1st June 2020
From March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit with rapidly escalating social isolation and practice restrictions in dentistry, a significant number of DHAA members needed urgent advice on appropriate PPE and infection control measures to deal with the new pathogen that the world knew very little about. Then widespread standing down of dental practitioners from prohibition of aerosol generating procedures and closure of practices followed. DHAA’s industrial relations support line was running hot 24/7 with members seeking information on their legal rights and entitlements, as well as advice on how they may support their employers in surviving the massive economic downturn as an employee.
To help members to keep up with the rapidly changing environment and massive amount of information coming through, DHAA set up a weekly live interactive webinar to brief members on all changes and developments, as well as collecting information from the grass roots to better understand the practical issues affecting them. Members were also promptly informed by emails, with a COVID-19 resource hub set up for on demand access. The DHAA job search service was temporarily expanded to include non-dental jobs so that members were able to access alternative employment opportunities that may be suitable for them as an interim measure. We also contacted the health authorities of all states and territories to offer our members’ service as emergency health support personal should the pandemic develop in such a way that necessitated a large number of trained health professionals.
With lockdown in place across the country DHAA commenced a daily interactive session on our social media platform to provide support in mental wellbeing and personal motivation. State by state local support groups were formed to offer additional personalised support and communication at the local level.
An expert panel was also established to provide evidence-based advice on clinical and practice issues both at an organisational and individual levels. This gave DHAA members the confidence they need to contribute to and address their workplace needs right through the pandemic, particularly with lots of unproven ideas and unsubstantiated news circulating on social media at the time.
As the pandemic progressed, DHAA has been working behind the scenes and liaised with the Dental Board of Australia and many other stakeholders to keep up with all relevant developments, address emerging issues and planning for the next phase. The DHAA Board held fortnightly meetings to monitor the situation and provided leadership and directives to proactively identify and address needs of members. DHAA has only a very small staff and significant amount of work was done by volunteers who themselves were also badly affected by the pandemic. The association camaraderie and best of humanity had no doubt shone through at the very challenging time for many.
DHAA also made a submission to the Senate Inquiry to the Government’s handling of COVID-19. The submission put forward lessons learnt from our profession so that improvements can be considered from the dental hygiene perspective.