Your dental practice is open, but your team member is sick. What do you do?
It’s a worry on the mind of many dental practice leaders across the nation and world right now. In an effort to help you develop a plan specific to your practice and level of comfort, we have developed some general guidelines on how to address COVID-19 infections in the practice.
We understand how imperative it is that you follow recommendations from the scientists and experts who are best qualified to advise you. This is why we developed these guidelines based on CDC recommendations, information from CPAs at Cain Watters and Associates, and procedures developed with the team at Cedr HR (contacts are at the bottom of the page). We highly recommend that you work with both of these organizations or similar organizations who are keeping up to date with this developing situation, your practice, and your state requirements. These are basic ideas for you to work with your human resources, legal, and financial advisors to determine the right course of action for you and your practice.
The bottom line is you need to think about what you will do if a team member becomes ill.
What to do if anyone associated with the practice is ill?
If you are facing an issue, the CDC has put together a risk assessment, and we highly recommend that you read through it until you understand your options.
We recommend that if any doctor or team member feels bad, is exhibiting any symptoms of a cold, flu, sinus, allergies or COVID-19 or has been around another individual who has recently tested positive for COVID-19 or is awaiting test results, that they should go to their primary care physician and get tested and stay home if at all possible until you have confirmation of the condition and are feeling better. Remember, we are health care workers who help others get and stay healthy.
What do you do if the doctor tests positive?
- If the doctor tests positive, immediately go to the CDC risk assessment and walk through the assessment for your particular situation. You should call your local county health department immediately for further instruction. In addition, inform the team.
- You may want to consider closing and rescheduling patients for the amount of time necessary for all team members to be tested and get test results.
- If there is no associate in the practice, you may want to consider laying people off due to the issue. Or if a PPP loan has been obtained, keep paying your team from those funds in order to keep the team engaged and onboard. Expect the doctor to be out for anywhere from a couple of weeks to months.
- When informing patients and employees of a possible exposure be sure to maintain the confidentiality of the individual who was exposed/waiting for test results/infected.
What do you do if a team member tests positive for COVID-19?
If a team member tests positive, once again the first step is to go to the CDC risk assessment tool to determine whether you can stay open. You may want to also call your local county health department for further instruction regarding what you must tell patients. In addition, the team member should immediately leave the practice. The team member should also report to the doctor’s workers compensation company right away.
Employees who test positive would receive their two weeks of paid sick leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The doctor would need to work with their payroll company who will be filing the payroll tax credit so the doctor is not out any additional cash flow for the two weeks of wages.
Per the CDC, any additional team members who had “prolonged, close contact” with the teammate or patient who is ill (with confirmed positive COVID-19 test) should be quarantined for 14 days as well. That means if team members were in contact with the sick person and did not maintain social distancing and did not wear a mask during the contact, that team member should self-quarantine.
For those employees who adhered to recommended PPE and did not have “prolonged, close contact” with the infected individual, there are no restrictions and the employee may continue working. If an individual feels ill or exhibits any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should immediately ask that employee to self-isolate.
When informing patients of a possible exposure, be sure to maintain the confidentiality of the individual who was exposed/waiting for test results/infected.
Take a proactive approach and develop a contingency plan outlining essential functions of each team member and who could fulfill those if/when a person is out sick. Having this plan in place will ease the stress of the situation for everyone involved.
Sample Verbal Skills Informing Patients
“Hello Mrs. Jameson, this is Brenda from [your dental practice]. It sure was good to see Bobby last week for his appointment. How was Bobby’s appointment? How has Bobby been feeling since his time in our office? That is great news. I do want to share with you that one of our team members that came into contact with Bobby has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. We have contacted the county health department and they have said there is a very limited risk to Bobby since all the PPE precautions were taken within our practice. Our team member is in good health and is self-quarantined. Per the health department, there is no reason for Bobby to be quarantined at this time but please monitor him for signs and symptoms. Our office takes precautions with each patient that are beyond the recommendations for protecting our patients. Again, the health department says Bobby’s risk assessment level is very low from his time in our office but we do want to make sure to notify all of our patients that were seen last Thursday so that you can watch for symptoms.”
What do you do if a team member has family members who test positive?
- Have the team member stay home and be tested for COVID-19.
- The team member needs to refrain from work until test results are available. Once results are received, if positive, follow the guidelines of self-quarantine for 14 days or until symptoms subside. If the test comes back negative, and the family member does not live with the team member, the team member may return to work as long as they are not experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If the test is negative and the positive family member lives with the team member, the team member should stay at home until the family member is illness free.
- Call the local county health department for additional guidance.
What do you do when a patient tests positive?
When you are informed of a patient who was recently seen in the practice has tested positive, inform the team members of a possible exposure.
If the team was following all the recommended guidelines from the CDC with appropriate PPE, the team members do not have to do anything other than to be on the lookout for any symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
If a team member experiences symptoms consistent with COVID-19, that team member should leave the practice immediately to be tested. They should refrain from returning to work until test results are back (see the section above that talks about what you should do if a team member tests positive).
Safeguard your patients and practice members with a proactive approach.
It’s imperative to stay vigilant during this time in regard to wearing masks, recommended PPE, and socially distancing while in the office. In doing so, you reduce your risk of contracting the virus significantly.
It’s also important during this time to make your contingency plans in case a team member were to be out of the practice due to illness or exposure. Work as a team to determine who could assume the responsibilities of another teammate should they have to be out of office.
We have additional resources to help you and your practice through this difficult time. Resources:
- Cedr HR Solutions
- Cain Watters and Associates
- The Most Urgent Questions Practices Are Asking As They Reopen
- How to Move Back to Methodically Building Your Dental Practice
- 8 Marketing Tips for Reopening Your Dental Practice to Potential Patients
- Recover and Restore Your Dental Hygiene Scheduled with a Super Hygiene Day