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Working safely amid pandemic a concern for some B.C. dental hygienists

Last Updated May 13, 2020 at 8:51 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

As B.C. starts to reopen, some hygienists worry they can't work safely amid the pandemic

Some hygienists say the risk is too great, even if they look their job

The province is allowing services like dentists to reopen broadly next Tuesday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Ahead of knowing what the province is prescribing for dental practices to return to work safely, some hygienists are concerned their work will be difficult, if not impossible during the pandemic.

Some are already deciding the return to work is too risky with all the unknowns.

Andrea Burton, head of B.C.’s Dental Hygienists Association, says hygienists who are feeling pressured to work wonder if their opinions will be taken into consideration.

“I think people are afraid because they don’t know what the expectations are,” she says.

“Do they have to show up for work if they don’t think it’s safe? Do they have to perform certain services if they don’t think it’s safe? Can they say to a client who walks in the door ‘You don’t look well to me, you’re out of here,’?”

Burton wonders if hygienists will be able to approach their employer with concerns, whether it be about childcare or simply the fact they’re scared.

One hygienist says she survived cancer last year and isn’t willing to take her chances working during the pandemic.

“I don’t know if people’s jobs will be put on the line based on their choice – like I don’t know if my job will be put on the line based on my choice not to go back at this time and it might be,” Sam Rotstein says.

“For me, the risk to reward ration does not make sense at this stage. There are way too many unknowns still.”

Rotstein says for her, the health risks are too great even if that means she loses her job.

“It’s a really big question of what our industry is going to look like going moving forward. Are we ready to open yet? I’m not comfortable going back to work at this stage,” she says.

While the province is allowing services like dentists to reopen broadly next Tuesday, Premier John Horgan is clear this is a start date not a deadline and safety guidelines must be met.