After working 32 years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I decided to come back last February 2019 to my own country, Philippines. Instead of retiring for good, I opted to open my own dental clinic last June 2019. Yes! At age 60, I finally got my own clinic, unfortunately, only barely eight months in practice and the pandemic started. I was forced to temporarily closed last March 16, 2020.
At the beginning, I was helping where I could like giving money, food and mask to guards, cleaners, garbage collectors. I continued paying staff salaries and clinic rent. After three months of not working and with no other means of getting income, I started to feel the reality of the situation. It’s effect to one’s health and the economy in general.
Senior citizens and children were not allowed to go out, and I was among them. Until one day, a neighbor asked for help, her face was swollen, and I referred her to another colleague, but she came back with more swelling, so I decided to do the drainage myself. This was at the height of the pandemic situation (April 11, 2020). We donned PPE and took all precautions not to contaminate anyone. The stress was so intense, with the additional protection of wearing double gloves, double mask, face shield, scrub suit and PPE, it was harder to breath not to mention the worry of getting corona virus was still at the back of our minds.
After 3 months, dental clinics could open for emergencies. I did not open immediately. I spoke to my staff online, making sure we were on the same page. The willingness of coming back to work, the knowledge about the pandemic, it’s significance, the risk and benefit were almost on the same level. If I didn’t open, my financial resources will be depleted, my staff would lose their jobs and would also have difficulties finding another job.
And so, we did open finally. The scarcity of PPE and masks were all felt by practitioners. Suddenly the prices of dental materials and disposables shoot up. I installed additional exhaust, air purifier, UV sterilizer, added one more autoclave, extra-oral suction, got more disinfectant and defogger. I started to buy all kinds of face shields that will give more protection and covered my dental loupes. Imagine the extra expenses we have incurred but we need to comply for the safety of everyone. We followed the protocol suggested by CDC, ADA, PDA, WHO.
Despite the additional expenses, I was hesitant to increase my fees because I know people are suffering, a lot were laid off from work, their priority is food not teeth. I decided to accept not only emergency cases but also restorative, however, I refrained from doing deep scaling and polishing. I have a family to protect, my staff and their families and of course, my patients.
As of this writing, I only see two patients in one day, sometimes none. Do I earn? No, I don’t but as long as I can pay my rent and salaries, I am alright. I guess the question would be, how long can I sustain?
I don’t know and I am not sure, but I am thankful that I am still surviving and adjusting to the new normal; family members are healthy, staff is healthy. Health is wealth. TRUE!
Dr. Myriam Mariano-Suarez