LGBTQ Atlanta dentist Chip Hill, DDS, PC had one leg up on the rest of the world back in March. As broadsided as anyone by the broad impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Hill and his staff were old hands at safety protocols.
“In dentistry, we are prevention experts and use universal precautions in keeping our work areas disinfected and in keeping instruments sterile,” Hill told Project Q. “As people who have worn masks regularly for decades, we know they work. Masks are the best measure to avoid contracting or passing Covid-19 to others.”
For Hill, strict adherence to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention was a no-brainer. Above-and-beyond measures for patient safety, as well as some quick thinking on the business side, were in order, too.
Hill closed his practice completely for 10 weeks beginning in March. With federal payroll protection and unemployment insurance in place, the office spent lockdown acquiring new equipment and additional personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The airborne threat increase with Covid-19 led to adding new suction devices to control aerosols, air purifying units throughout the office and increased PPE for our team,” Hill said. “Once we were again secure in knowing our team and our patients would be protected, we reopened June 1.”
Upon reopening, the whole staff came back at full pay, and they have stayed busy since. That’s not to say there weren’t intense and emotional moments like everyone else experienced in the age of COVID-19.
“We are a family, and we are there to offer support to one another,” Hill said. “We kept our spirits up by staying in close contact with group messages and Zoom meetings.”
The new normal at the practice includes masks for patients and limited people in the waiting area. Visitors can also expect a temperature check and a plexiglass barrier at the reception desk.
Patients seem to welcome the extra precautions and understand any changes, Hill said.
“To offset the ongoing cost of additional PPE, we elected to cease validated parking rather than charging patients a PPE fee,” he said. “Aside from those small items, our patients seem pleased with the efforts we are putting into keeping everyone safe.”
As an expert, Hill offered simple, effective advice about basic precautions until the pandemic is behind us.
“Social distancing and hand sanitizing/hygiene are excellent safety measures,” he said. “If we all do our part, we can bring the infection rates down while continuing our lives somewhat undeterred.”
There is one thing Hill can’t replace as LGBTQ Atlanta waits for the end of the pandemic, he added.
“The sooner the better for this to be back under control,” he said. “We miss our patient hugs!”