Practices to fully re-open in Ireland

Optometrists in Ireland are re-opening their doors from today (Monday 18 May) and are encouraging people with eyecare needs to go to their provider.

All services, both urgent and non-urgent, including routine eye exams, will be available – however social distancing and patient safety measures will be followed.

The president of the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), Patricia Dunphy, said the two major pieces of advice for the public are: “From Monday contact your optometrist if you have eyecare needs – even if non-urgent. The recommended approach is to phone the optometrist in advance to discuss your needs and to then make an appointment based on this.”

Adaptations under current safety requirements include:
– All clinically necessary tests are available but eye examinations will change to reduce contact time
– Management of numbers in the premises at one time (there is no set number as premises floor sizes vary, but the two metre principle will be followed)
– Contact with equipment minimised and sterilised after use
– Where close examinations are required, PPE will be used and recommended protocols followed
– Eye drops may be used to speed up eye exams and these patients are advised to not drive for a number of hours afterwards

The AOI is meeting with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, today (18 May) to discuss the measures being taken and also what optometrists can do to help alleviate even further increased eyecare waiting lists and demand. Prior to the pandemic, eyecare already had one of the largest healthcare waiting lists, said the Association.

Patricia Dunphy said stretched GPs had increasingly been referring cases to optometrists and the profession was available to help alleviate health system pressures as much as possible.

The AOI added that the profession should be granted prescribing rights for antibiotic eye drops to streamline services.

“There are a number of conditions where an optometrist completes an examination and makes a diagnosis, but must then refer the patient back to the GP for their prescription, said Patricia. “This includes widely used topical antibiotics for conjunctivitis, blepharitis and removal of corneal foreign bodies. We are also now in the hay fever period of the year. Optometrists are already suitably qualified to fast-track this,” she added.

Following some media references to contact lenses this week, AOI reassured contact lens wearers that it was safe to continue contact lens wear at this time. – advising: “As ever good hygiene is essential. If anyone has any queries they should contact their optometrist.”

In conclusion, the AOI called for continued public cooperation and encouraged people to phone their local optometrist in advance.