WE ARE OPEN!
There is less good news right now than we would like, but here is one of them: you can make an appointment with your ophthalmologist again. I recently spoke over the phone with Arthur Benjamin about how the BEI office works in the new environment. However as a patient I was able to make an appointment without any calls – through the website.
– Doctor, I believe you have a message to our readers?
– After two months of quarantine we are back in service! We carefully prepared for everything to be safe and effective. I’ll tell you about all the stages, since many ask questions in this regard. Like everyone, we had to change the protocol. Firstly, all of our employees, including myself, were tested for the presence of the Covid-19. Tests have shown that none of us have this virus. Secondly, we have been serologically tested for antibodies. The results were also negative. We thought for a long time and developed methods for conducting our practice in these new conditions in light of the recommendations of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. And here is what we came to. The usual waiting room has been eliminated, and instead a virtual waiting room has been created. The main point: to minimize the time spent by the patient in the office. All design stages are carried out at a distance, i.e. at home, through our website and/or special phone application.
– What does it look like in practice?
– The patient is registered, they photograph all kinds of documents, an insurance card, a health form – and send it to us. When the time for the visit has come, they arrive at the building. There is no more valet at the parking lot, they will just show you where to park. In other words, no one will get into your sterile car and disturb everything in there. So you are in the lobby. Now you “text” us, we inform you that everything is in order and that you may come up. You can enter the lobby only by wearing a mask first, so the chance of catching a virus there is very small. Everything is marked, hand sanitizers are available (in the bathrooms, by the way, everything is now arranged so that you cannot touch anything at all), and the elevators still work. But those who avoid elevators, can take the stairs if the 7th floor is a feasible option for them.
– When I turn from a correspondent into a patient, I park on Doheny Drive, where there is always a place. So, the patient has come to you on the seventh floor. What’s next?
– The door to the office is closed, but the doorbell rings. You ring it, an employee comes to you and first of all makes sure that you have a mask on your face, and there is no one else in the corridor. Then we measure the temperature with a contactless device. If we see that your mask is not reliable enough, then we give you a surgical mask and a special sanitizer so that you can wash your hands. Now both you and the people in the office are protected.
– Can I come with my sanitizer from Rite Aid?
– That professional sanitizer that we give, you will not buy in Target or in Rite Aid: it guarantees the cleanliness of your hands for the next 6 hours. Even if someone inadvertently does not notice signs that we have hung everywhere which ask not to touch anything, and yet touch their face or door handle, the layer of this sanitizer is such that it will protect both the patient and those around him. After that, we will escort you to your personal room, in which all surfaces are already wiped with a special solution. A green flag indicates this. All employees have a radio, so if someone leaves the room to conduct a test on a diagnostic machine, everything is done in concert. The chances that you will meet another patient along the way are very small. Everything organized so that in one room there is one patient. By the way, it is better to register a few days in advance. But if something suddenly doesn’t work out for you, then our employees will help you do it – behind closed doors.
– For example, I came, went through all the stages, the doctor looked at me. And then what? I’m going back, but is there another patient to meet me?
– When the examination and testing is completed, an employee guides you through the back exit. The whole process flows like a river in one direction: from the main entrance to the exit through the other door.
– And how does the optics boutique work, if it works at all?
– No virus can cancel myopia, astigmatism or hyperopia. People still need glasses or contact lenses, so the boutique is open. Naturally, there is a protocol for cleansing glasses. Fortunately, our optics boutique is isolated, and there are no more than one patient in it at a time. By the way, every night, when all the doctors leave, a total disinfection is carried out in the building. Professionals with sprayers process all surfaces in the building, including the bathrooms, corridors, elevators, garages, etc.
– You also have a laser room. Is the laser itself sheathed?
– We are responsible for our laser room. They work on walls and skirting boards, but all work surfaces are on us. Frequent surface treatment makes the procedures as safe as possible.
– What are the main problems you have encountered, aside from the obvious?
– It has become very difficult to do operations in terms of logistics. After all, surgical centers also experience difficulties. Meaning, they cannot do the same volume of operations. I used to operate on Thursday, now it can be any day. I had to re-equip the operating room so that there was so-called negative pressure. In any room where the air conditioner works, the pressure is usually positive, i.e. air begins to flow out of all the cracks it finds. For the operating room, this alignment is not very good. The patient is lying on the table, for instance, he has an intubation, and if there is a virus in the air, then it will spread along with the air – to nearby corridors, waiting rooms, etc. With an infectious respiratory disease, it is important that the air, on the contrary, is sucked into the room, filtering in its path. In this case, there is no risk of a situation when the patient comes to have a cataract procedure, and next to them lies a patient with Covid-19, who, say, has retinal detachment, and who also needs help. Such a scenario is extremely unlikely in our practice, since patients with the virus are isolated. But even if someone missed something (sometimes the test may turn out to be a false negative), then even in this case the virus does not get into the general circulation. Making the procedure safe is expensive and takes a lot of time, so the volume of operations in surgical centers has decreased. Accordingly, if someone needs an operation, then they should not be putting it off because the whole process can take several weeks.
– What about LASIK? You did it in your laser room, not in the surgical center. Or are there no people willing today?
– Did and are still doing. I have already conducted this operation twice today. Surprisingly, LASIK somehow “exploded”, and there are almost more patients than before. Perhaps since the glasses fog up when wearing a mask, and this is very uncomfortable, people need to get rid of their glasses. I have a fellow ophthalmologist in Houston, and he says they have the same thing.
– It seems that your office was in a rut for a couple of weeks, and, as always, a charge of optimism comes from you.
– I have no choice! Nothing lasts forever, including the bad. Everything is gradually getting better. If before we saw 45-50 patients a day, and people sometimes had to wait 15 minutes, if not more, then now we see at 20-25 patients, so fewer people have to wait long. The process goes quickly and smoothly. As always, we will be happy to help everyone who is tired not only from the various stressful events, but also from poor eyesight. The world is still beautiful and worth seeing in all its details.