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Coronavirus: Dental hygienists concerned dentists are still providing non-essential service

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, gray, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP.

The B.C. Dental Hygienists Association is concerned dentists in the province are ignoring advice and continuing to operate regular service, despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Burton, executive director of the association, says there are some hygienists being told they will get fired if they don’t show up to work.

“They are being threatened by their dentists. They say, ‘If you don’t come to work, I’m firing you,'” Burton said.

“Unfortunately there are dentists that are saying we are staying open and our booking all their regular appointments next week. You need to do cleaning. You need to do polishing.”

Click to play video: 'Some new COVID-19 cases connected to huge dental convention in Vancouver' Some new COVID-19 cases connected to huge dental convention in Vancouver
Some new COVID-19 cases connected to huge dental convention in Vancouver – Mar 16, 2020

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has issued an order requiring all British Columbians to social distance while in public. But she has not issued an order to restrict the work dentists are doing.

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Both the College of Dental Surgeons and College of Dental Hygienists have called for a stop to all but emergency procedures.

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“I have not ordered any other medical professions not to do this. What we have put in place is social distancing. Clearly, there is some difficulty in maintaining that,” Dr. Henry said on Thursday.

“The college advice, the College of Dentistry advice I absolutely agree with. Dentists should be providing emergency services only during this period. That is what the college has as part of their plan.”

READ MORE: Non-essential dental services paused after COVID-19 cases linked to Vancouver dental conference

On Monday Dr. Henry asked all attendees of last week’s Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver to self-isolate after a number of COVID-19 cases were linked to the event.

Henry said Monday that her office has connected the conference, which occurred March 5-7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre, to at least four cases.

Burton is hoping Dr. Henry will tell dentist directly to stop non-emergency procedures.

“She has to say to lay down your tools,” Burton said.

“It is not safe to see a dentist right now. If it’s not safe to talk to a neighbour three feet away, it’s heck not safe to sit in a dentists chair,” Burton said.

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“I get it from the dentist’s point of view. They are worried too. They shut the clinic, no revenues coming in, they are still paying overhead. That’s terrifying of course. But at the same time it’s not safe for patients and it’s not safe for their staff. There is nothing dental hygienists need to do that is emergent.”

In some cases dentists are requiring hygienists to continue work at early childhood clinics and allegeldy threatening to fire them is they don’t.

In some of these cases children’s heads are in the laps of hygienists.

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