Vernon Community Dental Access Centre’s front office staff Loris Halvorson, from left, Dr. Carmel Hopkins, Wendy Wildeman, Ruth Urbatis, Renata Listor, Natasha Naten, from bottom left, Linda Lutz and Sheri Miller celebrated the opening of their newest operatory on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star file)

Vernon Community Dental Access Centre’s front office staff Loris Halvorson, from left, Dr. Carmel Hopkins, Wendy Wildeman, Ruth Urbatis, Renata Listor, Natasha Naten, from bottom left, Linda Lutz and Sheri Miller celebrated the opening of their newest operatory on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star file)

Vernon dental clinic adapts in COVID-19 pandemic

Vernon Community Dental Access Centre implements changes, appoints new president

A trip to the dentist never tops the list of anyone’s “want to” list, but in the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, when the industry was halted temporarily by health restrictions, some may have learned they were taking that service for granted.

The Vernon Community Dental Access Centre (CDAC), a local reduced-cost non-profit charity, was just as hard hit by the novel coronavirus, according to office manager Linda Lutz.

“But we’re back and running and we’re doing fine,” she said.

The clinic, which reopened to the public in June, has implemented all the necessary COVID-19 protocols to ensure the public and staff are safe.

Lutz said the waiting room is limited and clients must call ahead to make an appointment. Upon arrival, clients are required to wear a mask in communal areas and sanitize their hands.

“People have been very respectful of that,” she said.

Dentists, especially, are pros when it comes to limiting the spread of germs, Lutz said.

“Infection control is our specialty,” Lutz said. “Dentists deal with people, saliva and germs all day, every day.”

However, personal protective equipment (PPE) has been challenging to get to the clinic as prices have gone up, Lutz said.

“We have to have it or we can’t work.”

Even with all the protocols in place, additional measures have been implemented to further limit the spread of COVID-19. Lutz said extra suction is used on patients when ultrasonic is in use and staff in the front office have been reduced to ensure physical distancing, but the biggest defence against the virus takes place at the door with thorough screening.

“If there is any possibility of any kind of exposure or symptoms, we’d postpone for a couple of weeks just to be sure,” Lutz said.

Recently, CDAC received a donation of a washer and dryer which Lutz said is “very much appreciated.”

“In the past, we’ve been taking home laundry,” she said. “We can’t be doing that anymore so this is so much nicer.”

Lutz said the dental clinic’s quick adaptation to the ever-changing conditions brought on by the virus wouldn’t have been possible without her amazing staff.

“I have the best team that I could ever imagine,” she said, noting in the midst of the crisis, staff were required to learn a brand new computer software to perform their daily duties. “They took it like champions.”

The newly appointed president Sharon Melanson echoed Lutz’s sentiments.

“Linda really runs that clinic,” Melanson added. “The board may oversee and approve what they do, but she is the driving force of that clinic. She’s amazing.”

Melanson, who has been with the board since 2013, has filled a number of roles with the charity before her fall appointment.

“We’re very thrilled to have her on board,” Lutz said of the new president.

Melanson extended her sincere gratitude to her predecessor president Vic Lepp for his years of dedication.

The goal this year, Melanson said, is to get some new members for the board of directors.

“It would be nice to have someone with some marketing background,” she said. “They don’t have to have a dental background at all _ we have people on the board who have that. We need people who have other skills. Lots of other skills.”

She said younger people with an understanding of social media platforms and marketing skills would be a great asset to help get the word out about the clinic.

Melanson said becoming a board member isn’t a huge time commitment but the work is very rewarding.

“There’s no one else in the community that does what we do,” Melanson said, noting she worked as a dental hygienist in the Kelowna area for several years and had a hand in starting the Gospel Mission dental clinic.

“We get exposed to everyone,” she said. “We know how bad things are if people can’t afford a dentist. I’ve heard horror stories. It really drives you to do what you can.”

The Community Dental Access Centre is located at 3107C 31st Avenue in Vernon. To learn more about client eligibility, visit communitydentalaccess.ca or call 778-475-7779.

READ MORE: Dental care access takes centre stage in Vernon

READ MORE: New Vernon operatory opens doors for more affordable care


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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