The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on ophthalmic referrals within a tertiary academic center in Oman

Aisha Al Busaidi, Washoo Mal, Mohammed A. Rafei, Amina Al-Yaqoobi, Sathiya Panchatcharam, Abdullah S. Al-Mujaini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To investigate the impact of coronavirus infection disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic on ophthalmic referrals within an academic tertiary center in Oman. Methods: Retrospective chart review of internal referrals received and evaluated by the ophthalmology department between March 1and August 31, 2020 (COVID-19 period) compared to a corresponding period in 2019 (pre COVID-19). Data included patient demographics, referral details, ocular diagnosis, intervention, and discharge plan. Results: Referral volume significantly decreased by 58.2%; from 2019 prepandemic to 510 (P = 0.001), with the lowest in April and May 2020. Patient demographics did not differ significantly, but 'urgent' referrals reduced by 96.2% (P < 0.001). Main reasons for referrals were reduced vision and screening in both periods. During pandemic, referrals for screening purposes increased from 30.3% to 37.9% (P = 0.013) and for reduced vision decreased from 30% to 23.3% (P = 0.021). Dry eye syndrome increased in frequency during 2020 (from 2.9% to 7.3%, P = 0.002) but cataracts and conjunctivitis both decreased (from 4.7% to 2.1%, P = 0.046 and from 2.3% to 0.3%, P = 0.013, respectively). Ocular trauma remained stable (from 0.8% to 0.3%, P = 0.456), but the proportion of chemical injuries increased by 13.7% (P = 0.025). There was a drastic decrease in interventions from 37% to 26.1% (P < 0.001) and an increase in discharge rate from 61.2% to 75.8% (P < 0.001). Conclusion: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on ophthalmic referrals within a tertiary academic centre in oman referral reductions and changes in pattern and characteristics as an epiphenomenon of COVID-19 reflect the extent of impact specifically in an Omani context. This information is vital for planning proper resource utilization, the adoption of innovative care delivery, and improving referral system pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-244
Number of pages6
JournalMiddle East African Journal of Ophthalmology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Coronavirus infection disease-19
  • ophthalmology
  • pandemic
  • referrals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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