Pakistan Dental Association urges dentists to join hands in fight against COVID-19
Karachi: COVID-19 situation is complicated and disappointing, and the dental community is demoralized in such a scenario. Dentists are worried since they are not earning much, along with the constant fear of the contracting virus. We are fighting an invisible enemy; hence it’s a very challenging time for all of us.
Referring to the impact of a pandemic on the dental community, Dr Mahmood Shah, President Pakistan Dental Association (PDA), said that the COVID-19 had affected every domain of life. The pandemic has inflicted the psyche, physical working, and financial aspects of dental practitioners in both public and private sectors and academic institutions. PDA tried its best to find remedies and steps that counter such setbacks and ways to cope with it. There is also a dire need to take action for the betterment of dental fraternity, and specific demands have to be made from the government to get support in this regard.
He spoke at a live session organized on the topic, ‘Current COVID-19 situation and its impact on dental professionals and dental practices.’ Speakers who participated in the event were office bearers of PDA located in various provinces and cities of Pakistan. Dr Jawad A Kundi, President-Elect, PDA branch, Peshawar, Dr Mujeeb R Kalwar, President, PDA branch, Hyderabad, Dr Hasan Bashir, President, PDA branch, Gujranwala, Dr Noor ul Wahab, President, PDA branch, Karachi, Dr Umair F. Raja, President, PDA branch, Federal, Dr Jahangir Hammad, President, PDA branch, Quetta spoke on the occasion.
PDA representatives expressed their views on various issues faced in their respective areas and what steps can be taken to improve them. The moderator for the event was Dr Muattar Hanif.
Dr Mahmood said that though the current president of Pakistan was an ex-PDA president, the dental community’s plight was still unheard. He said, “Dr Alvi knows the problems of the dental community, and I have tried to reach him many times. However, I didn’t get any positive response from him. But still I will keep on trying to talk to him about the issues faced by the dentists so that the dental community can get the same attention that medical ones get.”
Dr Mahmood urged the PDA members to come on one forum to discuss the recommendations and jot down the demands that can be forwarded to the government as an official plea for help. “PDA can assemble some recommendations and forward to the government, which include practical aspects and can be sent to Dr Arif Alvi. He has always spoken about the unity of the dental community,” Dr Mahmood said.
Dr Shah highlighted that though private practitioners face tough times, it’s the government practitioners facing the major setback. He said, “I feel that individual practitioners shouldn’t ask for PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) as they can compensate for their financial loss by increasing their fees. It’s the government practitioners that need help, and PDA is more than happy to help them.”
While sharing the situation on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Jawad A Kundi said that dentists are either accurately following dental recommendations or ignoring them altogether. “People who are showing casual attitude has to pay the price for that. Let us take care of all infection prevention protocols with extra precautions for COVID-19. One should make sure that the place of treatment is well ventilated and a gap of 10 minutes should be given between each new procedure.”
Dr Mujeeb R Kalwar sharing the impact of COVID-19 in Sindh, said that dentistry was the most affected profession. However, despite the country’s chaotic situation due to pandemic, many dental professionals were still not following SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). He further added, “No matter how much SOPs are being forced to implement, we cannot escape from the contracting the virus. We have very close contact with the patients during procedures. Dentists are frontline soldiers in the fight against COVID-19 representing our dental family. We should not put the lives of our dentists and the government should provide full PPEs to all dental practitioners, and should declare them as front line soldiers.”
Dr Hasan Bashir shared the necessary steps taken by the PDA branch of Gujranwala. He said that they were currently working with local NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) and concluded that one should help themselves and others during such testing times. He said, “I don’t see that dentistry is anywhere near in the agendas of the government. The reality is that we should be united and fight against the COVID-19 by ourselves instead of looking up to the government.”
Dr Hasan shared, “We requested our friends from China and other countries to import PPEs and other equipment for us. We also forwarded this equipment to our friends and fellow dentists all over Pakistan as a gift. We also distributed respirators among many others. For private practitioners, we allocated the staff of private practitioners to support them in such troubling times. We also trained practitioners in a series of lectures to guide people in terms of COVID-19. We should take a practical approach and think of utilising our resources under the guidance of PDA central council.”
Dr Noor ul Wahab stressed the need for awareness in the fight against COVID-19. He said, “We need to overcome the fear of COVID-19 through education and by following preventive measures. We have to arrange PPEs ourselves instead of looking up to the government. Consider every patient as a COVID carrier. We can only request higher authorities though the expectations are shallow. We can educate our dentists and guide people properly, because that’s the only way out.”
Dr Umair F. Raja highlighted while sharing the situation in the Federal area, “We are living in extraordinary times and these are not typical situations. We have to learn and live with COVID-19. Dentists are obviously at higher risk of contracting the virus, because of the proximity with the patients and the type of procedures involved. Due to the fear of COVID-19, the patient’s flow was reduced and affecting dentists profoundly. Though many attempts are being made, dentistry is still unable to restore at its full potential, regardless of all these guidelines. Dentistry has become more of a stigma that since dental treatments are usually expensive, hence dentists are also well off; thus, pandemic won’t affect them much. We all need to sit down and formulate some demands to make things go forward for all dental fraternity.”
Dr Jahangir Hammad shared the setback faced in Balochistan and said, “When two of our dental surgeons got affected in the first week of lockdown, many of our dental practitioners quit their practices. The situation in our province is so unfortunate that we have to purchase PPEs through donations. We requested our government many times to facilitate us so that at least we can deal with patients in the Trauma centre.”
Dr Jahangir urged that the quackery has been a significant factor in creating havoc in times of pandemic. “Quacks are still performing all procedures without COVID-19 protocols. They are a significant threat in the spread of infection.”
In the end, Dr Mahmood said that the dental community should work on the same age to cater to the issues raised due to pandemic in the country. He said, “We should try our best to enforce dental practitioners to cover their nose and mouth adequately during procedures. I am hopeful that we will soon overcome this pandemic. We will try our best to comply with all the requests and suggestion on merits.”