Dear SCDA Member:
Who would have thought we would still be dealing with the Coronavirus issue(s) at the beginning of May? PPP, PPE, N95, KN95, SCDEW, SCDHEC, ZOOM. Your new alphabet soup! Sadly, these are all too familiar acronyms. We have gotten used to social distancing and maybe even "elbow bumps." As much as we have become accustomed to many new terms and social behaviors, we have not become accustomed to a dark and quiet office; nor have we become accustomed to denying our patients access to their requests for care.
Some would argue PPE supply is the top priority. Some would say returning to work is our #1 concern. I believe both are correct answers. Your SCDA board members and staff along with many other dentist volunteers have worked tirelessly, especially over the last 7 days, on both of these issues.
I'll start with getting back to work. There are two key components to this issue in my opinion. Being prepared to return to work and being allowed to return to work. By now I hope everyone understands that being prepared to go back to work has a lot to do with studying the
ADA Interim Guidance for Minimizing Risks of COVID-19 transmission
ADA Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit
and the brand new SCDA companion to the toolkit called
Guidelines for Reopening Dental Offices Safely During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This last resource was developed by an SCDA Back to Work Task Force over the last week. This SCDA generated resource adds to the ADA Toolkit. As fast as things are changing these days, the toolkit needed to be tweaked. We were able to add important insight and knowledge from dentists who have been preparing their offices for three weeks already. A big thank you to the Back to Work Task Force. We're not done yet!
So when can we go back to work without fear of DHEC or LLR crying foul?
I wish I had a big drum roll for you right now. Instead I can say we have made giant steps in unraveling the disconnect between "not mandated and being essential" vs. "recommended to postpone elective procedures and non-urgent care." We know that the Governor's office is aware that the dentists are standing down in South Carolina and across the country because of CDC guidelines for dentistry during the COVID-19 response. We heard our governor acknowledge on TV yesterday that he knows "dentists have been wearing gloves and masks for thirty or forty years." So what is giving us pause?
recommending that we follow the
CDC guidance specific to dentistry
that dental offices should postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits during the COVID-19 response.
Of course, we all know a dental situation that was elective 6 weeks ago is probably not elective anymore. Let's consider a crown delivery appointment where the patient has been in a provisional crown for eight weeks now. How about a broken, but asymptomatic front tooth? We can come up with so many examples. How many dental procedures are truly elective anyway?
Since we don't know when new CDC guidelines specific to dentistry will be released, the best hope we have is that the ADA Interim Guidelines and Back to Work Toolkit will be recognized as the interim standard for dental settings. The ADA must be commended for the tremendous work that led to the development and release of it's Interim Guidance and Toolkit in less than six weeks of our offices standing down. Going back to work is going to be hard enough with all our new protocols, office adaptations, and training. We don't want to be looking over our shoulder for a government regulation to bite us in the back.
Finally, on to the other big priority - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
. We formed a PPE Work Group five days ago. These dentists and the SCDA staff members have become experts in the wild, wild west of PPE. We are searching across the country and even overseas to try and obtain authentic PPE for the members. We want to pass on some warnings and guidance while you continue to search for your own opportunities to purchase PPE supplies. Buyer beware! Please note that there are a lot of counterfeit products on the market and even though they may seem valid, in reality, they are not. There are also a lot of company representatives who will promise certain things, but then they cannot deliver. Please watch this video
as it will answer many of your questions about PPE and why they are so hard to obtain. We have studied the FEMA confiscation situation and been updated on the supply chain expectations for the normal dental suppliers. By July we should all have plenty of masks. Between now and then, the supply situation will gradually improve.
This next couple weeks will hopefully bring a change in a positive direction. Your SCDA Board of Governor's and staff are meeting several times a week to stay abreast of all the issues affecting dentistry during this pandemic and exploring every avenue to help our members.
Please plan your return to work thoroughly and thoughtfully. Many people we work with have more fear and less facts than you do. They will need time to get training and reassurance about your plan. While we bring dentistry out of storage, we are called upon to be knowledgeable and compassionate leaders during a time when we have faced hardships and adversity. It is probably the greatest professional challenge we will ever face. Let's please keep working together to do it right.