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79% Of Surveyed ECPs Are Open for Routine Care

And 74% are fully or nearly fully staffed.

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INVISION survey opening

BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY weekend, INVISION asked the third in our series of COVID-19 Impact Surveys. With much of the country tentatively back in business or close to reopening, we wanted to see how America’s independent eyecare pros are managing this key transition stage.

At the time, 79 percent of respondents reported being open for routine care (12 percent never closed), with another 13 percent expecting to reopen within the week. Of the total 118 respondents, only 8 percent had not reopened or lacked immediate plans to do so.

Of those same respondents, 53 percent reported having brought their full staff back, and 21 percent had most of their staff back. Only 19 percent of ECPs who answered the survey (and have a staff) had brought back half or less of their staff.

Many respondents were proud of the fact that they hadn’t let their business closure affect their staff. Dr. Robert M Easton Jr., OD, FAAO in Oakland Park, FL, reports, “My staff was paid for six weeks while the office was closed; they never lost any money from not working.” John Butler of Eye Consultants of Atlanta in Atlanta, GA, was able to take advantage of government assistance to keep his staff paid. “Never laid anyone off for the six weeks we were closed. We took advantage of the PPP.”

Though not all business owners were as lucky, many were excited to invite their staff back as soon as they were able. “Back in March when we moved to urgent/emergency care only, we did unfortunately have to lay off about 20 percent of our staff, furlough 40 percent, and cut pay/hours for 40 percent,” said Elizabeth Elliott of Nittany Eye Associates in State College, PA. “We did bring back all furloughed staff and everyone is back to working normal hours with normal wages.”

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Interestingly, often some staff members were not so eager to return. “Everyone was offered their jobs back; one part-time employee left as part of a planned departure to start schooling and one full-time employee found a new job during our four-week furlough. So, everyone’s back, but we are reduced compared to pre-COVID,” said Jen Heller of Pend Oreille Vision Care in Sandpoint, ID.

“One staff member was laid off and moved out of the area and one staff member resigned when we reopened,” said Dr. Victoria Mar of Eye Care at Rhodes Ranch, Las Vegas, NV.

Kim Hilgers at Monson Eyecare Center in Owatonna, MN, stated, “A few said that they didn’t feel safe and are not back yet.” That was a sentiment also shared by Susan Halstead of Family Vision Care Center in Saratoga Springs, NY, who had one staff member refuse to return.

For those who reopened, it was often a celebratory affair. “Next week we’re doing a potluck dinner with a special chocolate cake dessert,” said Missy Dunn of Brisbane Eyecare in Spokane Valley, WA.

“We will celebrate the end of the first week with a beer or prosecco toast,” added Dr. Halstead of Family Vision Care Center. A triumphant alcoholic beverage was a common refrain with everything from tequila, margaritas, wine and even a Corona beer getting name-checked.

Others celebrated their staff and patients in more visible ways. Returning to work called for “a BIG distance huddle,” according to Dr. Rosiland Hursh of Eye to Eye Clinic Wilsonville in Wilsonville, OR. Pam Peters at Midwest Eye in Downers Grove, IL, meanwhile, “welcomed staff with breakfast and flowers around the office” and “painted a Welcome sign for our patients, hoping to generate the warmth of our office even with faces masked.” And Selena Jachens of Urban Eyecare & Eyewear in West Des Moines, IA, reported, “We cheered! Our patients have been very supportive during our temporary closure and (for the most part) have cooperated with our new protocols. Our team had a nice lunch together while distancing in our office.”

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But let’s not let this revelry overshadow the fact that most respondents, though happy to be back, are physically and mentally exhausted from the additional sanitation protocols, PPE and sheer number of patients who are anxious to get back in their doors. More on that this week in our ongoing coverage from our third COVID-19 Impact Survey.

Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at [email protected]

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