A cautionary but true story for Principals - what do you do if you think you have Covid-19
I popped down into The Barrow Bunker on Sunday morning to deal with some personal finances and noticed a WhatsApp message from a client:
Please could I ask your advice urgently and in confidence.
I have developed a temperature and a sore throat (yesterday) I have booked a test for tomorrow morning and intend to self-isolate until I get the results.
Should the test be positive, what on earth do I do?
I have worked all of last week with appropriate PPE following our standard operational guidance. Cross-infection standards are optimal.
I have policies for everything except an outbreak in the practice. Can you direct me to one from Appoline?
As you can imagine, I am absolutely demented with worry regarding the reputational damage a positive test would cause.
Please could you ring me when you can. I wouldn’t normally ask on a Sunday but I am absolutely beside myself with worry
The Professional Advisor's Story - Pat Langley - Apolline
8.50am on Sunday message from my good friend Chris Barrow – one of his clients thinks they may have COVID-19 and is understandably very worried about the practice, the team and patients.
8.51am – joint call with Chris, his client and me.
Me: "What are your symptoms and when did they start?"
Client: "Over the weekend and I’ve got a test booked at 11am today"
Me: "Booking a test is exactly the right thing to do. When were you last in the practice?"
Me: "How confident are you that everyone in the team has followed published national protocols re mask wearing, appropriate PPE, social distancing, environmental cleaning and fallow time?"
Client: "Very confident. We have had occasional lapses when someone has forgotten to put their mask on but we address that immediately."
Me: "That’s great and very important in deciding what to do next."
Client: "So what do we do next? Do I need to close the practice?"
Me: "Based on your high level of compliance with published national protocols and all that you’ve told me, I don’t think you need to close the practice. You do need all your practice team members to have a test. You need to stay off work until your symptoms have gone and you feel well, irrespective of whether your test result is positive or negative and I advise that you arrange a deep clean of the practice."
Client: "I’ll do all of that. Do you have any guidance on cleaning protocols?"
Me: "Yes we do – I will send you our COVID-relevant Environmental Cleaning Policy and Protocol and also our guidance on Managing Coronavirus symptoms in Practice."
A much-relieved client advised Chris and me on Monday morning that the test result was negative.
The client feels confident they are compliant and doing the right things in the practice, but is less confident they can prove it.
The client described it as a ‘big wake-up call’ and as a result has reviewed all their policies and protocols to make sure they are accurate and up to date.
Positive learning outcome (aka the moral of the story) …….
You never know how you’re going to feel or react until a ‘near miss’ (the client’s words) happens so make sure you’ve thought about and planned for what you would do if it happened to you and make sure you’ve got someone to turn to for advice and moral support – especially if it’s on a Sunday morning!
I’ve referred to ‘the client’ and called him or her ‘they’ to protect his or her identity, not because I can’t write grammatically correct English!
Apolline provides a total compliance support solution so please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0800 193 1033 if you’d like us to add you to our database so that you receive our updates or you would like us to help you in these very challenging times.
The Client's Story
I had worked hard all week and like most practice owners was on my knees with the stress of running my business and the strain of providing clinical dentistry under all that PPE. Friday came, I went to a friend’s outdoor 50th party and was a little dusty on Saturday. So far so standard.
Saturday afternoon I developed a sore throat which got steadily worse and was accompanied by sweats, aches and an impending sense of dread. The witching hour of 4am brought the ‘what if’’s What if it was Covid?...What if I have infected someone at the party in spite of the fresh air? What if I saw any vulnerable patients on Thursday or Friday? What if I stood too close to any of my team during the week? I am a worrier by nature, I try not to be, I understand the futility of worry. The worst will either happen or not happen and there’s no worry that will make a difference in either direction but at 4am that logic failed me. Unable to sleep and in an attempt to soothe my angst by ‘doing’ I researched what to do if a member of the team tests positive for Covid (1.5 hours later, no clear clue) booked a test using the online system for the next morning (NHS, great service by the way) and I whatsapped Chris. I knew he would be asleep and wouldn’t respond straight away but I felt content that I had parked it with someone who had the skills and contacts to help with both the psychological and practical impact of a positive test. Chris phoned me first thing with his inimitable "how can I help" and within an hour I was on a 3-way call with Apolline. Pat Langley was fantastic, reassuring, pragmatic, factual. We discussed the practices’ general compliance with Covid security (good but not perfect), my movements, fallow time etc. The major question was should I close the practice? We did a risk assessment (for complete candour, it was including reputational damage of closing) and elected to deep clean as a precautionary measure and to keep the practice open (and me at home) Pat sent me a document listing what to do if the test was positive (exactly what my futile search had failed to find) and I prepared for the worst case scenario. In reading Pat’s ‘management of Covid symptoms in the dental practice’ document I became aware of holes in my own documentation. We had done online operational guidance training via zoom, BDA based training on PPE, infection control training, we had multiple staff meetings, mini-huddles and everyone was on the same page. The team knew what was expected of them, they felt they were safe and care was safe BUT nowhere did I have a signed document from every team member citing everything we had done. To a cynical outsider, in the wake of a positive test result, we just had certificates for external training, many dates in diaries for internal training, powerpoints and policies but technically this is just anecdotal evidence so I felt incredibly vulnerable. You do it, can you prove it? 24 hours later, the test was negative, the full practice documentation is in place and the lesson learned, a hard but not catastrophic one. No documentation, no defence. I’m thankful for the outcome but more thankful still to have people like Chris and Pat, there are not too many who will switch on their work brains, get out the life-raft and throw you a line at 8am on a Sunday morning.