Update: 30 June 2020
From March until May, Australia faced unprecedented and immediate disruption to all services as the country battled the unknown effects of COVID-19.
Specsavers stores in Australia and New Zealand are now fully reopened, and we are focused on providing a safe environment for patients as routine care resumes. As we have stood up team members and started to offer our services to more members of the public, we are providing patients and staff with a modified practice environment that strictly follows health department guidelines and ensures strict hygiene and social distancing measures are in place.
As well as reopening fully for routine eyecare, we are recalling patients and prioritising care to those in the community who need it most, as we work out way through a significant patient backlog.
Specsavers data indicates that in April and May, 25,208 Australian Specsavers patients that likely had eye conditions requiring specialist attention did not attend their appointments. A year on year comparison of Medicare item 10910 also shows that compared to 2019, 166,635 fewer Australians had routine eye tests in March and April 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19.
We are currently working on a recall model that engages those in our communities who need prioritising for care. From our perspective, that means we will be prioritising recalling patients with risk factors such as diabetes who have missed their original appointment. Similarly, we need to manage those with other eye conditions such as glaucoma while also factoring in bookings for day-to-day cases where unusual or previously unknown conditions often present.
As we head into July, Specsavers Australian national patient volume is uniformly increasing and patients with diabetes make up 6.8%, in line with population prevalence – an important indicator that we are seeing patients present in the right proportions. As restrictions continue to lift and as it becomes safer for at-risk patients to confidently leave their homes, we are anticipating further growth of patients.
Update: 13 May 2020
Throughout the period of Level 3 restrictions, which commenced at the end of March 2020, the majority of our Australian Specsavers stores remained ‘Open for care’.
As restrictions begin to ease across Australia and New Zealand, we are now in the process of carefully reopening our practices more broadly to extend the care we are able to provide to our patients and our communities.
With key dates being 11 May in Australia, and 14 May in New Zealand, Specsavers optical stores are reopening their doors for all eye health services, including routine eye tests.
In line with government healthcare practice guidelines, stores will be operating strict hygiene and social distancing measures and will be introducing three dedicated roles in store to help keep our team members and our customers safe.
These roles include one individual to meet and greet customers at the front of the store to help manage the number of people in-store at any one time, another individual who will be responsible for cleaning frames and surfaces in the retail space throughout the day, and one further team member whose role will be contacting patients with a pre-booked appointment to gather essential information prior to their visit to reduce the amount of time spent in store.
Customers looking to visit their local Specsavers store will be asked to call ahead or to book an appointment online to assist in managing customer flows within each store, and from a retail perspective, when glasses are ready to collect, customers will need to book a contactless express pick-up in store, or a collection and fitting appointment.
Additional precautions are being implemented in all stores to keep team members, optometrists and customers safe. In Australian stores these include:
- Hand sanitiser will be available for all team members and customers
- All test rooms and dispensing desks will be disinfected prior to each patient
- Frames and surfaces in the retail area will be cleaned throughout the day by a dedicated team member
- Social distancing will be adhered to by our teams except at times during consultations when a distance of less than 1m is required, and in these circumstances, optometrists will comply with regulatory guidelines for health care professionals
- All services, including those previously only available via a walk-in such as frame readjustments, will now have bookable appointments and customers are encouraged to book in advance
- Anyone with a booked appointment will be contacted by telephone prior to coming into store to collect essential information to minimise time spent in store
- A limited number of people will be allowed in store at one time, depending on store size
- PPE, including masks, gloves and digital thermometers have been provided to all stores
- Hygiene barriers have been installed at all customer points across our stores.
A full list of our additional precautions for New Zealand stores is available here.
Update: Wed 8 April 2020
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact the provision of primary care service throughout Australia and New Zealand and eye care is no exception to this. While that impact is hard-hitting on all of us in optometry and audiology, Specsavers practices are continuing to provide essential goods and services where we can, depending on local guidelines in each country.
In Australia, current restrictions mean that we can still offer a limited in-store service and we took steps to adapt our service model from Monday 30th March: while we remain open for urgent and essential optometry and dispensing care, we have hibernated our normal retail service.
The urgent and essential care is available right now via a combination of in-store eye care and telephone guidance. In addition, we will augment this with a video/audio consultation service when and if the federal government enables the 10916 and 10918 Medicare item numbers for telehealth usage.
At this point in time, the majority of our stores are physically Open for care while the remainder are accessible for telephone guidance. Full details of which store locations are open is available – and is constantly being updated – on our website at Specsavers.com.au.
Each store that remains physically open for urgent and essential care is staffed by an optometrist store director and an optical dispensing director and, where an audiology business is present, by an audiologist director.
Service available at Specsavers under our Open for Care mode of practice includes:
- Emergency eye care triaging to medical specialists and referral as required
- Red eye management and treatments
- Renewal of prescription eye drops
- Any change in vision that causes anxiety
- Referrals from other health professionals
- Urgent repairs and maintenance of damaged hearing aids
- Emergency care and provision of hearing devices for essential workers experiencing hearing problems
- Serving an urgent need for glasses and contact lenses
- Repairs and fixing of damaged glasses
- Postal delivery service for spectacles to minimise need to collect from store
- Online ordering of glasses and contact lenses for home delivery
On Monday 23 March, the New Zealand Government implemented level 4 of their COVID-19 response plan in an effort to combat the growing threat of the virus, which means all our NZ stores are temporarily closed. At this stage, we plan to re-open all stores on Wednesday 22 April, unless otherwise advised by the Government and subject to lock-down provisions.
Most recently however, we have managed to register our supply of prescription glasses and contact lenses as essential consumer goods which means we can commence the process of clearing the backlog of completed orders that have been situated since the lock-down commenced within our closed distribution facility in Auckland.
Our New Zealand Partners have taken the closure of their businesses in their stride as we all understand we have to do our part to protect our communities in which we operate. We continue to work with our partners on how to manage complex scenarios in unprecedented times.