During the “Downtime”

headshot of president
Leigh Jacopetti-Kondraski, DMD

Months have gone by now, and we are still talking about COVID-19. If you are anything like me, you were wishfully thinking early on that this would quickly pass, and we would soon be back to “business as usual.” Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The more realistic vision I now have anticipates this will be something we will deal with until an unforeseen end in the distant future. (I sure hope my shower curtain-worthy PPE gowns hold up in the wash.)

From the beginning, when the World Health Organization announced this to be a pandemic and when the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) began releasing guidance for the state on March 13, PAGD has taken a role to support our members as best as possible during this challenging time. Without having the magic wand ideally needed to make this reality disappear, we truly feel we have done our best to advocate for our members and provide a benefit during the “downtime.” I would like to take this opportunity to share just some of what we have been involved with over the past few months.

“We feel confident in the strengthened relationships we have made with the various other dental organizations during this time, including PDA, PDHA, PAPD, the deans of our PA dental schools, PCOH, the DOH, and others.”

While we still have gripes about the restrictions and ways we must now practice and conduct business, in retrospect, it could have been a much different outcome for all of us both short and long term if the PA DOH’s initial requirement for emergency care only in a negative air pressure room was not reversed. This reversal was solely due to the various dental organizations choosing to come together to use our collective voices. We quickly formed a “COVID Dental Coalition,” made up of representatives from Pennsylvania’s various dental stakeholder organizations, and met with the PA DOH. Within days, this requirement was withdrawn, and we were allowed to provide more care to our patients. Now, I understand it was not “business as usual,” but we need to respect the fact that we were and are dealing with many unknowns due to this new virus, and simply stated, given our profession, we will, as always, have particular inherent risks.

Since this coalition was formed in March, we have had countless meetings within our respective organizations and between our organizations. We have met on various occasions with the PA DOH in order to offer perspective, voice our concerns, challenges, and dissatisfactions, and to offer assistance going forward. We have pointed out all inconsistencies between Pennsylvania and the CDC and OSHA’s guidelines as Pennsylvania hit us with much more strict management of the situation. We have rallied for dentists to have access to the PPE supply chain when other medical professions were given preference. We have troubleshooted scenarios and responded to each of the press releases and Health Action Networks (PA HAN) that have been shared in order to minimize the impact to our members and to our patients who ultimately need the care we provide.

Updates and notices were shared with our members to keep them informed of the ongoing changes as state government did not inform all licensees of all that they needed to know in order to practice safely and to be in compliance with regulations. Going forward, it is our understanding, that as a result of the Coalition notifying the PA DOH of such limited correspondence, that a committee will be formed to prevent such issues with communication in the future.

Outside of our many advocacy efforts, PAGD offered online CE during the downtime, even before others had taken advantage of this opportunity, and we had great participation in those courses offered. We hope to continue to use the online platform more in the future in addition to our valued live events.

The list of our efforts goes on, and we hope to continue to serve you and to use our voice for dentistry’s benefit going forward. We feel confident in the strengthened relationships we have made with the various other dental organizations during this time, including PDA, PDHA, PAPD, the deans of our PA dental schools, PCOH, the DOH, and others. We also hope members can continue to find the value in their memberships into the future so PAGD can continue to support you all. With that said, thank you for your membership and for your understanding as the leadership of PAGD moves through these uncharted waters. I wish you all the best and pray that your practices and lives have benefited from recovery and will continue to do so.