We understand the concerns you have for the health of your family, team members, patients, and community with the COVID-19 crisis. We also understand your worries about how a slowdown or shutdown can impact your practice and team. This is a challenging time that requires effective leadership and empathy. The purpose of this email is to provide you with as much information as possible to address the challenges you face.
What are the recommendations of the ODA, WDA, and ADA?
On March 15, 2020, the Oregon Dental Associate recommended that Oregon dentists limit dental procedures to emergency care. The ODA recommended that dentists postpone non-urgent procedures. The ODA has an excellent link on their website for what to communicate to patients if you are limiting procedures or closing your practice: https://www.oregondental.org/government-affairs/regulatory-information/coronavirus. In addition, the ODA is tracking the business and financial impact from the crisis to share with policy makers. The ODA requests that you contact the organization if you decide to close your practice.
As of March 16, 2020, the Washington Dental Association has indicated they are in communication with state health officials about the next steps to take. The WDA will be issuing additional guidelines soon. Here is the link to the WDA website: https://www.wsda.org/
On March 16, 2020, the American Dental Association recommended that offices postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks and concentrate on emergency care. Here is the link to the ADA website: https://www.ada.org/virus.
Please note that currently the ODA, WDA, and ADA along with officials in Oregon and Washington are not requiring dental practices to close. In fact, dentists are needed more than ever to provide necessary dental care; otherwise, people in discomfort or with acute treatment needs will seek care in the emergency room.
If a practice reduces hours or closes temporarily, what options are available for the team?
The options available to the team may change after the House and Senate finalize legislation to provide relief to employees. Congress is considering paid emergency family and medical leave. We will keep you updated on the developments.
Your team currently has the following options:
- Employees can take paid time off during periods of reduced hours or if the office closes.
- Practice owners can offer compensation to affected employees. We know the ability to provide additional compensation varies greatly between practices.
- Unemployment is available to employees if the office closes. There is typically a waiting period of one week.
- However, if an employee receives paid time off, paid sick leave, and/or additional compensation, this will delay the start of unemployment and/or impact eligibility for benefits.
Below you will find links for Oregon and Washington that cover resources for employees:
What are things to keep in mind if you remain open?
Patients will need reassurance about the high standards you maintain for cleanliness. Most people do not realize that dental practices have higher sterilization standards than most medical offices. Now is the time to educate patients regarding the thorough cleaning and sterilization procedures that occur in every operatory for every patient.
In addition, if you remain open with limited patient hours, you can use this time to catch up on insurance claims, provide needed training, implement new systems and protocols, and communicate with your patient base.
Finally, if patients need to reschedule, now is the time to be extremely understanding. Loyal patients will return as the COVID-19 crisis passes.
Will business-related insurance cover lost revenues during downtime?
Unfortunately, insurance will likely not help with COVID-19-related closures and downtime. If a patient with COVID-19 is treated at your practice and this leads to others catching the virus and eventual economic loss, this loss may qualify under some policies. Please contact your agent for more information.
What assistance is available to practice owners?
If you have a loan, it is very likely your bank will provide some type of relief during the crisis. We know that banks are looking at options to provide help to their dental clients. If you need immediate cash, you may also qualify for a line of credit at a very low interest rate. If you are concerned, it is very important to call your banker. Bankers are a critical part of your team, especially now. Bankers want to promote your success and help during challenging times.
We also encourage practice owners to contact their landlords, labs, suppliers, and other vendors to see what flexibility will be offered during a period of reduced hours or in case of a shutdown. In most cases, vendors will want to work with you.
Finally, we will keep our eyes on Congress to see what type of assistance they may provide.
Are personal tax deadlines still in place?
The IRS has proposed extending the filing deadline, but as of now, the deadline is still April 15th. We will also keep you updated about any changes to the filing deadline.
While we hope this email addresses your questions and concerns, if you need additional help, please let us know. Fluence is here to support you through this challenging time.