What led you to get involved with the IDA?
I was working over in the UK and myself and my husband [fellow dentist Dr Gerald O’Connor] came back seven years ago. He was involved with the Quality and Patient Safety Committee and I was interested in knowing more about what was going on within Irish dentistry. I emailed Fintan Hourihan and asked was there anything that I could do and there was an opening in the GP Committee, so he suggested that I join that. I think it was quite important for me to get involved because I saw what happened with dentistry over in the UK, and I regretted not being a little bit more involved with the British Dental Association.
What form did that involvement take and how did it progress?
I was on the GP Committee and a vacancy came up for a GP representative on the Management Committee, so I put my name forward and was voted in. Dr Kieran O’Connor very kindly said that it wouldn’t involve a huge amount of time, that it would be a couple of meetings a year and I thought I could definitely fit that into my schedule, and then Covid happened.
What is the IDA Management Committee doing to support dentists during Covid-19?
I think Covid-19 has hit the profession like a nuclear bomb. It was incredibly stressful for every possible sector within dentistry and the amount of work that was performed by the IDA, by the sub-committees, by the team in IDA House itself, was just phenomenal. There’s the direct support to members, which was the constant communication, trying to give people accurate information, keep them up to date with current research, develop documents to support them, and put out webinars to address their worries. Then there was the support that was probably a little less obvious with regard to trying to arrange meetings with Government ministers, trying to put forward the case on the issues of dentistry to the Department of Health, and on the financial implications to Simon Harris and Paschal Donohue. That was going on in the background too and still is.
What work have you been doing yourself during lockdown?
The daily triaging of patients, seeing emergency patients where we had to. There were many, many meetings on Zoom with the IDA and all the different committees. I feel like I’m now a Zoom expert. On a personal level, I was doing a lot of CPD. Then we have three kids, so there was home schooling.
What advice would you have for GPs at this current time?
Stay calm – the panic and fear spread fast at the start of this pandemic. I know that probably because I felt a huge amount of anxiety myself. Dentistry is taking steps to return to a different normal. I’d encourage dentists not to rush going back to the way we were too quickly. If you’re a practice owner, sit down and look at your business model. Ask yourself what you need to change in order to provide the best possible care to your patients and for your business to be viable. Make a plan and there’s no better time to inform patients of any changes that need to happen if your business is to survive. It’s difficult for associates as well. They need to think about their career. Do they need to upskill? Are they happy with the surgery they’re working in and how Covid-19 was handled? Do they want to take the leap to becoming a practice owner? And if they do, how are they going to do that? Maybe consider reaching out to a mentor.
How can the Association and the profession learn from this crisis?
It’s a difficult one, because I think perhaps we should have started to develop a plan earlier. I think when we heard the rumblings of Covid in China, we probably could have taken it a little more seriously. From a personal level, and I can only speak for myself, communication could be improved. I wish I’d done some more videos on social media just to keep people reassured.