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Dentists and chiropractors set to be some of first professions to return from COVID-19 lockdown

Dentists could be part of first group to go back to work in B.C.
Dentists could be part of first group to go back to work in B.C. Jesse Thomas / Global News

As British Columbia aims to lift some COVID-19 restrictions in mid-May, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is painting a clearer picture of what industries will be the first up and running when that reopening comes.

The province is looking to re-book some scheduled surgeries as well as opening up other parts of the health-care sector.

An easing of restrictions will only be possible if the province sees no more outbreaks and a big reduction in new, test-positive cases of COVID-19.

“When we get to that phase we will look at how you can do things in many different sectors but certainly the health-care sectors, so massage therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, all of those things we have been putting off for a few months,” Henry said.

“But it won’t be the same as it was before. We will have to do it in a much more controlled way. We will not have people in the waiting area.”

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READ MORE: ‘No social distancing in dentistry’: How care has changed during coronavirus

The British Columbia Dental Association has started focusing on what the industry needs to do to get back to work. Dr. Alastair Nicoll, a past president of the B.C. Dental Association, is leading the charge in preparing dentists.

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Nicoll says it is a work in progress and so far the guidance has been on how dentists deal with emergent cases during the pandemic. Dentists have been allowed to perform emergency work during the pandemic.

“We have to be realistic, this may or may not happen by the beginning of May,” Nicoll said.

“We are cautiously optimistic we will incrementally be able to increase the services we are able to provide for the public. It is going to look very different until a vaccine comes along.”

The B.C. Dental Association later clarified the goal is to focus towards the mid to end of May, as per the timeline laid out by Dr. Henry.

Some new COVID-19 cases connected to huge dental convention in Vancouver
Some new COVID-19 cases connected to huge dental convention in Vancouver

Dental offices are looking at a number of safety options, including plastic shields dividing staff from waiting rooms.

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Nicoll says appointments will be done in a way to ensure multiple people are not in the waiting room at the same time. Dentists will be looking at figuring out a different way for patients to pay for services, to limit contact.

In the treatment environment, dentists will aim to serve patients as quickly as possible. The focus will also be clinical staff having personal protection equipment to safeguard against the spread of the virus.

“Patients need to know, understand and trust that all possible steps will be taken to make sure that their visit to the dentist is safe,” Nicoll said.

The British Columbia Chiropractic Association is currently communicating with members to determine how to best prepare them for an eventual return to normal work, which includes ensuring that they have access to resources and personal protective equipment they will need to safely treat their patients.

Chiropractors have been able to perform emergency work during the pandemic under guidelines from the industry’s governing body.