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Town of Erin calling for increased inspections of dental practices

But local health unit says legislation differs for how restaurants and professional medical practices are inspected
dental care dentist teethshutterstock_373410019 2016
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The Town of Erin wants the province and the local public health unit to start inspecting dental practices on a regular basis the same way it inspects restaurants.

Currently, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and other health units only inspect dental and other medical professional practices when a complaint is made.

In September, the Town of Erin passed a resolution calling for a “proactive” inspection policy that would see dental offices regularly inspected, or at least proactive “random” inspections.

The request by the municipality comes after a Guelph dental practice was temporarily closed last June after an inspection by public health found violations in regards to the improper sterilization of equipment.

There were concerns over possible hepatitis and HIV infections as a result and patients of the dental practice were urged to get tested for both.

But the local health unit says it’s not quite as simple as deciding to change the way inspections are done.

Chuck Ferguson, spokesperson for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, said that the health unit does not have the power or mandate to randomly inspect dental offices.

“It’s not something we could proactively do,” said Ferguson, noting that it is different legislation that governs how public health inspects restaurants and how and when they inspect dentists and other health care professionals.

Unlike restaurants, medical professionals such as dentists, doctors and physiotherapists belong to professional governing bodies who are heavily and actively involved in training and regulating their professions.

Any change to the legislation on how dentists and health care professionals are inspected would be an extensive process that would include consultation with those governing bodies and changing legislation at the provincial level, Ferguson said.

There would also be an issue of resources, as the inspection conducted at a dentist offices is much different than the one done at a restaurant and involves different training and experience.

Infection control inspectors require considerably more training than someone inspecting for food safety standards, he said.

The government and public health do work closely with those bodies, he added.

Public health inspects a health care provider based on complaints received from the public.  The regulatory colleges have their own complaint and inspection process. Public health can invite the college to join them on an inspection and send them inspection reports done by public health.

He added that to the best of his knowledge the health unit has not received any other similar requests from the other municipalities in its coverage area.

The Town of Erin’s resolution reads:

“Be it resolved that Council hereby supports in principle WDGPH and the Province of Ontario in their implementation of a proactive inspection policy for dental practices similar to the food premises (restaurant) inspection program or at a minimum enact a proactive ‘random’ dental practices inspection policy/protocol.”

The letter was sent to WDGPH, the manager of AIDS and Hepatitis C with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and surrounding MPPs Ted Arnott, Liz Sandals and Sylvia Jones.


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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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