'We were not first in line at all': Vermont dentists call congressman about lack of PPE

Several Vermont dentists recently held a conference call with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., to discuss the state's efforts to address their financial losses and personal protective equipment shortages, according to the Burlington Free Press.

The state government is providing PPE only for urgent and emergency dental care procedures, so many dentists are digging into their own pockets to protect their staff and patients. Many of the state's dentists are already struggling financially due to pandemic-induced practice closures and being paid only 40 cents on the dollar for Medicaid beneficiaries, of which there are many in the state.

"For at least 11 weeks we were in the position of trying to get the proper PPE," Tom Opsahl, DMD, president of the Vermont State Dental Society, told the Burlington Free Press. "We were not first in line at all. We didn't have very good communication between the Office of Oral Health and the Department of Health."

Mr. Welch told the dentists he spoke with that "rural Vermont and rural America has incredible need" for their services and that the federal government is doing an inadequate job of administering infection control supplies, leaving states to compete with each other.

"There's been a long-standing separation in this country between medicine and dentistry," Robin Miller, director of the Vermont Office of Oral Health, told the Burlington Free Press. "When it came to COVID-19, we're seeing a symptom of that. I agree with them that oral healthcare is not seen as healthcare. Oftentimes it's seen as a luxury. I see why they feel the way they do."

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