Dr. Daniel Shoop works with another volunteer dentist pictured in Guatemala in 2013. Photo courtesy of Dr. Shoop

B.C. dentist petitions province to order shut-down of all dental offices

David Alfaro says current COVID-19 recommendation doesn’t go far enough

A Nelson dentist thinks all dental offices in the province should be shut down immediately to safeguard the public and dental workers from COVID-19.

The College of Dental Surgeons of BC (CDSBC) has recommended this, but David Alfaro thinks the provincial government should order it. His petition in support of this idea now has more than 4,000 signatures.

But it appears that the CDSBC is not happy with his petition.

Alfaro says there are dental offices in B.C. (not in Nelson) that remain open and this puts the public and dental staff at risk.

“Recommending offices to close is not the same as mandating offices to close,” he told the Star. “If we don’t use strong terminology in these announcements, people might still open.”

The CDSBC is the licensing and regulatory body for dentists in the province.

Alfaro said that being exposed to aerosolized saliva and blood particles is part of daily dental office life.

“Our traditional universal precaution measures protect us and protect our patients. But we don’t know how effective these are against COVID-19. We are hearing that the droplets remain contagious in the air for a period of hours, perhaps on surfaces for days. Now obviously we are wiping surfaces and wearing masks and face shields. But to what level do we have to protect ourselves to provide dental care?”

Responding to a request from the Star, the CDSBC referred to a recent statement from Chris Hacker, the organization’s CEO, in which he asks individual dentists not to lobby the ministry.

“If you have any concerns or requests,” Hacker writes, “please direct them to either your professional association (the B.C. Dental Association) or to us as your regulator, not to the Office of the Public Health Officer. Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team must be allowed to continue to focus on the critical work of monitoring and responding to this public health emergency.”

Hacker’s statement goes on to say, “Dental offices must stay open where possible, allowing access to frontline oral health practitioners by patients who need them. The College also expects that your communications to patients and staff are consistent with what Dr. Henry and other health officials have stated.”

Alfaro and several of his staff attended the March 5-7 dental conference in Vancouver and have, on the advice of the Ministry of Health, isolated themselves because the conference has since been recognized as a potential source of COVID-19 infections.

“I took my own team down there for a team building experience, continuing education, a perk of the job,” Alfaro said. “There were no warnings, there was just ‘practise social distancing and wash your hands,’ and the conference went on as normal. There were many events in town that weekend, the city was abuzz, and there was no information about risk, and here we are 10 days after being told to go into self isolation.”

Alfaro said he and all his staff are in isolation, healthy and with no symptoms.

But his attendance at the conference has led to some unfortunate rumours in Nelson.

“I have people calling my personal cell phone saying they have heard that a dentist in town has confirmed COVID-19 and people have even mentioned they thought it was my office.

“This has been very, very difficult.”

Another issue is insurance, Alfaro said. All dentists have pandemic insurance, but to collect it they must be ordered to shut down by a health authority or a government, not simply close down on a recommendation.

Alfaro’s petition to the Ministry of Health also asks the province to establish “centralized clinics for dentists to direct all of their emergency patients and to grant dentists in the province temporary hospital privileges if these clinics are to be established in existing hospital-based dental clinics.”

It also asks the ministry to facilitate employment insurance benefits for dental office staff, and “to consider financial actions to reduce the fixed expenditure burden of dental offices.”

The Star asked the ministry and the B.C. Dental Association for comment and has so far received no response.

Related:

• B.C. dentists to suspend all elective, non-essential dental work due to COVID-19

B.C. dentist conference attendees warned of coronavirus exposure



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirusdentistry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Driver ticketed and hospitalized after highway crash near Sicamous

The two-vehicle collision took place near Bernie Road on June 26.

COVID-19: Okanagan libraries to reopen for browsing

More than 80,000 items loaned out through curbside pickup program ahead of Phase 3

Rising rivers possible as unsettled air enters Shuswap

Further rain and thunderstorms are a possibility as unsettled air crosses the rockies from Alberta.

UPDATE: Trans-Canada Highway closed due to flooding both east and west of Revelstoke

Heavy equipment is on scene trying to reopen the road to traffic to the west

Heavy rain in Okanagan results in slowest start to fire season in four years

119 hectares of land burned so far this year, compared to 991 ha in 2019, and 3,835 ha in 2018

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

Noose graffiti not tolerated by Vernon resident

Woman, son paint over hateful image painted on neighbourhood fence

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

HERGOTT: The right to resist unlawful arrest

Paul Hergott is a personal injury lawyer based in West Kelowna

‘We have your grandson’ – Princeton seniors scammed out of thousands of dollars

Two elderly Princeton men are saying they were robbed of thousands of… Continue reading

Finale of seven-week food drive arrives at FreshCo Kelowna

The new grocery store has partnered with the organization for a food drive

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Most Read