The COVID-19 Impact On My Practice: Dental Dilemma
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I have previously written about how my medical practice was dramatically affected by COVID-19:
- The White Coat Is Not A Shield.
- The Furlough Of Xrayvsn.
- The COVID-19 Battlefield: Are Healthcare Workers Pawns?
I decided to reach out to the healthcare community and ask individuals if they wanted to share their stories on how COVID-19 had impacted their businesses and lives.
I figured it might be beneficial for everyone to see how others are coping with this generational event and if any tips could be gleaned.
I have several friends who are dentists/orthodontists.
The field of dentistry was especially hit hard with COVID-19 and the shelter at home orders in place around the country.
I was very fortunate when I received the following submission from Candy Sebold, DDS, a dentist who shares her story of how COVID-19 has disrupted her practice and life.
My own practice is located in Brooklyn, NY and I also practice out of an office in Long Island, NY.
March 24, 2020 was the last day of normal practice hours for me.
I have been going to either office less than once a week to treat emergency patients.
One was to complete a denture for someone who could not eat without it.
In my own practice, a small practice serving mainly patients with Medicaid insurance plans, I had just hired a new dental assistant.
She had worked with me for just three weeks prior to our mandatory closing.
Shortly after we closed our doors she informed me she had gotten the COVID-19 virus.
She had been working in two other jobs as well as for me.
Fortunately after 6 weeks of being ill, she recovered.
She does not want to work in any of her jobs any longer.
Since March 24 I have not been doing any new dentistry and of course I am not earning any new income.
This has had a huge emotional as well as financial impact on me.
I am in the higher risk category for having complications if I become ill with the virus.
My husband is as well.
He is not employed.
I was frightened about catching the virus, frightened about potentially not being able to pay my mortgage or other bills, and frightened for my patients and remaining staff member.
From day one I felt that something I loved for 40 years had died.
I seemed to have no purpose after I matched all my stray socks and dusted my home.
As someone who has been self employed my entire career I didn’t think I’d be entitled to unemployment benefits.
I didn’t know how we would pay the mortgage if the stay at home orders went on for long.
Because I was so anxious about not having enough funds at my disposal I did withdraw some cushion money from my retirement savings.
Surprisingly, patients were calling for treatment at both offices.
I was forced to decline unless they were having true emergencies.
I was also without a dental assistant and couldn’t treat patients if I had to use a high speed hand piece.
The aerosol spray has to be suctioned with high speed suction now.
I have recemented crowns, smoothed sharp edges from cracked teeth and prescribed antibiotics for my patients who were experiencing emergencies.
A wonderful consequence of the shelter at home order has been that many of my patients have been reaching out to just make sure I am well and to connect.
A very frustrating aspect of the financial implications of stopping my livelihood is the amount of time it took and is taking to get the funds the government had promised.
We spoke to the bank that holds our home mortgage and asked for a three month suspension of payment .
They agreed but took the next month’s payment out of our account anyway.
They admitted they made an error but would not return the payment.
I applied for the PPP loan and it took many weeks until funds appeared in my business account.
That was fine for my employees but is not salary for myself.
It took many weeks for my husband and me to receive the government stimulus funds.
I am still waiting to receive word on pandemic unemployment benefits.
It has been about 7 weeks since I stopped working.
In early February I placed an order for a case of masks since I was running low.
This had not been pandemic related but became pandemic related.
It took 8 weeks to finally get the masks.
I ordered a total of 4 no contact thermometers for home use initially and now to screen patients with when we reopen.
None have arrived yet.
I ordered from several different sellers.
Three weeks ago I placed an order for N95 masks and the company then said they had no idea when they would be shipped.
Yesterday I called to check on the status of the order and the representative of the company informed me that if I were to order more masks yesterday they would not be shipped until late DECEMBER.
I have had to order more cleaning sprays and wipes for the office at much higher prices than they were before.
I am also waiting on face shields, which I have never used before.
In anticipation of eventually reopening my practice I have to have a hand wash station, barriers between patients and the front desk, remove magazines from my waiting room, schedule far fewer patients a day so that there is only one patient in the office at a time, and try to get more PPE which aren’t readily available.
I’m wondering how the extra costs will be able to be recouped.
I don’t see that the already low reimbursement plans I accept will help.
A huge problem I am facing is finding a new dental assistant.
I have been advertising for three weeks for an experienced assistant.
I am hearing from applicants who have no experience at all and even they are far and few between.
They also live very far away from my office requiring multiple forms of public transportation to get to me.
It just isn’t practical to hire someone that needs over two hours to get to the job.
I believe experienced dental assistants may be rethinking returning to the field.
At home we are not spending any money on anything that is not a necessity.
Fortunately we are still hanging in there.
Dr. Candy Sebold, DDS
Candy Sebold, DDS. is a dentist from Brooklyn, NY and is a medical advisor for eMediHealth.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers.
I hope that both your personal and business life return to normalcy soon.
If you wish to share your story (anonymous or not) of how COVID-19 has impacted you, please send your submission to email@example.com (just follow the above question format).
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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