We understand that as oral health professionals, and given the virus’ means of spread that can make you particularly vulnerable, you are concerned about the coronavirus (Covid-19) and the decisions you need to take to provide the best care in those difficult circumstances.
The intensity of outbreaks and the availability of protective equipment vary across Europe (see for instance here a clear infography from England).
Professional chambers, public health bodies, government officials and employers ensure that patients receive appropriate advice, care and support and that dental practitioners have the best information, environment and equipment to provide safe care and advice.
In all circumstances the primary concern of those that are on our registers is not to endanger the patient’s health. This concern introduces the entire FEDCAR code of ethics. In times of crisis, it takes on a special significance.
In practice, while many members -of public or private nature- within FEDCAR have recommended or forced practitioners to close their practices, they also have organised a local or national system of emergencies for oral health care in order to find out:
- how to refer the patient,
- how to receive and treat the patient in emergency situations (for a detailed presentation, see for instance here in Luxembourg or here in France),
- how to relieve public hospital services, and
- how to intervene as a volunteer.
The final decision is up to each practitioner. He or she is the only one who, according to the local geography, the state of patient’s health and the personal protective equipment (PPE) at his or her disposal, can assess the situation.
The situation evolves rapidly:
- Member States and EU are speeding up the production and organising the distribution of personal protective equipments (PPE) without which care is at risk. On 16 April we can testify PPEs for dental care are not sufficiently available. Dental regulators liaise accordingly with national authorities.
- The EU commission has published guidelines on 3 April that encourage Competent Authorities to accelerate the recognition of professional qualifications (see Section 8 of the document you can find here in all EU languages) when it is possible.
- Member States and the EU are going to coordinate as much as possible the easing of the lockdown (a Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures was published on 15 April). Given the great inequalities taking place among our countries, a common timetable for exiting the crisis is not possible and some countries -like in Austria- have already authorized to resume dental practices that are not limited to emergencies. But the re-opening of dental clinics will need a specific organization for the patients, employees and practitioners.
As stated by Commissioner for Health and Food safety Stella Kyriakides, “Until effective treatments and a vaccine are found, we will have to learn to live with this virus.”(15 April).
Dental regulators adapt therefore their recommendations (see example here on 15 April in Spain or here on 4 April in Denmark) , communicate with the patients (see example here in Ireland) and assist oral health practitioners who, like other health professions, are from now called up to gradually help Europe to emerge from the epidemic.
Dr Tom Ulvelling
Collège Médical du Luxembourg, Chair of FEDCAR
Dr Christian Winkelmann
Ordre national des chirurgiens-dentistes de France, General Secretary of FEDCAR