Background and Objectives:
To describe the experience of a large American academic ophthalmology department from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to the early recovery phase in Summer 2020.
Retrospective review; description of approaches taken by our academic medical center and department regarding supply chain issues, protection of doctors and staff, elimination of nonurgent care, calls for staff and faculty deployment, and reopening. Comparison of surgical and clinic volumes in suburban locations versus the main campus; analysis of volumes compared with pre-pandemic periods.
At our medical center, screening and precautions (such as the mask policy) continued to evolve from March through August 2020. Ophthalmologists were not allowed to use N95 respirators except in rare circumstances. Surgical and clinic volume dropped at both urban and suburban locations, but surgery rebounded more quickly at suburban surgery centers once elective procedures resumed. Mandates from administration were not always attainable.
During respiratory pandemics such as COVID-19, medical centers should adopt protective measures that are consistent across inpatient and outpatient sectors and consistent with other institutions. Our department's large presence outside the urban center where the main hospital is located allowed faster return of clinical care overall. In the event of another pandemic, a central budget rather than individual divisional budgets should be used for purchase of protective equipment for health care workers of an academic center. Because outpatient care provides important continuity of care and keeps patients away from emergency departments and hospitals, perhaps outpatient care does not have to be curtailed to the extent it was in Spring-Summer 2020, provided that outpatient health care workers have sufficient staff and equipment and the above measures are in place.