June 9, 2020
Dr. James (Jim) Bonar, DMD
Graduation: University of Manitoba Dental Faculty, Class of 1983
Practice: Chancellor Dental Group, Brandon, Manitoba
Dr. Bonar served as a Dental Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Manitoba Dental Association President’s Award of Merit and he currently resides on CDSPI’s Board of Directors.
In March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced dental practices across the country to close down. Many provinces have begun reopening. On May 4, Dr. Bonar reopened his practice in Brandon, Manitoba, and he shares his journey below.
The first couple of weeks were focused on preparing for how to come out of this.
We put plans in place for our staff, patients and the practice. I watched a lot of webinars and read about research on the virus to better understand what we were facing. I also took time to read some interesting books: The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis and The End of October by Lawrence Wright. Both books relate to what we are going through in the world right now.
Our PPE was on order early.
We donated some PPE to police, firefighters, and other health providers to help with shortages. A few weeks later, we began ordering visors, uniforms and other PPE, anticipating this was probably going to be the norm for a while. We did that early and since reopening, we haven’t been faced with a shortage of anything.
We began accessing government aid programs when they became available.
We got the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) set up for small businesses and are working on the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. We’re also getting staff back to work and setting up the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for them. The CDSPI webinar with MNP was helpful in navigating government aid programs.
It was important to make sure our staff felt supported.
We spent a lot of time talking to staff, keeping them up to speed on the situation and making sure that everyone was okay. Every couple of weeks we held a Zoom or FaceTime meeting to provide updates and stay connected.
We kept in contact with patients.
We contacted our higher needs patients on a weekly basis to make sure they were doing okay. We also posted information on social media to let patients know that we were only open for emergencies and we made sure they had our emergency phone number.
We consulted with an engineer on making changes to the practice.
The separation between our rooms is well over six feet from patient-to-patient. We’re fortunate that we have enough interior space in our entryway and our waiting room to separate people. I also talked to an engineer about making changes and they recommended we look at air exchange and proper air flow, so we invested in specific filters to help improve air quality.
The biggest change has been social distancing to manage the patient flow.
The movement of people must be really methodical to maintain proper distancing. We have stickers on the floor, and we installed a doorbell with a camera. Our front door is locked but we can see and speak to the patient from inside. Once we get back to normal volumes, we will probably keep patients in their cars until it’s time for their appointment.
It’s added time to our procedures, but eventually it will become rote.
We are doing pre-procedural rinses, taking the patient’s temperature when they arrive, and reviewing their pre-screening surveys when they come in to ensure they’re not sick. We always wore masks, but now we’re wearing N95 masks and we’ve added a visor and a hat for added protection.
We knew it was going to be slow coming back.
Patients are concerned about their health and they likely have a lot of financial pressures right now. We started calling people about routine appointments and about 40% of patients will come in, while 60% have said they are going to delay it. That number will change as time goes on, but it doesn’t surprise me.
I was fortunate to have TripleGuard™ Insurance.
I have been contacted by Aviva Insurance about our pandemic claim. Other dentists who have had their claim paid out have said that once Aviva got in touch with them, it went smoothly. The delay is not ideal, but in the end, I’m just glad I had the coverage and look forward to the claim getting sorted out soon.
Through it all, my family was there for support.
With social distancing in place, it was important for my wife Sandy and I to remain virtually connected to our children, Krista, Darci (husband Cam, and daughter Parker) and Paul. I will look back on this extraordinary period and always be thankful we were there to provide emotional support, encouragement, and a sense of stability to one another.