Comment: At Maycock Eyecare, adapting procedures to safely take care of patients

A commentary by the owner of Maycock Eyecare, a third-generation family business that opened in Victoria in 1949. Part of our continuing series on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses.

As we cautiously reopen our clinic and optical dispensary, we are truly grateful to reunite with our team, our patients, our customers and other businesses in Victoria as we return to our new normal.

This will include mandatory hand sanitizing upon entering the office, donning of face masks by all staff and patients, increased time spacing between eye exams and a meticulous focus on office cleaning and disinfection.

We are confident that although the flow of the office may feel a little different, we will still be able to provide the level of service that patients have come to expect since opening our doors more than seven decades ago.

Closing our storefront to the public on March 17 was one of the most difficult decisions that we have had to make as business owners. In our family business’s 71-year history, we have never been closed for more than four days in a row, but we knew at the time it was the right decision to make.

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Heeding Dr. Bonnie Henry’s recommendations and those of the B.C. College of Optometrists to discontinue all routine eye care and any in person sales of eyewear or contact lenses, we knew we had to do our part to help flatten the curve, protect our staff, protect our patients and protect ourselves.

As optometrists in British Columbia, we write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses but we also diagnose and treat eye disease. So even though we shut our clinic physically to routine care, our college asked us to continue to provide urgent eye care to patients. From eye infections to retinal detachments, these issues needed to be effectively and efficiently diagnosed and managed in a safe manner.

Like many family practices throughout Victoria, the safest way to manage patients is with telemedicine. Thankfully, most people today have smartphones and we have been able to conduct examinations remotely through video links or phone calls.

If we have been able to confidently diagnose the patient’s issue and can treat the problem, we provide that patient with a prescription and treatment plan. And if our remote examination reveals that the patient requires further in person evaluation or surgery, a referral to the ophthalmologist on call is made. This system has ensured that patients with eye and vision related issues do not end up in emergency rooms taking up resources that may be better allocated to others and also not place the patient in danger of potential COVID-19 infection.

The biggest challenge for our business has been lost or broken glasses. Clear vision is essential and it becomes an urgent situation when someone is unable to access their glasses or contact lenses. Fortunately, we have been able to refill contact lens prescriptions electronically with direct delivery to patients and spectacle reproduction and repairs have taken place through a drop box at our office front door.

When we decided to close our physical storefront, we also made the decision to send home all of our team members but kept them on the payroll. These valuable individuals have been instrumental in our success over the years and we did not want to risk losing anyone.

The federal government’s program to contribute up to 75% of our payroll has helped tremendously to facilitate this decision and has enabled their immediate return this week as we begin our reopening.

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