Current Affairs

Dr. Sudhir Singh’s Interview published in Cake Magazine Singapore

Ophthalmologists See Stormy Impact of Covid-19 Worldwide
April 3, 2020

by Sam McCommon
It’s no secret that the coronavirus has affected every single sector of the economy, and mostly for the worse. This includes the medical field — and ophthalmology. While hospitals and other clinics are feeling overwhelmed, ophthalmologists are feeling a different sort of pinch.

To discuss the effects of the coronavirus on ophthalmic clinical practice, we spoke with Dr. Sudhir Singh from Rajasthan, India and Dr. William Trattler, from Miami, Florida.

Covid-19’s Impact on Ophthalmic Business
The virus has had a major impact on business, with customers opting to stay away from clinics and all elective surgeries cancelled. Dr. Trattler noted: “We have scaled down our 15 ophthalmology and three optometry practices to just a few doctors, seeing only urgent and emergency patients. We have halted all elective surgery.” He continued: “Those (doctors) seeing patients are wearing PPE. It has been a dramatic shift in our practice in just a week, but something that we needed to do to try to keep as many people home as possible to limit the spread of Covid-19.”

Dr. Singh paints a similar picture from India. “The coronavirus has impacted business very badly in India also. Elective surgeries were suspended as of two weeks ago and will remain suspended until April 15, 2020, as India is under lockdown. Only emergency services are open in eye hospitals.”

He also points out that expenses have not dropped: Doctors still have plenty of bills to pay. “There is no business, but expenses like staff salaries, house taxes/rents, electricity bills, every month installments (EMI), annual maintenance contract (AMC) fees and other expenses are on as usual,” he said.

Covid-19’s Effects on Patients’ Behavior
Of course, people everywhere are spooked — and many are wary of even leaving the house, much less venturing out for treatment.

Dr. Trattler confirmed this sentiment among his patients. “Patients are concerned, and even if we were to allow non-urgent patients to come for their visit — most, if not all, would prefer staying at home right now.”

The anxiety is universal. “They (patients) are concerned about falling ill due to corona infections,” said Dr. Singh. “They are following the measures taken by our government like cooperating in our three-week national lockdown up to April 15th by staying at home and practicing social distancing and good hygiene.”

Covid-19’s Long-term Effects on the Ophthalmic Industry
Imagining the world after the virus is like trying to guess what’s in a snow globe just after it’s been shaken. Some time will need to pass before the picture becomes clearer. What is clear now, however, is that there will most certainly be long-term effects from the virus over the coming months and years.

“The foremost (effect) is on the country’s economy,” said Dr. Singh. “It is going to be affected very badly. It will have a cascading effect on the industry, employment, salaries and patients’ paying capacity. So a patient may change their health priorities in the form of delaying elective procedures, and going for economical procedures rather than expensive procedures.”

Dr. Trattler also shared his uncertainty: “It is so hard to know at this time,” he said. “I am hopeful things will get back to normal once a therapy is confirmed, or the crisis ends. I am unsure if this will be weeks or months. My main concern is that even when there is news that the crisis is over — there will still be patients who are concerned and not willing to go out.”

The future of the economy will play a huge role in the future of the ophthalmic industry, as well as all others. But in this industry, they’ll affect those who have committed the most financially. In Dr. Singh’s words: “These (economic) factors will affect those who have invested in expensive technologies and big eye hospital setups more.“