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Doing business after ease of COVID-19 lockdowns – OPHTEC’s corona-proof services for your eye clinic or hospital

an interview with Erik Jan Worst, OPHTEC's President & CEO, 23 April 2020

As some countries took their first watchful steps back to normality since lockdown rules were introduced, Erik Jan Worst, OPHTEC’s president & CEO, gathered online with all country managers across the globe to discuss the new situation. “Not exactly routine calls as we know them” Erik Jan says, sitting at his desk at OPHTEC’s global headquarters in Groningen, The Netherlands.

He tells about the developments and lockdown rules in different countries. “I received the first worrying messages from our OPHTEC subsidiary in South Korea in February. At that time, I totally underestimated the global impact of the virus that causes COVID-19. It did not take long before it showed up in Europe as well. We were in close contact with our distributor in Milan and Italian ophthalmologists who even assisted in the intensive care units. First-hand information on the alarming developments quickly made us realize the severity of the situation.”

As a result, strict lockdown rules were implemented immediately at OPHTEC’s global headquarters in The Netherlands. A Corona Crisis Team (CCT) was formed that consulted on a daily basis. This CCT team also stayed in close contact with OPHTEC’s global subsidiaries, that all experienced different types of lockdowns.

As the COVID-19 outbreak was first identified in China, this was also the first country that restarted eye care again. “I believe 20% of China is up and running since two weeks now” Erik Jan added. “Eye clinics and hospitals in South Korea are also allowed to carefully restart patient care again now”. “We have noticed that initially primarily refractive procedures take place in private clinics. These clinics are able to take extra measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for employees and patients.”

In The Netherlands, the government recently announced the first tentative easing steps of lockdown rules to encourage non-corona patient care again. Erik Jan: “Personally, I am quite positive about this approach as in that I believe we should maintain the momentum. It would be risky to ease more rules at this moment, as it could result in a much larger second wave of infections later on. Also, intensive care beds are still filled very close to capacity limits. Only a small increase in patients can cause worrying situations again. We know how quickly the virus can spread. We shouldn’t risk this. Looking back at the first steps that were taken, we could ask ourselves if we set the most effective rules from the beginning, as they are taking a heavy toll on many people and companies. But with wisdom of hindsight it’s easy to evaluate this.”  

It is expected that many cataract and refractive procedures will take place once the situation allows this, as the number of patients waiting for cataract surgery only accumulates during lockdowns. Erik Jan: “Clinics have already informed us that they will need to work on weekends as well, to help as many patients as possible”.

OPHTEC therefore prepares corona-proof work processes to be ready to supply ophthalmologists with the products and services they need. Erik Jan: “Account managers help out clinics and hospitals via online meetings in most cases. With personal protective gear, they will also be able to help out in situations that require offline contact. Another example of an adjustment is the replacement of offline training courses by online webinars.” The first webinars with high numbers of attendees already took place.

While eye clinics and hospitals had to stop providing most of their healthcare activities in the past weeks, OPHTEC was able to continue the production of IOLs, with specific measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Erik Jan: “Products are stocked up now and ready to be sent out to hospitals and clinics whenever they are able to resume providing eye care to their patients".

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