The Dental Council would like to thank oral health practitioners for the essential services you are providing to help New Zealanders through the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is a difficult time for all during what are uncertain changing times. You have sacrificed a lot and are making a positive difference to the containment of COVID-19 in our country at a time where you yourselves face personal and financial pressures of your own. Every health professional is being asked to play an important front-line role to stop the spread of the virus while simultaneously continuing to provide essential health services to New Zealanders. Your efforts together with those of the nation are making a positive difference to the containment of COVID-19 in our country.
The Prime Minister has announced that New Zealand will move to COVID19 Alert Level 3 from 11.59pm on Monday 27 April. This will be reviewed following two weeks at Alert Level 3 to assess success of virus elimination.
The government has indicated that primary healthcare and services are “open” but restricted under Alert Level 3. For dental care to be provided safely, restrictions on providing urgent and emergency dental care only continue to apply.
Together with the oral health team at the Ministry and with input from providers across the sector* and associations, the Council has developed guidelines for oral health services at COVID-19 Alert Level 3 to allow you to continue to support your patients under the new Alert Level 3 restrictions.
Possible moves to Alert Level 2 and 1 in the future
The Council is similarly working on guidelines for when alert levels are possibly de-escalated further to levels 2 and 1.
The public health and social measures which apply at these levels have yet to be defined in detail by the government and we will release level 2 and 1 guidelines for you as soon as these details have been finalised by the Ministry of Health.
Over the last weeks, the COVID-19 response has been evolving and changing and will likely continue to do so. Gathering information and applying in the context of oral health care has been extremely challenging. We have been liaising closely with the Ministry of Health and other regulators, taking lessons learnt from international partners and consulting with providers and professional associations to help determine standards, guidance and the level of information we provide.
Specialised advice on the clinical aspects of COVID-19 and the impacts on delivering health services comes from the Ministry of Health, subject matter experts and other government authorities.
Our role is limited to providing guidance based on direction from government and other relevant higher authorities to ensure you provide care that is safe for your patients and for you during the pandemic response.
We understand the greatest challenge with providing care safely for many practitioners has been access to adequate supplies of PPE. This concern has been relayed to the relevant people in the Ministry and we are aware many DHBs have been working with private practices to make supplies available where possible. Further, we understand that PPE supply is now accessible through some sources, and we urge practitioners to continue to work together, and with your local DHB, dental suppliers and associations, to overcome ongoing issues.
Being an oral health professional is challenging and stressful at the best of times, and even more so now as we face the uncertainty of a global pandemic. All New Zealanders can be proud of the way we have managed lockdown and cared for ourselves, families and each other.
We are aware that many practitioners are currently facing severe impacts on your businesses, livelihoods and personal wellbeing. We encourage you to seek help and support from those close to you, your own doctor, and other organisations able to assist.
From all of us at the Council, we thank you for the support many have provided and expressed over the last weeks. To all oral health providers, thank you for your continuing hard work, care and commitment to supporting New Zealanders and keeping us all safe.
Andrew Gray and Marie Warner
Chair and Chief Executive