Support for Dental Healthcare Providers
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Dear Hon. Tyler Shandro,
We write to you today in light of the recent decision made by the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADA&C) on March 17, 2020. All dental practices have been mandated to stop non-emergency treatment while being required to stay open for continued emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As dental healthcare providers, our teams are exposed to aerosolized saliva and blood as a routine part of most dental procedures, including emergency and urgent treatments. Even with universal precautions in place, healthcare providers around the world are putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19, spreading it to their families and the public, and in some cases have been diagnosed with the virus. Dental offices, like other healthcare providers, are at an extremely high risk of being in contact with this virus and spreading it, which is why we do not dispute the necessity to close our offices to non-emergency cases and agree with the ADA&C decision.
However, dental professionals are not like other healthcare professionals. Most of us are in fact small business owners, and like all small businesses across the country, we are facing massive economics consequences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the decisions of the ADA&C have left our businesses quite financially vulnerable during this time. Many of us have been forced to layoff nearly our entire staff already and are at risk of closing permanently. In addition, the mandate to stay open and provide emergency care on a case-by-case basis places our patients, staff, our families and the general public at risk because many offices do not have the required protective equipment such as the N95 masks due to nation-wide shortages.
We recommend the Alberta government and the Alberta Health Services take the following action:
1. Institute a province wide mandatory shutdown of all dental practices in the province of Alberta.
2. Designate accessible, centralized clinics for dentists to direct all of their emergency patients where proper protective equipment is in place. All offices in accordance to our continued care must maintain an emergency line to provide advice and help direct patients to the nearest available clinic.
3. Ensure COVID-19 is recognized under the category of "pandemic insurance" for owners of dental practices. Business owners pay for this coverage every year and are being denied because of technical language. Access to this insurance coverage would reduce the amount of government support needed.
4. Facilitate the Employment Insurance benefits process to ensure that self-employed dentists and dental team members have access to income during the mandated shutdown.
5. Provide financial relief measures in the form of accessible loans, lease and property taxes deferrals.
6. Introduce supplementary compensation while helping to provide adequate protective equipment for practices forced to remain open to address emergency patients in their own facilities.
Without these recommendations the future of providing quality dental care in the province is put at risk, and job losses for our employees will be inevitable. More importantly, the risk of spread of COVID-19 will not be truly mitigated.
On behalf of dental professionals, we encourage your quick action on this.
Dr. Sandon Wiedemann D.M.D., BSc. Calgary, AB
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