Burkhard Dick MD, PhD
Burkhard Dick MD, PhD, FEBOS-CR Chairman & Director and Clinical Professor at the University Eye Hospital of Bochum, Germany spoke to EuroTimes Contributing Editor Dermot McGrath about the situation in his region.
“I am working in the University Eye Hospital here in Bochum and many of the ophthalmology practices in the region have shut down in recent weeks as there is no possibility to perform any elective surgery of any kind. We are one of the main focus points for the state of North Rhine Westphalia serving a population of several million, so we have had a lot of emergency cases. I don’t think I have ever performed as many retinal detachment surgeries per week as I have over the past week.
We are in a university hospital with quite a lot of patients on site who need monitoring, such as those not doing well after chemotherapy or transplant surgery for example. We have to secure ourselves to a high degree to ensure that COVID-19 positive patients do not gain access, because that would be a disaster for these vulnerable patients. As a result, we have an area located outside the hospital where we triage the patients coming for intravitreal injections and other necessary procedures – taking their temperature, asking them questions and taking maximum precautions to try to ensure COVID-19 positive patients are not admitted to specific parts of the hospital but are directed to our COVID emergency department. We have had to install a security team as well to ensure that only authorised personnel have access, as we have seen a lot of masks and disinfectant materials disappear with the rise in demand.
Peak of COVID-19 patients still to come
We are expecting the peak of the epidemic in the end of next week sometime. But the German healthcare system, which was already at a very high level prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, seems well equipped to deal with the surge in cases coming our way. The fact that Italy, France and other European countries were affected first has given us valuable time to prepare. For instance, our capacity in terms of ICU and ventilator care has been multiplied by the order of 2.5 in the past two weeks. A part of my own team of ophthalmologists has also been trained in emergency care, use of ventilators and is on standby as well if needed.
A lot of our efforts are going towards securing the health and safety of our ophthalmologists in this current crisis. This means ensuring all the strictest hygiene protocols are adhered to in terms of masks, eyecare, gloves, slit-lamp shields and other protective measures. The pre-triage before patients even reach the hospital is also useful in this regard. We have also divided our service into two distinct teams and are using video-conferencing and other technologies to ensure everything is working smoothly while keeping everyone as safe as possible from infection. It is still early days but we have adapted well to the current situation and I am confident that we have the staff and resources to deal with the crisis and keep our ophthalmic services working at a high level.5
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