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According to the World Health Organization, Italy is now second to Spain in the European region in terms of reported COVID-19 cases and first when it comes to the number of associated deaths. As of 17 April, there were 165,155 cases and 21,647 deaths confirmed in Italy. Dr Gianluca Plotino from Rome, gives his perspective on the crisis.
Dr Plotino, what is the situation in your country in face of the SARS-CoV-2 crisis? What measures have been taken, and when were these put into place?
After an initial declaration of some red zones in the north of the country, Italy has been on complete lockdown, except for essential activities, since 9 March, and these measures will last at least until 3 May. We still don’t know whether these measures will be extended and when progressive reopening of activities will start. Social distancing still represents the most important preventive measure to limit the spread of the virus.
How have the confinement measures affected you professionally and personally? Is your office still open or, if closed, since when?
My clinic has been closed since the beginning of the lockdown, except for emergency treatments. It is still closed, and we are mostly taking care of patients’ requests by phone and issuing prescriptions for medication when needed, with few exceptions. Personally, this situation is very limiting, as I have been confined at home for more than one month, and it feels very strange and unfamiliar for someone like me who travels elsewhere in the world almost weekly.
Now that your office is closed for routine treatment, are you doing anything differently when treating your (emergency) patients compared with when it is open?
Generally speaking, we are not seeing or treating any patients. For emergency cases, we are taking special care in terms of protection and avoiding cross-contamination and are following all the rules given by the experts in terms of prevention. This means that we have completely changed our habits, and this has a great impact on timing of the procedures, the ergonomics of our work and financially.
“Nothing will be as it was before, at least for a long time”
During this crisis, how have you utilised your time in your work situation and in relation to your patients? Could you share a little about your personal life and the effect on the things you enjoy and usually have little time to do?
I am studying a lot, following some of the numerous webinars that are available and writing a new book about endodontics. Furthermore, I am very involved with my new online educational project, the endo channel by Gianluca Plotino, which has been live since the end of last year and, of course, offers a great educational opportunity for dentists, especially considering the present limitations. You know, my work is my passion and my hobby as well, so my free time is mostly dedicated to it, but I am also enjoying the time spent at home with my family.
Do you know how the confinement measures have affected the national dental market?
The dental market is completely on hold. Companies and manufacturers are trying to face the situation, but we still don’t know what official protocols we will be obliged to follow when we are able to go back to work normally. Therefore, I am waiting to see how my clinic will need to be reorganised.
No one knows how long this crisis will last. Whether it is short-lived or lengthy, do you think that it will change your business and the profession as a whole?
That is for sure; nothing will be as it was before, at least for a long time. As I said, we will need to reorganise our practice because of this crisis. Furthermore, we will have to face the economic crisis that is arising from this situation.
One might hope that, in face of such a crisis, it would be appropriate to reflect and maybe change the way we live our lives for the better. What do you think? What changes would you like to see happening?
I hope that, after this terrible event, we will be much more focused on helping one another! Italy is a great country; this moment will pass and we will go back to normality and to being the best place in the world!
Dr Gianluca Plotino received his degree in dentistry in 2002 from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome in Italy and completed his PhD there in 2009. He maintains a private practice specialising in endodontics and restorative dentistry in Rome.
Editorial note: This interview is the sixth part of a series asking dental professionals all over the world to share their experiences during the COVID-19 crisis.