Impact of COVID-19 on Eye Care in Spain during the First Phase of the Pandemic

J Clin Med. 2021 Sep 10;10(18):4087. doi: 10.3390/jcm10184087.


Background: The declaration of the first state of alarm for COVID-19 in March 2020 provoked changes in ophthalmological care. The objective of this study was to assess its impact on reorganising care activities, the mental health of ophthalmologists and the training of residents.

Methods: We sent an anonymous online questionnaire between August and October 2020 to consultant ophthalmologists and residents who were active during the state of alarm in Spain. We used Google Forms® software for data collection. We analysed responses according to the degree of regional impact.

Results: We received a total of 328 responses from the 17 Autonomous Communities. We saw that 99.4% of respondents changed their work activities with 50% reductions in surgery (94.5%) and consultations (93.0%). Furthermore, 58.8% of respondents reported increased anxiety, and 29.9% transferred to support other services, with this number reaching 49.6% in the hardest-hit regions. Training programs were greatly reduced in external consultations (90.7%), and surgical training was completely cancelled (100%). Additionally, 56.5% of trainees wanted to prolong their residence periods.

Conclusions: The first wave of the pandemic produced significant changes in ophthalmology services, and these changes were more pronounced in the most affected regions. It caused a negative psychological impact on a high rate of respondents and an interruption of the training of ophthalmology residents. Predictably, the negative consequences of this delay in ophthalmological care on patients will be uneven between regions.

Keywords: COVID-19; Spain; coronavirus; mental health; ophthalmology; residency program.