Dental cancellations due to mask shortage from COVID-19 hoarding
As of this morning, the most recent reports show the coronavirus, COVID-19, has spread to 162 countries and infected almost 190,000 people. The total number of fatalities linked to the virus is reported to be over 7,800*. As fears surrounding the coronavirus continue to grow, the public has rushed to buy face masks in hopes to protect themselves from the virus creating a shortage.
The B.C. Dental Hygienists Association warns that if the medical mask shortage continues, dental visits may need to be canceled, offices may need to close and members could be laid off.
The World Health Organization (WHO) does not urge healthy people to wear a mask unless they are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection. Instead, the WHO recommends frequent hand washing and asks the public to avoid touching their mouth, eyes, and nose. They have warned that wearing a mask to protect against the virus may backfire, increasing how often someone touches their face to adjust the mask.
Despite this, the public has continued to clear store shelves of medical masks, restricting access for dentists, who require masks by law to treat patients.
“If we run out, then it is possible we would have to shut down operations,” said Dr. Hussein Shivj at Asante Dental in Vancouver.
Dr. Nathan Kennedy, a dentist at Smile Solutions says he may need to consider reducing the number of appointments or daily patients if the mask shortage continues. This would mean cutting back shifts.
The B.C. Dental Hygienists Association has stated the mask shortage “is a growing concern” as they are “definitely in tight supply”. They are currently working with the Ministry of Health to find alternative supply options. According to the executive director, Andrea Burton, “[Dental hygienists are] really worried they’re going to be looking at unemployment insurance because they are not going to be able to work if they can’t get the [masks].”
Dentists and hygienists agree that frontline medical practitioners must have precedence when it comes to masks, but are warning that if the shortage continues, dentists will not be able to serve the public like they need to.
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