“As a dentist, I start my procedure almost every time with a local anesthetic in the oral cavity,” he explains, adding that dental training includes significant study of the head, neck, and nasal cavity. To get a sample for COVID-19 testing, he says, “you follow a path in the nasal cavity much like you would in dental practice.”
That’s one of the discoveries made by HealthPoint staff as they’ve redeployed to essential jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The drive-through testing site is a case-in-point. It was established with support from HealthPoint’s pharmacy team and is now run and staffed by Dr. Topor and his testing team consisting of five dentists and eight dental assistants..
Sourcing alcohol and other testing challenges
When Katya Kanevski, HealthPoint’s director of pharmacy, was asked to set up the drive-through testing site, she was taken aback, but only momentarily.
“It is outside my usual area of comfort,” she says, “but only in a small way. It’s not pharmacy-related, but at the end of the day it is process-related, workflow related. And that’s pharmacy.”
Katya made a list of what she needed to open a testing site, then broke down every essential into smaller tasks, each paired with staff members across the organization—from facilities to IT to marketing—whom she thought could help out. It was, she says, “a very, very big checklist.”
Sourcing that rare commodity: hand sanitizer.
“We thought, ‘We are a pharmacy. Why don’t we just compound it?’” Katya says. Pharmacy staff got propylene glycol from a generous local compounding pharmacy. They found aloe vera gel at Walmart and 120-milliliter squeeze bottles at online auctioneer eBay.
Sourcing high-percentage alcohol was harder. “We couldn’t find it anywhere,” Katya says. Finally, they located a bar owner who got them a supply of the potent grain alcohol commonly called Everclear.
“You have to adopt an open-minded way of thinking,” Katya says of work during the pandemic. “If you only want to swim in your own lane, it’s not going to work. You’re going to have to do some synchronized swimming.”
“What can I do to help?”
These days, Alex Topor manages the drive-through testing site, which is staffed by a team of two dentists and four dental assistants or hygienists. He also is responsible for calling patients whose test results are negative. Patients’ primary care physicians contact them if the results are positive.
The job has stretched him, he says, but in addition to helping patients and the community, he’s been gratified to have work in a time when most dental procedures are suspended to reduce spread of coronavirus.
“This pandemic has put everyone on paths they may not have seen themselves on,” he says. “But you have to think of your community. You have to think of the greater good. You have to ask, ‘What can I do to help that’s within the scope of my practice?’”