are allowed to have a care giver in the exam room to limit exposure, drivers and others are asked to remain in their cars.
9 – Hand sanitizer is offered to patients when needed. Sinks are in the exam rooms for hand washing.
10 – Extra rooms have been converted into waiting areas in order to separate the patients and give more distance.
There are many other things not mentioned here that are being done to make this as safe as possible for all visitors to the practice. No one can guarantee total safety if you leave your home and come to the office but we strive to make it as safe as possible. The price for not coming to the office is possibly preventable blindness.
Here is a template to make Covid Shields for Slit Lamps out of clear acetate sheets to protect the Patients, Doctor and Technicians…
Stay safe. Sincerely, Peter Van Houten, M.D.