A tumultuous period in Tasmania has seen health care professionals from around the state and the country come together to ensure services are maintained.
It’s been a tough time for Tasmania and one that will remain etched in our memories for evermore. On 12 April, our government introduced some of the strictest lockdown laws in the country in a bid to contain a COVID-19 outbreak on the state’s north-west coast, where the city of Burnie alone had recorded 63 cases, mostly linked to the North West Regional Hospital. Among a number of restrictions, the Premier shut down nonessential businesses and closed schools to all students.
The smooth execution of these arrangements provided an excellent example of how eye care services can be maintained during a regional COVID-19 lockdown
One day later, on 13 April, the North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital, including the Eye Clinic, were shut down and hospital staff were put into a 14 day quarantine. Teams from the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Medical Assistance Team were flown to Tasmania to enable hospitals to reopen on 17 April. While the region was waiting for its hospitals to re-open, optometrists were only available for emergency eye care and ophthalmology services were completed in Launceston.
The smooth execution of these arrangements provided an excellent example of how eye care services can be maintained during a regional COVID-19 lockdown. In all likelihood this will not be the last we see during the current pandemic.
Optometry Tasmania has played a valuable role within the eye health and broader communities during the pandemic. Central to this was the collation of information on the availability of regional optometry services and their contact details. We shared this information with private ophthalmology clinics as well as the Ophthalmology Department at the Royal Hobart Hospital which in turn were able to forward the information on to their network of health practitioners.
At the time of writing, 12 of the 13 COVID-19 related deaths in Tasmania were in the north-west – a tragedy for the community. Practices in the area remained open for urgent appointments only, as was the case for most optometry practices across the rest of Tasmania.
CONFERENCING AND WEBINARS
Unfortunately Optometry Tasmania has found it necessary to cancel the 2020 Tasmanian Lifestyle Conference (TLC) due to ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions. However, we plan to be back in 2021 and will continue to deliver the successful conference program that gives so many optometrists an opportunity to visit our beautiful state.
At the time of writing this column, the World Optometry Congress 2021 is scheduled to take place in Melbourne from 2–4 September 2021, which is just after the traditional TLC weekend. To avoid a conflict with the World Optometry Congress we are planning to move TLC 2021 to another weekend – the new date will be announced as soon as it is available.
In response to the cancellation of many face-to-face conferences due to COVID-19, we have seen a number of webinars offered by Optometry Australia and the broader industry. These have been embraced with enthusiasm, with many webinar participants expressing a high level of engagement and reporting that they have enjoyed the live feedback opportunities. Zoom is now part of everyday life, and online conferencing is well established, however, we all miss the opportunity to network face-to-face. Hopefully, conferences and the ability to see and hear speakers in the same room, will regain a place in our lives in the very near future.
Jonathan Jones is the Chief Executive Officer of Optometry Tasmania.