Questions received from members have been arranged under the following headings and will be updated regularly.
- Protecting your patients
- Protecting your health
- Protecting your business
- Government and pandemic plans
If you have any important relevant questions, that aren't covered in the items below, please contact us.
Protecting your patients
Q. Can I treat patients during Alert Level 4?
A. Please refer to the MoH & DCNZ Joint Guidelines and NZDA Safety Standards for advice about treating emergency patients during this time and what the requirements are for this.
Dental Council has stated Dental emergencies” include:
- trauma-including facial/oral laceration and/or dentoalveolar injuries, such as avulsion of a permanent tooth
- oro-facial swelling that is serious and worsening
- post-extraction bleeding that the patient is not able to control with local measures
- dental conditions that have resulted in acute systemic illness or raised temperature as a result of dental infection
- severe trismus
- acute infections that are likely to exacerbate systemic medical conditions such as diabetes.
The key thing is that dentists may ‘think’ because they have some kind of PPE they are protected and they can continue to work. However, this should not be the focus, this encourages people to come out and neglects the wider focus of what is going on. The public should be staying at home to break the chain of transmission.
While we do appreciate dentists have businesses and a client base to maintain, they are to follow the pre-screening by phone of patients and provide care strictly as outlined in the Guidelines. For most patients, dentists can use phone, video or other digital platforms, such as GP’s are doing to impart the information patients require.
Q. Can we access the supply of necessary PPE?
A. NZDA is currently working on sourcing and/or having made available the necessary PPE for dentists to be able to provide emergency treatment to patients. To date, we have referred a number of opportunities to the Dental Industry as they have the skills to assess the validity and compliance of the product.
Be careful of scammers and fake product that are emerging.
The bottomline is you need to be certain the safety gear you are using is not fake and that it meets the required standard.
Q. If I am unable to treat a patient that needs emergency care, where can they be referred?
A. NZDA is currently working on compiling a list of those practices that are able to treat emergency patients during Alert Level 4 and to ascertain what PPE gear is available.
Protecting your health
Q. Has all non-essential dental work now been banned?
A. Yes – As per the MoH & DCNZ Joint Guidelines and NZDA Safety Standards at Alert Level 4 non-emergency and elective dental procedures for all patients must cease and only emergency and relief of pain treatments (these are listed in the DCNZ Guideline) be provided. Emergency treatment includes oral-facial trauma, significant infection, prolonged bleeding or pain which cannot be managed by medications.
Patients with planned or requested care (non-emergency) must be postponed until after the conclusion of the Level 4 lockdown period (currently 4-weeks).
Patients requesting emergency dental care must first undergo a telephone assessment by the oral health practitioner to determine the need for a ‘face-to-face’ appointment. Whenever possible the dental problem should be managed conservatively with telephone advice and as necessary medications. (Medical management of acute pain)
Q. As an employer, can I request that employees be tested for COVID-19?
A. No – However, if the person is unwell with upper respiratory tract symptoms you could recommend that they see their GP to have a formal medical assessment. If you are concerned about an individual you have an obligation to keep everyone safe in your practice so send the staff member home sick.
Q. How can testing be arranged?
A. Seek advice from your GP who will determine the need for testing.
Q. Would an A1 cartridge with a P2 filter be equivalent to an N95 Mask?
A. The difference between the N95 and the P2 classification for respirator face masks is the N95 is the NiOSH (USA testing requirements.) and the P2 represents the EC (European testing requirements). In practice, these differences have resulted in no impact on the level of protection to the wearer.
Q. Can I get accreditation for my essential business?
A. There is not a formal accreditation for essential businesses or their employees. Health practitioners are encouraged to have with them a copy of their current APC, and to provide staff with a "to whom it may concern" letter from their employer.
Essential workers may be asked, while travelling, to show who they work for. All essential workers are encouraged to carry some form of identification to show who they are, who they work for, and their role. E.g. business card, letter from their employer or work ID.
Protecting your business
Q. What are the procedures for employees in case we are told to close down?
A. Please refer to the information contained in our Protecting your business page where ongoing updates will be published by NZDA.
Q. Under Alert Level 4, what happens if our practice is open for emergency treatments and a staff member refuses to work?
A. Any employee must comply with a lawful request from an employer that is within the terms and conditions of the employment relationship. The only exception to this is if the employee reasonably believes that there are health and safety issues that would make complying with the request unsafe. Consequently, an employer can insist on an employee carrying out work during the Level 4 Lockdown if there are no imminent health and safety considerations which might create a hazard and the work is permitted under the current Lockdown Regulations.
Q. If my insurer does not meet the cost of wages/salaries under the business discontinuance insurance whose responsibility is it to pay employees?
A. The employer remains responsible under the employment agreements to pay wages/salary.
Q. Will assistance be provided to business owners in terms of tax relief?
A. The government has announced that they will be working on business cash flow and tax measures which include:
- increasing the provisional tax threshold from $2,500 to $5,000 from 2020/2021
- increasing the small asset depreciation threshold from $500 to $1,000 — and to $5,000 for the 2020/21 tax year
- allowing depreciation on commercial and industrial buildings from 2020/2021
- removing the hours test from the In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC) from 1 July 2020.
Your accountant will be able to explain these matters to you.
Q. How will the government's financial package effect contractors?
A. Contractors are now included in the governments financial package. To apply for financial assistance please refer to the Work and Income website. Many dentists (and the Association) have accessed these payments.
Q. What pay am I entitled while we are at Alert Level 4?
A. If your employer has applied for the government wage subsidy, then as per the Declaration – COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, they must;
- make best endeavours to pay at least 80 per cent of each named employee’s ordinary wages or salary; and
- pay at least the full amount of the subsidy to the employee; but
- where the ordinary wages or salary of an employee named in your application was lawfully below the amount of the subsidy before the impact of COVID-19, pay the employee that amount.
Q. What are the subsidy rates?
A. Payment rates under the modified wage subsidy scheme are unchanged from the original COVID-19 leave and wage subsidy schemes. They are:
- $585.80 (gross) per week for full-time employees, where full-time is 20 hours or more per week
- $350 (gross) per week for part-time employees, where part-time is less than 20 hours per week.
Q. Can I be made redundant during this time?
A. Employers need to try their best to retain employees that they are currently receiving the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy for. If your employer applied for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy for any of their employees after 4pm on 27 March 2020, they must retain those employees or will be in breach of their obligations. Refer to Common questions on the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy
Government and pandemic plans
Q. Will an emergency plan be unified for all dentists to apply; in case the viral infection becomes a pandemic in NZ?
A. Please refer to the mandatory standard released by the Ministry of Health and Dental Council New Zealand Guidelines for oral health services at COVID-19 Alert Level 4 and the Infection Prevention and Control Practice Standards.
NZDA continues to work on the NZDA Safety Standards and will provide updates as quickly as possible for this as new information comes to light.
To help find answers to your questions, please take a look at these other useful websites.