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Rural people accept the changes

By Laurence Outim

Angela Morris Optometrist in Bathurst NSW has been operating for 21 years, but it’s safe to say – we’ve not faced anything like the effects of COVID-19!

In 2020, acting on government advice, initially we were only open for emergency and urgent cases by appointment only, with the front door locked. In recent times we are getting used to a ‘new’ normal with usual Monday to Friday opening hours but with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. We have to take all precautions possible as many of our clientele are elderly and are at severe risk if exposed to COVID-19. Such changes include:

  • extra sanitisation of consulting room equipment, frames and counters between consultations
  • limiting the number of appointments in a day to allow time for extra cleaning
  • using masks and gloves if appropriate
  • triaging patients the day before their appointments to check if they are feeling well
  • observing physical distancing in the practice with floor and wall signage
  • having multiple hand sanitiser stations to use on entry
  • removal of all magazines and leaflets
  • limiting the number of people in the practice and who make appointments for eyecare collection in order to keep with social distancing requirements.

Although the extra changes require a lot of extra work, it was important to remain open for our local community.

Dealing with anxiety

I am definitely more anxious at work and about work now. I am also frustrated sometimes as the practice can’t be as smoothly run as in previous times, and I am worried about the future if the pandemic continues for an indefinite time or gets worse. At present Bathurst has not been hit with a large number of cases, which has been reassuring. This is certainly one of the benefits of living in a smaller regional town, compared to the big cities. Thank goodness for the wider green spaces out here!

I deal with some of these anxious thoughts by connecting with friends and colleagues, especially on Zoom platforms. I love gardening and I exercise in my spare time. I try and focus on the positives like spending more time at home doing projects that have been on the ‘to do’ list for a long time. The feeling of satisfaction when something gets done is tremendous!

How our customers accepted the changes

JobKeeper gave us some breathing space when our turnover was drastically affected. When restrictions eased, we were able to keep our patients up-to-date on social media and advise them that we could return to routine care. Facebook also allowed us to notify the community of the changes we had made to keep everyone safe. Our staff have adapted well and our patients are very sympathetic.

Given all the changes it is amazing how people have adapted – both staff and customers. I think being located in a rural/regional community, people are generally friendlier and don’t complain about the changes that we had to make to continue to operate during the pandemic. The staff at work continue to support each other also which is great.

The way I see it is, we’ll keep on with our high standards of care and adjust to the changes of the pandemic as we go. The key is trying to keep positive, supporting each other and connecting, even if it has to be online or just an old-fashioned phone call.

About Laurence Outim

Laurence Outim is an optometrist at Angela Morris Optometrist, Bathurst NSW and has been a practising optometrist for over 20 years. Laurence is also a keen runner, bushwalker, Dragon boater, snow skier, Djembe drummer and has raced at the National Penny Farthing championships in Tasmania.

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