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Dental and vision care clinics reopen

No drop-ins; appointments must first be booked by phone
sundre-news

SUNDRE — Residents are now able to book an appointment to freshen up their smiles.

Maria’s Dental Hygiene Clinic officially reopened on Monday, June 15 following the start of the Stage 2 relaunch strategy on Friday, June 12, said owner and dental hygienist Maria Gamelin.

“It was definitely a long time coming,” said Gamelin, adding she and her two staff — another dental hygienist as well as an office manager — were excited to return to work “to be able to do what we love to do.”

While the clinic is technically allowed to operate at full capacity, Gamelin said they are taking a more cautious approach.

“We are doing half capacity and staggering appointments so that there isn’t a backlog in the waiting room. That helps with social distancing,” she said, recognizing that the nature of dental hygiene makes staying completely physically distanced the entire time impossible.

“According to our hygiene association, we are deemed the absolute most at risk, because COVID lives in the saliva, so cleaning teeth has been risky business,” she said.

But she expressed confidence in the procedures that have been put into place to protect clients and staff.

“We are wearing isolation gowns, a level three mask, and a plastic face shield,” she said.

“The isolation gowns get changed in between each patient, and the face masks.”

The layers of personal protective equipment (PPE) make for a warm experience, but the office is acclimatized, she said.

Then, at the end of each day, the scrubs must be laundered on-site, which required the installation of a washer and drier, a task tackled by her husband Mark.

“That’s one of the added benefits of having a handy husband, was he would be able to do that for us!”

Additionally, every patient’s temperature is measured, she said.

“We’ve also been checking their blood oxygen saturation as well, just with a little finger monitor to make sure everyone’s breathing OK.”

Although not mandated, she said that extra step further helps ensure safety.

There are no drop-ins, and patients with a booking are asked COVID-19-related questions when their appointment is confirmed, she said.

Despite being in a high risk industry, Gamelin did not express any concerns.

“I never once was fearful, because our region’s doing really well. We are not the hotspot,” she said.

“I’m not scared. If anything, we’re excited to try out all the new gear. And we’re really anxious to see everyone again — we’ve really missed everyone.”

Even with the additional safety precautions, and the corresponding incurred costs, returning to a routine also offers a welcome sense of slowly but surely returning to a degree of normalcy, she said.

Meanwhile, the Sundre Vision Care clinic has been open since early May.

Sammy Shyback, optometric assistant, said recently that sanitization procedures and safety measures, including the installation of Plexiglas and the use of PPE, are in place.

The staff has also gone from wearing business casual attire to donning scrubs, and people’s temperatures are checked as they come in. Additionally, anyone who is interested in having a look at the selection of available glasses must first book an appointment due to COVID-19 rules, said Shyback, adding everything so far has been running smoothly and that the clinic is fully booked until early July.

These procedures are anticipated to remain in place for the foreseeable future or until further notice, she said.

“I think this is probably our new normal.”

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