Written by: Dr CD Tran
Vice-President, Hong Kong Society of Orthodontists (HKSO)
Executive Committee Member, APOS
When I was asked to write about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, I find myself wondering back slightly over more than 19 years ago when we, in Hong Kong were facing a similar Coronovirus epidemic known as the Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARs). From the year 2002-04, we were right in the centre of that outbreak, and it was a very painful experience then as it is even more so now. It struck me on how similar both pandemics are causing havocs in both our daily personal and professional lives. The unfortunate news is, Covid-19 is on a much, much larger scale and sparing no countries in the world.
Please describe how Covid-19 has affected orthodontic practice in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was already facing tremendous challenges imposed by the social turmoil since mid-2019, which was then followed by the current epidemic of Covid-19. Orthodontists have been dealt with a double blow in running their clinics and practices. A brief survey of our members showed business has been down by up to 30% due to both Covid-19 and the once in a life time “mass migration” out of Hong Kong due to social turmoil.
The practice of dentistry or orthodontics changed forever since the Covid-19 epidemic. An example is that screening of patients is highly recommended (in the form of questionnaires and by measuring body temperatures to identify suspected cases. All visitors to the clinic are recommended to wear surgical mask and perform good hand hygiene. All staffs should use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Gowns, gloves, eye protection, head caps and surgical mask are being regarded as a must during routine dental treatment. High volume evacuator should be used during aerosol-generating procedures as it can largely reduce airborne contamination. Pre-treatment mouth rinse with 1 % hydrogen peroxide, 0.12% or 0.2% chlorhexidine, or 0.2% povidone is highly recommended. It shows virucidal effect on some enveloped virus at such concentration.
How have the members of your Society coped with the changes?
Fortunately, none of our members are unemployed because of Covid-19, but because of less clinical work and seeing patients, businesses have taken a big hit. By working together with the Hong Kong Dental Association, several relief measures were carried out. Examples are letters to landlords to request for rental concession for dental tenants and procurement of more personal protection equipment (PPE) for our members.
How has your Society +/- Ministry of Health helped its members during this difficult period?
The HKSO has been working and collaborating tirelessly with our bigger organizations such as the Hong Kong Dental Association and the relevant government health departments in combating the effects of Covid-19 pandemic. The support by the government has been tremendous and eagerly welcomed by the profession. The support list are endless, but here are the summary of help that was offered:
- Procurement of personal protective equipment (PEP), especially the surgical masks N95 respirators
- Priority given to healthcare workers for the vaccination against Covid-19
As for financial burdens, several activities such as rental reductions by landlords and an anti-epidemic fund were made available to clinics to allow continuous employment of existing staff. Encouraging patients to continue to attend clinics for orthodontic treatment were also initiated by ensuring public education through all local media outlets in assuring the general public on the very high standard of infection control exercised by dental clinics in safeguard the health of patients, staffs and clinicians.
How has Covid19 impacted the lives of residents in Hong Kong?
I still remember when Covid-19 first affected Hong Kong, we thought we were well prepared because of our experience with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARs) back in 2002-04. But we were wrong, this pandemic has tested both physical and mental challenges to our limit.
Moving forwards, how do you think orthodontic practice will change?
The practice of Orthodontics will be changed forever with Covid-19. All new protocol and health guidelines that are currently in place should be observed and practiced in all clinics. Continuous professional education will need to move to the new “normal” now as it will be a combination of hybrid meetings with both physical and online meetings.
Please write a message to all APOS members from HKSO.
Finally to all our members of the Asian Pacific orthodontic society (APOS), the pandemic curtailed many of the planned activities over the past 18 months and counting. In the short term, our first challenge is to reconnect and rebuild our wider network as we emerge from the effects of lockdowns. One of the messages that has come out from the pandemic is the importance of caring for those closest to us, along with a bigger focus on our personal wellbeing. We all faced unexpected challenges and pressures, and having a wider network of fellow colleagues to share experience with and to sustain one another has been fundamental in enabling us to get moving again with a positive outlook. To my fellow APOS friends, stay healthy, get vaccinated and I hope we all get to see each other in person soon.