Simonetta Morselli MD
Reallocation of resources describes both how ophthalmologists in Italy are providing necessary patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic and helping in the fight against the virus.
Some hospitals are caring strictly for COVID-19 infected patients with pneumonia, and ophthalmology patients from those facilities are being directed to the nearest hospital that has an active ophthalmology department. Most non-urgent consultations for ophthalmology, however, are suspended, said Simonetta Morselli MD, Chief of Ophthalmology, San Bassiano Hospital, Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
“Saving lives is the priority now,” she said.
San Bassiano remains a non-COVID hospital, but about 35 kilometers away in Santorso, Italy, Alto Vicentino Hospital was converted to COVID-19 patient care.
Antonio Toso MD
“Thanks to the hospitality of Dr Morselli and her team, I am treating the most critical patients from my department at San Bassiano,” said Antonio Toso MD, Chief of Ophthalmology, Alto Vicentino Hospital.
Patients with acute loss of vision, trauma, or eye pain are admitted and treated in the non-COVID hospital by teams of ophthalmic doctors and nurses from nearby COVID hospitals who tested negative for the infection.
At the non-COVID hospitals, special facilities have been created to separate COVID-negative and COVID-positive ophthalmology patients.
Patients needing urgent surgery are first screened for COVID-19. Patients diagnosed with the infection are operated on in dedicated operating theatres and kept in special areas for preoperative care and recovery.
New roles and new directions
Dr Toso observed that the ophthalmology chairs at hospitals that were converted to COVID-19 patient care have agreed to redeployment of ophthalmologists to help in other areas should the need arise.
“Two doctors from my team were recently redeployed to help with the internal medicine effort,” he said.
Graziella Parisi MD, who came on staff in October 2019, is one of those ophthalmologists, and she assisted with providing information for this article.
With ophthalmology training also suspended, Dr Morselli said she has assigned most of her trainees to researching methods for developing best practices during the pandemic, including diagnosis of COVID-19 patients and how to manage all aspects of care for infected patients. Other trainees are involved in video calls with colleagues to share experiences treating COVID-19 patients and researching ophthalmic implications of COVID-19.
After the pandemic is over, Dr Morselli expects the focus of research in ophthalmology will continue to be on eye implications of COVID-19, at least for some time. Use of electronic communication, which saves time and money, will also likely find a larger role than it did before the COVID-19 crisis.
“No one will forget this dark period, but adversity might also help us by its leading us to discover new approaches that will become a normal routine,” she said.
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