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Dentist: plan to extend antigen testing to dental surgeries a risk

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A dentist fears plans to involve dental health practitioners in coronavirus antigen tests for travellers could undermine safety standards in surgeries.

Ronda James, a former head of the Bermuda Dental Board, said the Bermuda Health Council had failed to discuss the plan or prepare dentists for a change.

Dr James was speaking yesterday after it was revealed that travellers would be able to get coronavirus tests and fit-to-fly certificates for US travel at doctors’ and dental surgeries.

Dr James said: “There are a lot of issues regarding health safety in terms of testing – none of this has been discussed.

“We are already working hard to keep our work environment safe and this, kind of, undermines all that.”

She added: “At the moment we know our patients. We work with them to know if they have been in contact with someone with Covid – and if they have, they don’t come in at all.

“But, if people are coming in for testing we will not have any knowledge of their exposure.

“There is always a risk, but we are doing our best at the moment to keep the risk down.”

The BHeC said the change was designed to make it easier for people to get a fit-to-fly certificate.

The council emphasised it had spoken to the Statutory Board for Dentists about the move and that the system would be voluntary.

But Dr James said: “They have put out this communication without discussion to look as if they are doing something – to look proactive, but to be proactive, they need to talk to us before.

“This has been put out there … the health council keeps saying this, so we need to respond to it.”

A rapid antigen Covid-19 test.

Dr James said dentists had asked for talks with the BHeC about the plan.

The BHeC said the policy change was needed because of an “unprecedented burden” on the island’s health system.

Ricky Brathwaite, the BHeC chief executive, said: “We have spoken directly to the Statutory Board for Dentists, noting that in no way is fit-to-fly testing mandatory for any health profession.

“This is a voluntary system. There is no requirement for travel testing to take place at any private health business that does not want to do so.

“The protocols are very clear that we wish only those that are interested and that can justify the action within their scope of practice based on safety and consideration of their other healthcare activities.”

Dr Brathwaite added: “We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with all health professionals whether on this initiative or the variety of other population health activities that are taking place.”

An earlier memo to health service providers and laboratories said: “The Omicron variant has prompted a number of changes in travel requirements across the globe, with Bermuda impacted specifically by those changes made in the United States.

“While the island’s testing apparatus and public health response has been the most robust in island history, it cannot be denied that our resources continue to be in very high demand.

“This demand has placed an unprecedented burden on the island’s Covid-19 testing infrastructure.

“There is a need to increase capacity and ensure testing reaches those who need it most.”

The new policy came into force on Monday.

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Published January 19, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated January 19, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Dentist: plan to extend antigen testing to dental surgeries a risk

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