Conserving Mask Stock

Last updated: 21 July 2020

COVID-19-driven mask shortages are impacting dental practices in Australia and internationally. With no confirmed assurances of further supply, the ADA recommends putting in place measures to conserve what masks you have left while ensuring that you, your staff, and your patients are kept safe.

Taking Stock

Understanding your current stock levels and daily usage of masks helps you determine the date you will likely run out of stock should supply not become available so that you can take appropriate measures accordingly.


Step 1: Do a stocktake – count every box of masks, every individual mask in every storage area of your practice and those dispensed in each surgery. Record the stock levels.
Step 2: Calculate the minimum quantity of masks that you require each day at your current operating capacity.
Step 3: Calculate the date you will likely run out of stock based on current stock levels and estimated usage (assuming you are unable to attain more stock).
Step 4: Follow up on any stock you have on backorder and check with each company to ascertain lead times if these are in sight.
Step 5: If you're within 5 days of being unable to practice due to insufficient stock of masks, you can order a small amount emergency stock online from the ADA (ADA Mask Order Portal)

Understanding your usage

Step 1: Consolidate stock in the practice so that only small, known amount exists in required locations such as each treatment room and the sterilisation room (steri bay)
Step 2: Write down how many masks are in each room at the start of the day
Step 3: Count how many are left at the end of the day and record the result.
Step 4: Repeat this test over a few days
Step 5: With this data at hand, objectively review scheduled appointments completed over these days to ascertain whether the mask usage was greater or less than would be reasonably expected.
Step 6: Run regular team meetings and discuss the usage data and identify any new opportunities to conserve masks and reduce waste. Reassess regularly to identify if newly introduced initiatives and ideas are working.
 

Conserving Masks

Below are some strategies for you to consider conserving masks. It’s important to note that not every strategy will be suitable for your practice and it’s important for you to understand your infection control obligations as stipulated by the regulator, the Dental Board of Australia.

The ADA’s objective is to assist you to keep your practice running and we appreciate you may be in a position where you need to make some tough decisions.
 

Strategies:

  
  • Use your confirmation calls to ensure all patients are healthy and well for treatment. 
  • Re-book non-essential and/or preventative treatment.  
  • Be efficient and organised. Plan ahead and work to ensure that all equipment, products and componentry is organised before treatment begins. As far as is possible, ensure that you are ready to go and well prepared for your appointment before you apply PPE. Getting started and realising you need an OPG, implant componentry or laboratory work that hasn’t arrived may contribute to mask wastage.
  • Only essential team members are involved in patient care. Consider ways to limit how many people are required to perform each procedure. This could mean assessing whether assistants are required in full PPE ‘just in case’ they are required to assist during an examination.  
  • Strategically conduct reprocessing activities. Could reprocessing activities occur in strategic ‘bursts’ throughout the day by one person, and therefore optimising mask use – instead of many people using lots of masks to do the same amount of reprocessing. Being strategic could mean the same sterilising objectives are achieved while using less resources.   
  • Optimise patient appointments. Using clinical judgement and ensuring patient safety, consider whether more treatment could be scheduled over longer appointments to reduce the number of masks required each day.  
  • Re-work break times to limit a changeover of dental assistants/staff mid appointment.  
  • Appoint a team leader. Someone to encourage supply reducing behaviours and identify opportunities for reduced mask usage.  
  • Monitor mask use closely for unexplained spikes in usage. Consider keeping masks secure by appointing a responsible person to manage mask stock. Part of this person’s role could be to conduct a quick stock-take at the start of each day and record daily usage. This strategy could assist with monitoring whether implemented strategies are working or not by looking at trends.  
  •  Ensure masks are kept in a secure location, regularly monitor stock levels and appoint one person responsible for mask stock management. Do a quick stocktake at the start and end of each day, record this somewhere and assess daily usage. Monitor this for improvements as your waste reduction strategies are implemented. 
  • Level 2 masks are required for almost all dental procedures. In some limited circumstances you may be able to use Level 1 masks if you can get supply. Information on which mask to use and when is available here.
  • Keep your team informed. Consider holding routine staff meetings to discuss the mask shortage situation. This could occur in your morning huddle and provides an opportunity for all team members to contribute input and feedback on how masks are used in the practice and whether they have ideas to reduce waste.  
  •  Reinforce practice policies on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Refresh staff with PPE training on appropriate and safe usage of masks.
  • Reduce or consolidate practice hours if required. 
  •  Reduce practice leave balances. Take annual leave yourself or encourage staff to take annual leave. Advice is available to members through the ADA’s HR Advisory Service here if you need support understanding leave entitlements for contractors or employees. You can contact the HR service on 1300 232 462. 
 
This situation is unprecedented, and we appreciate this situation isn’t easy to manage; however, there are limitations on which procedures you can do if you don’t have sufficient access to masks. The ADA is doing everything we can, working with everyone we know, and considering all options. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to continue to support you during this difficult period.  

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