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East Lansing dentist fighting to get back to work; has petition with over 3k signatures

Posted at 7:14 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 05:57:51-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Under Gov.Whitmer's executive order, dental work is not allowed unless it's an emergency. But one local dentist disagrees and is gathering signatures in hopes of having her voice heard.

"There's this common misconception that routine dental care is elective and that simply isn't true," says Dr. Jennifer Shaheen-McNiel, an East Lansing dentist.

Dr. Shaheen-McNiel can't legally work on her patients right now unless it's considered something that would send someone to the hospital because they were in so much pain.

"This week alone I've already gotten three calls, and I was not able to address all of them, because they are not deemed an emergency, even though in fact, they are emergent," she says.

Four days ago, Dr. Shaheen-McNiel started collecting signatures on a video, where she asked the governor to let dental workers open up. She's already had more than 3,000 people sign their names.

Michigan isn't unique in banning dental work during a stay-home order. Nearly all states have. But Dr. Shaheen-McNiel argues that dental workers already know how to wear PPE and use safe practices.

"We know how to properly dawn a mask. We understand the importance of infection control," she says.

While Dr. Shaheen-McNiel would like to open up her practice on Abbot Rd. (with proper PPE), she says she hasn't considered disobeying the order.

"Absolutely not," she says. "I want to do what's best for my patients, but I'm a law-abiding citizen. I don't want to break the law. And neither do my colleagues."

Dr. Shaheen-McNiel says when her practice is eventually able to open up, her staff of six will wear respirators instead of masks. But, she says that once the state has the necessary PPE, Michigan dental workers will be ready to go back to work.

"Governor Whitmer, we are ready, we are confident," she says. "We can do this. We can absolutely take care of the people of Michigan."

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