Covid-19 update: the importance of PPE

The following is an urgent update from the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board (ODOB) on the importance of PPE for optometrists assisting in the delivery of ‘emergency and acute’ eye care during the lock down period



Further to our communications yesterday advising that optometrists may assist in the delivery of 'emergency and acute' eye care during the lock down period, we've received a number of enquiries about access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Information on access to this has been sought and supplies are still limited.

We understand this can be seen as a barrier, but optometrists need to understand the bigger implications if safety is not considered. If they do not have the relevant PPE, the risk of transmission is increased and this is what we need to avoid. The number of infected people is skyrocketing and community transmission is happening. If they are in a position where they will have close contact it is imperative that they attend to the safety of both themselves and their patient.

Further PPE information from the Ministry of Health (MoH):

World Health Organisation rationale for using PPE:

Initially, optometrists should triage the patient over the phone. Here they need to use their clinical judgement to ascertain whether this is a true ocular emergency. They need to approach this from a COVID-19 point of view, this is critical – I can’t stress this enough. If there is a need to manage the patient, they should do so if they are able to remotely. If face-to-face examination is required, they should ensure they follow all MoH guidelines in relation to limiting others attending and social distancing, detailed recording to aid in contact tracing and making sure they carry out all hygiene processes including the use of PPE.

As there is limited access to PPE at this point in time it is recommended that optometrists call their local DHB for instructions and ideally not just go ahead and see the patient. For some optometrists, this will be easily possible, however for others, especially in more remote areas, it is recommended they contact their local DHB to discuss what management protocols they need to put in place. All DHB head of departments are aware of this process and are aware of the incoming calls. At this stage our understanding is the DHBs are currently happy, and have the capacity, to accept calls for acute/emergencies. We expect the DHBs will then discuss the case with them and arrange for the patient to be seen at the DHB, or if not possible due to location or other factors, they will discuss alternative arrangements with them, including access to PPE.

The rationale for this is, once again, restricting the transmission of COVID-19. We need to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Optometrists are only authorised to respond to emergency and acute therapeutic care situations, not day-to-day routine examinations or the sale of products or devices. 
We are in this together, let’s work through this and work through this in collaboration with others. 

If any further updates become available, these will be communicated as soon as possible.

Kia Kaha,


Jayesh Chouhan, ODOB Board Chair

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