Sandie Baillargeon Posted on March 17th, 2020
Now that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic has been declared, it is time to put your emergency policies and procedures into place. If you have received DOCS training on Occupational Health and Safety for Dental Offices, you will already have a Pandemic Plan and Fitness to work policy in the materials that you were provided. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of the pandemic plan send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ” Pandemic Plan”.
As this crisis continues to change rapidly, there are some preventive measures that you may wish to take to protect your patients, your staff and your practice. During this crisis, there is a possibility that your patients may wish to cancel their appointments and your employees might also need to stay home if they are not feeling well. The nature of the human-to-human contact in dentistry doesn’t provide the ability for employees to work from home so you may need to make adjustments to your employee policies to encourage employees who are not feeling well, or if the employees have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, to stay home and self isolate.
You should hold an emergency meeting with your staff to ensure everyone is as prepared as possible, and also to discuss their concerns. This is a good time to let your team know how you are going to support them through this crisis and encourage your team to be proactive about calling in sick.
Encourage your employees to use paid time off, if possible, i.e. vacation time, if they’re at high risk. If they’ve traveled to an affected area or taken a cruise, have them stay home for two weeks and self isolate. Encourage them to be vigilant about their own health. If they’re sick and might be contagious, they should stay home. Masks protect the patients, but in the lunchroom, your team can infect each other. You should have a policy that covers fitness to return to work as well as screening for influenza like infections. If you wish to have a complimentary copy of our policy on Contact Control and Monitoring During an Epidemic, please send an email to email@example.com with the subject line ” Contact Control and Monitoring During an Epidemic”.
Here is an example of an assessment form (this is a sample only):
INFLUENZA-LIKE INFECTION (COVID19) ASSESSMENT FORM
Have you experienced the following within the past two weeks (14) days or in the past three (3)?
Sudden onset of respiratory illness (e.g., shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, coughing up bloody sputum, wheezing), □ YES □ NO
Fever greater than 38 degrees Celsius □ YES □ NO
Any of the following:
Sore throat □ YES □ NO
Aching joints □ YES □ NO
Muscle aches or weakness □ YES □ NO
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing □ YES □ NO
IF YOU ANSWERED ‘YES’ TO ANY OF THE ABOVE, YOU MAY NOT BE ADMITTED TO THIS OFFICE.
FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY, AND THAT OF OTHERS, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY GO HOME AND CONTACT YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR.
The Federal and Provincial governments have announced their commitment to “do whatever it takes” to help citizens and businesses during this crisis, but some of your employees may be very concerned about loss of income during this time. Employees may be reluctant to answer the questions honestly, but if they have the reassurance that you will support them by providing them with paid or partially paid leave, it would be reassuring to the staff members affected and you should be able to recover some of your losses once the branches of government provide the help that was promised.
The Provincial government may be willing to provide immediate access to EI benefits during this time, but it is not yet clear how or when that will be done and you will have to make decisions quickly.
Reassure Your Patients
Send out an email blast to reassure your patients that their health and well-being is a top priority. You are likely already receiving this type of email from businesses that you have had dealings with.
Inform your patients about the extra measures that you are taking to prevent the spread of the virus and reassure them that you always follow the most current standards and procedures for infection prevention and control. Prepare them for their visit by informing them of your new pre-screening procedures.
Here is a sample email blast to reassure patients
The health & wellness of our patients and employees is always our top priority. Rest assured that we are taking all the necessary precautions and closely monitoring the (COVID-19) situation with local Public Health Units so that you can receive your dental treatment with peace of mind. We train comprehensively for these scenarios as part of our overall emergency preparedness. Our office has always followed stringent infection prevention and control procedures and will continue to do so.
During this time of heightened concern we want to reach out and make you aware of the extra precautions we are taking to ensure everyone stays healthy. Our office will remain open and we will continue to monitor the situation very closely. We will be prescreening our patients by asking specific questions when we scheduling appointments and making the courtesy reminder call for your appointment.
The questions will be:
- Have you travelled out of the country to an affected area in the last 2 weeks.
- Have you been in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of 2019-nCoV?
- Have you been in close contact with a person with acute respiratory illness who has been out to an affected area in the last 2 weeks?
What you can do:
- If you do not feel well or feel that you are at risk, call our office we will reschedule your appointment for you
- Washing your hands with soap and water frequently helps
- Using hand sanitizer as an extra precaution also helps
- Wiping down all ‘high touch’ surfaces frequently with disinfectant will help protect your family members Health officials in Canada maintain there is a low risk of people encountering the virus. We continue to monitor this situation closely and should emergency directives be issued; we will take appropriate action. For more information about the coronavirus, including precautions, symptoms and an update on the situation in Canada, please contact PHAC below or your local Public Health Unit.
We will continue to review updates & further recommended guidelines from The Public Health Agency of Canada. Your health and safety is our number one priority. We wish everyone good health and good luck. We will keep you updated on any new information or changes to our plan.
Yours in the interest of continued good health
You should be screening patients as they enter the practice both actively and passively. At this time, DOCS recommends that you also call your patients and not just rely on emails and text messages. All three methods of contact would be ideal, especially for patients who have appointments scheduled over the next two weeks.
Signage should be posted on entry to the office and at reception areas for patients with symptoms to self-identify, perform hand hygiene, wear a mask, and have access to tissue and a waste receptacle. All patients should be reminded to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing.
When you call to confirm appointments, conduct a screening.
- Has the patient traveled to an affected country, city in the last 2 weeks?
- Have they taken a cruise or flown on an airplane? If so, ask them to please reschedule for a time and date outside the two-week window.
- Screen the patient upon arrival at the office
Review Hand washing and Sanitation Procedures
Your team knows how to wash hands, sanitize operatories, and protect patients. However, it can’t hurt to review these procedures now. Retrain everyone, and remind them that everything in the operatories should be disinfected after each patient to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. Set up a schedule for disinfecting doorknobs, bathrooms, and waiting rooms several times a day. It may take a little more time, but it can keep your team, your patients, and your community healthier.
Most dental offices are up to date with the most current Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) procedures, however, if you need help with IPAC please visit our website to learning more about our training and customized manuals.
Postpone travel to conferences and CE seminars, as well as community clinics.
You have already likely postponed any unnecessary travel, because as you know, travel makes it more likely someone in your office will catch COVID-19. For now, postpone travel to conferences and seminars. If team members need continuing education credits, find online options so that you can minimize the spread of disease.
Whether the news media recognizes it or not, Dental Offices are on the front lines for Coronavirus exposure. Take steps now to protect your patients and your team, so that you can continue to function in the coming months.