Entering the Next Phase of COVID-19: Reopening Your Practice
Author: Ted Dyste – President & CEO | Dyste Williams
On May 5, Gov. Walz issued Executive Order 20-51 which allowed healthcare facilities – whether veterinary, medical, or dental – to resume the provision of many previously-delayed procedures once they have:
- adequately planned to prioritize the ongoing COVID-19 response;
- developed criteria for determining which procedures should proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- provide a safe environment for facility staff, patients and visitors.
Beginning May 10 at 11:59 pm, healthcare facilities must complete the requirements set forth in this Executive Order if they are resuming procedures.
Before you reopen, we recommend that you conduct a COVID-19 Risk Assessment that includes:
- Identifying the hazards – When it comes to COVID-19, practices need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas (break-rooms and other areas where people may congregate). It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks when performing their duties.
- Deciding who may be harmed and how – Once you have identified hazards to your practice, you need to determine what populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks. When performing this evaluation, you will need to make note of high-risk individuals such as staff members who meet with customers or individuals with preexisting medical conditions.
- Assessing risks – Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyze them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
- How likely is this particular risk to occur?
- What are the ramifications should this risk occur?
- Create a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan – The completed business preparedness plan is not required to be submitted to the MN Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) for approval, but needs to be made available upon request.
Resources to help you create your plan
- MN DOI COVID-19 Preparedness Plan template and instructions
- MN DOI Employer Preparedness Plan Requirements Checklist
- ADA Return to Work Toolkit
- ADHD Interim Guidance on Returning to Work
Below are additional resources to support you as you begin to reopen your practice as well as responses to commonly asked questions.
Commonly Asked Questions
I’m getting ready to hire staff back. What happens if I can’t hire everyone back at the same time?
Now more than ever communication is key. We recommend that you develop a hiring plan that doesn’t discriminate against a protected class (age, religion, sex, race, etc.).
One approach is to hiring back based on skill set (e.g. Assistants first, then front desk/billing and then hygienists.As a reminder, if there is an allegation of discrimination, Employment Practice Liability (EPLI) coverage can step in to defend and indemnify you. EPLI coverage is designed to protect against allegations of discrimination, harassment, etc. in your hiring, firing and workplace practices. Many EPLI policies can also be modified to respond to these same types of allegations from people outside of your organization including vendors and patients.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
As you develop your hiring plan, you should consider the new FFCRA which expanded FMLA benefits to employees to take paid time off to care for themselves or others that are ill with COVID-19 and to provide childcare for dependent children that are no longer able to attend school or daycare.
Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, files a complaint, or institutes a proceeding under or related to this Act.
If I treat patients during COVID-19, what information should I share with them before they come to their appointment?
Communicate with your patients by phone, e-mail and voice mail greeting before they visit your practice. Additionally, we recommend you post a sign on your office door. This communication could reflect:
“You are receiving dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic. While our office is implementing appropriate CDC infection prevention and control recommendations, there may be an increased risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. If you feel ill, have a cough or above normal temperature, please call our office to re-schedule your appointment unless it is an emergency.”
Is a COVID-19 Informed Consent Form available?
Yes, to assist you in communicating with your patients during COVID-19, Fortress has provided two forms – COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Dental Treatment Notice and Acknowledgement of Risk Form and COVID-19 Pandemic – Patient Disclosures. These forms are intended to be used together and are also available in Spanish.
Download these forms at https://www.dds4dds.com/covid19.
Informed consent forms by procedure are a vital tool in limiting claims. They help you communicate the risks of treatments and emergency treatment during a known pandemic is one of these situation.
Am I covered if a patient alleges they have contracted COVID-19 from my office?
Yes. The Fortress Dental Professional Liability Policy does not contain a pandemic exclusion. Coverage under a professional liability policy is triggered by specific patient allegations and coverage can only be determined based on the facts of a claim. Other coverage may also exist under other insurance policies your practice has depending on the circumstances of the claim.
Professional Liability protects the dentist from patient claims including:
- Alleged malpractice
- Treating or failing to treat a patient
- Errors or omissions in providing treatment
- Administrative/Board Action
Your malpractice carrier has the sole responsibility and duty to defend you. Assuming you are fulfilling all obligations and conditions of your policy, there should be no reason that your malpractice provider limits coverage.
What should I do if a COVID-19-related incident occurs?
- Notify your insurer
- Take steps to maintain patient confidentiality
- Maintain and secure all pertinent records
- Secure any instruments involved in the treatment
What are my obligations as an employer if an employee contracts COVID-19 in the workplace?
The employer must file a first report of injury with the workers’ compensation insurer or claim administrator. The insurer or claim administrator must notify the employee in writing within 14 days whether the employee’s claim is accepted or denied. If the employer does not file a report of injury with its insurer or claim administrator, the employee may call the Department of Labor and Industry for help.
Workers’ compensation benefits include medical treatment, monetary benefits for wage loss and permanent disability, dependency benefits under Minnesota Statutes, section 176.111, and vocational rehabilitation benefits.
Are employees entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are exposed to COVID-19 at work and are required by their employer to self-isolate?
If an employee is not ill, but must stay home from work because they were exposed to the COVID-19 virus, they are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If an employee was exposed at work and later contracted COVID-19, the illness may be a workers’ compensation injury.
Additional COVID-19 Resources
- ADA State Mandates and Recommendations on COVID-19
- CDC Resources for Businesses and Employers
- COVID-19 Updates, Forms and Templates (MN Department of Labor & Industry)
- FAQs for Employers and Employees about COVID-19 (MN Department of Labor & Industry)
- Fortress COVID-19 Information and Frequently Asked Questions
- Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (OSHA)
- MN Department of Health Businesses and Employers: COVID-19