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Italian ophtalmologists facing disaster

Italian ophthalmologists say the situation in their country is a disaster but they must show courage. Colin Kerr and Sean Henahan report

Sean Henahan

Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Dr Lucio Buratto


EuroTimes spoke with Dr Lucio Buratto who has a clinic in Milan, the current epicentre of the COVID 19 pandemic. Dr Buratto has created guidelines for protecting both staff and patients during the outbreak
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Q: What is the situation in your clinic now?

A: We are seeing very few patients. We have had to postpone almost all patient visits. We limit visits to the essential cases, such as post-operative follow-ups.
In fact we are closing this week. We will try to be open perhaps for limited hours to allow patients that must be seen. We’ve reduced the number of staff and the hours to when we really must see patients. It is a disaster, it is the same everywhere now.

Q: You created some extensive guidelines for use during the crisis?
A: We created these guidelines for our own protection. We have been using these for the last four weeks. We haven’t seen any infected patients. We have forwarded these guidelines to the Italian Society of Ophthalmology and are making this information available online.

Following our own guidelines means protecting ourselves with eye protection, gloves, masks, shielding and everything else we can do. We have staff cleaning the clinic throughout the day. We ask our staff to take their temperatures at home in the morning and the evening. We also have shielding in place between patients and staff in the waiting area.

Telephone screening is a key part of the process. We screen all patients on the phone. We ask about red eye and symptoms of conjunctivitis, as well as fever and other symptoms. We don’t accept those patients who report symptoms. We send them directly to the hospital where they can be seen by qualified people.

Q: What is your recommended policy on using tonometry and endscopy?
A: We do our best not to use any contact procedures with the patients. We have non-contact air-puff tonometry. We are not doing gonioscopy, but we can use other methods to view the anterior chamber. If we absolutely must use contact instruments we sterilize these.

Q: What about intravitreal injections?
A: We have also stopped doing intravitreal injections. This is true everywhere in Italy. Centers that used to do a hundred injections a day have all stopped. The hospitals are refusing to do any injections because they don’t want people lingering in the waiting rooms. This is terrible for our patients with maculopathy. Many have been treated for years with intravitreal injections. We fear that stopping these will be very bad for their vision.

Q: Do you have enough equipment?
A: We have enougn of everything. We ordered a lot of supplies some time ago and have enough still for several weeks. Many companies in Italy are converting to make products such as masks, gloves and cleaning systems.