The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt small businesses across Nova Scotia, forcing many to change its business plan or to close altogether.
In a step to ease the financial burden, the provincial government rolled out the COVID-19 small business impact grant to help businesses during the public emergency.
But not all small businesses qualify.
Dental clinics were excluded from receiving the grant and lumped into a group of other ineligible health care providers, like physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacies and paramedics.
“All of these health care professionals actually can work right now, dentists can not, so there were many questions raised as to why we were excluded,” said Dr. Joanne Thomas, president of the Nova Scotia Dental Association.
Dentistry is unique. On one hand, they are a health care provider, but on the other, they operate as a small business.
It was in mid-March when the province mandated all dental clinics to shut down for the health and safety of not only the dental health professionals but also their clients — not surprising, given that COVID-19 is spread through liquid droplets.
No clients mean no business for Dr. Ian MacIntyre, a dentist and owner of Cobourg Dentistry in Halifax.
Business has come to a screeching stop and the revenue stream has gone dry, so MacIntrye was surprised to read his business wouldn’t qualify for the COVID-19 impact grant.
“I guess I’m just a little confused,” he said. “There’s really no explanation as to why, as a small business owner (we were left out) I was anticipating there would be some help.”
It’s a particularly challenging time for young dentists, who are trying to establish their business while managing educational debt and the cost of setting up a practice.
Dr. Amanda Hill graduated from Dalhousie Dental School in 2008 and opened her own practice River Hill Dental in New Glasgow, where she’s had to make a tough decision to temporarily layoff her six staff members.
It’s a business decision but necessary to be able to reopen when things return to normal.
For the time being the bills like rent and utilities don’t go away along with a list of overhead costs unique to the dentistry profession.
“It’s very costly to run a dental office,” said Hill. “If you know your dental office well, we have sterilization, cleaning and staff and supplies, and very specialized equipment and it’s basically like a mini-hospital.”
Some dental clinics have pandemic insurance like River Hill Dental but Hill says at this point it’s not clear what that pandemic coverage will payout.
The Nova Scotia Dental Association says they have spoken with the department of business and are hopeful the government can locate and roll out some support options for the dental industry.
Not unlike other small businesses some dental clinics are concerned they might risk closure.
Global News reached out to the Minister of Business Geoff MacLellan for an interview but his office declined saying discussions with the dental association are ongoing.