#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 8°C Sunday 25 October 2020
Advertisement

Dentists warn profession is on 'brink of collapse' as many practices face closures

Some are concerned at the lack of clear guidelines being issued to dentists in the current crisis.

Image: Shutterstock/Microgen

THE IRISH DENTAL Association has requested urgent support to save many practices on “the brink of collapse” amid the coronavirus crisis.  

The dental association says the profession is “disintegrating” as dentists cannot practise under guidelines around social distancing and that dentists have been left in the dark as to what was expected of them in the current situation.

The IDA has written to the Taoiseach, Minister for Health, party leaders and the health spokespeople of the various political parties outlining the gravity of the situation and is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health. 

“By the nature of their work, dentists are one of the most vulnerable groups of healthcare professionals to a virus like Covid-19,” said Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association

“Dentists work in extremely close proximity to the mouths and throats of the patients they are treating and they use equipment which generates spray and droplets from a patient’s mouth.

“Even with the use of protective clothing and best practice to minimise droplets or aerosols, it is extremely difficult to do the work of dentistry while trying to minimise the risk of contagion from Covid-19.”

The IDA says dentists have “been left in the dark” and received no clear guidance from either the Dental Council or the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) as to the current crisis.

The implication that we can carry on as normal is clearly nonsense. It flouts the national effort to try to increase social distancing and to reduce the spread of the virus.

Hourihan warned that in the absence of clear directions many members are making the decision themselves to close their practices for the duration of this crisis so as not to do anything that might increase the spread of the virus.

Frustrated 

An IDA survey of 358 private dentists around Ireland found 66 respondents have already closed their doors, at least temporarily, while 35 have planned to close in some capacity within the next fortnight. 

Nearly half of the practices estimate a drop of at least 90% in practice income in the medium to long-term as a result of Covid-19.

The Seapoint Clinic in Blackrock, Dublin closed its doors this week until further notice due to the increased risk of COVID19 transmission. 

The clinic said it will provide an emergency service which will “be run to the highest and strictest standards” and will be by appointment only. It is also offering video consultations. 

Hourihan said that this unprecedented situation called for an unprecedented response from the government.

“Politicians need to wake up to the fact that the dental profession as we know it is disintegrating before our eyes due to the fact that dentists simply cannot practise under these circumstances.

“Dentists are frustrated with the advice given by the HPSC. They want to help all patients but particularly those in trouble and reluctantly feel compelled to alter their practice workings for the safeguard of patients, their staff and their own health – in the majority of cases that means laying off staff,” said Hourihan. 

The IDA estimates that some 10,000 people are employed both directly and indirectly through dental practices around the country. 

This is a tragedy for thousands of hard-working healthcare professionals who want to contribute to the wider healthcare effort and help their communities through this crisis without having to worry about their livelihoods. The dental profession urgently needs a wide-ranging package of supports in order to survive. 

Hourihan added that, as experienced healthcare professionals, dentists were willing to support the wider healthcare effort but said it was crucial that the government understands how dire the situation is for practices and “that we need action now to safeguard our livelihoods”. 

  

About the author:

Adam Daly

Read next:

COMMENTS (125)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel