Dentists from the Hualien-based Tzu Chi General Hospital (TCGH) gave oral examinations to more than 600 seventh graders at Guo-Feng Junior High School in Hualien County on Monday and Tuesday last week after classes were canceled for an entire week due to reported cases of enterovirus. During the examinations, the school discovered that the dentists were not changing their dental gloves between examinations and became worried about the spread of viruses. The dentists insisted that there was no risk of infection and refused to change their gloves, even after the school had asked them to.
A TCGH spokesperson said that the dentists had not been negligent in the matter, but that there had been some miscommunication with the school, adding that they would not be punishing the doctors. The Hualien County Health Bureau says that the standards for changing dental gloves differ from place to place. In Taipei and New Taipei City, doctors are allowed to make their own call in determining whether gloves need to be changed. In Greater Taichung, the forms filled out by patients at doctors’ offices tell whether the gloves have to be changed, while in Hsinchu and Hualien, the regulations established by the local dentist associations stipulate that gloves do not need to be changed unless a dentist touches a patient’s lips directly.
Officials from the Hualien Department of Education said that the local dentist association and the school were able to reach an agreement that respects the professional integrity of the hospital. The agreement says the gloves do not need to be changed unless the lips are touched directly, a method which is meant to save time, not money.
Huang Chih-hau, one of the dentists from TCGH who was examining the students, says that when dentists do oral examinations on children they hold a long mouth mirror and a dental explorer to check for cavities and to check the patient’s bite. Dentists automatically switch to clean instruments after completing each exam, but because their hands do not typically touch the inside of the mouth or any bodily fluids, it is not necessary to change gloves for every patient, he says.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)