Signs Of Optimism
This article originally was posted in the Albany Business Journal
Dr. Sergey Berenshteyn prepared himself for a difficult conversation.
It was mid-March and the curve of the coronavirus pandemic was starting to arc upward. He knew there would be consequences for his orthodontics practice — it’s a business in which people are literally face to face every day. You can’t have people working so closely without risking spread of the virus.
Berenshteyn gathered his staff. They talked through options before reaching a consensus: three-quarters of them would need to be furloughed.
“Even though everything was based on facts, personally, it was just the hardest day of my life to have to break such news to 20 people,” Berenshteyn said.
Before the crisis, Adirondack Orthodontics had seen about 60 patients per day at its four locations around the Albany region, including one that had just opened. The practice typically works with upwards of 2,000 patients in various stages of treatment. A lot of them are teenagers who require regular instructions and reminders.
Berenshteyn and the remaining staff have found ways to adapt. They’re conducting virtual office visits, mailing out new rubber bands. For urgent cases, he schedules a time to meet in the office.
The furloughed staff have kept in touch with questions about when they can come back and what they can do in the meantime. During a video call, some of them volunteered to help figure out how to run the practice in the Covid-19 world. Berenshteyn paid them for their time.
“These people want to help me; these people want to be back to work. They care about the patients; they care about the practice,” he said. “Amid all this, this really was a feel-good moment.
Berenshteyn is anxious to get them all back to work. Adirondack Orthodontics wasn’t able to secure a PPP loan during the first round. Without the loan, he’d be limited to a skeleton crew upon reopening.
He was worried about getting shut out in round two, but found success applying through T Bank.
“I reread the letter because I wasn’t sure I read it correctly,” Berenshteyn said, recalling the moment when the email arrived about the approval.
With the loan in hand, he could bring back his full staff. And he felt better about being able to work through the backlog of postponed patient visits.
Then there was the longer-term future. New patient inquires had evaporated completely during the first weeks of the crisis.
“When economic times are uncertain, you just don’t know when orthodontic treatments will be a concern for new patients,” Berenshteyn said.
But beginning in mid-April, he started getting a couple of new calls each day.
“I feel like people started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I look at it as a positive sign because at this time, while everything is still closed, for people to be calling us is already great.”
Berenshteyn and his staff have put together a plan to prevent spread of the virus after the offices reopen. They will encourage social distancing in the office and space out appointments to make sure waiting rooms aren’t busy. Virtual visits and consultations will continue.
He’s just waiting on the go-ahead from the New York State Dental Association.
And the phone keeps ringing as the number of new patient inquiries continues to rise during May.
“These are the types of signs that make me really optimistic that things will start heading toward normalcy for everyone.”