A practitioner’s view

If we are to recover or even thrive, we must do it on our own

[ Words: Dr Conor Irwin ]

I don’t think any of us can have expected or experienced anything remotely like the assault on our businesses that was visited on us in March. As soon as we began to digest the scale of the pandemic, we quickly realised that as dentists we were front line and extremely exposed. The past three months have been sobering to say the least and for sure COVID-19 has left its mark on Irish dentistry. It is likely we will never return to practice as we did before. 

There are a number of reasons for this. Some of us got to ‘smell the roses ‘ and came to realise that there may be more to life than being a slave to our work. The time off was strangely enjoyable and once we got used to it a few of us may have begun to contemplate taking some more time away from the coal face or perhaps even leaving it all behind.

However, for most leaving it all behind was not an option. We had patients, staff and our business to consider. We listened out for guidance and grasped for support. We desperately tried to restock with wretched PPE and keep up with the ever-changing recommendations for safe practice. Sadly, we began to realise that we rank very lowly in the health sector. It was sobering to be rated below hairdressers and tattooists on the list of support services needed on the road to recovery. It was hurtful to hear that our profession alone would pay VAT on PPE.

The HSE emergency cental centres that many of us had volunteered for basically didn’t exist and the PPE we were promised would never arrive. We could receive the COVID-19 payment of €350 per week and tend to emergencies as long as we received no remuneration for same. That the Health Minister was unable to attend an emergency meeting with the IDA on 26 May spoke volumes for many in our profession. It almost felt like we were being bullied.

We are completely taken for granted or even ignored. The lockdown made that very clear indeed”

It has to be acknowledged that the support for staff wages was a great help and some restart grants are hopefully on our way. But we should never make the mistake that we have anything like the clout or influence of the medical profession. We are completely taken for granted or even ignored. The lockdown made that very clear indeed.

So now we are back to work, but not as we know it. Turns out that waiting areas are as important as the surgeries they serve. And the DTSS contract looks even worse than it ever did before. The cost of dentistry has risen sharply. And now we realise that shouting for help won’t work because we don’t matter very much. But we remain front line and we still provide an essential service and continue to be important to our communities and valued by them.

If we are to recover or even thrive, we must do it on our own. We must reassess our practices and the way we do business. It is likely we will have to make changes to both, and we will need to have the energy to reinvent ourselves and kick on. Some of us may prefer to smell the roses.

Dr Conor Irwin established the Ratoath Dental and Implant
Centre in 1998.

Published: 17 July, 2020 at 15:00
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