A few months ago in this column, I asked the question, "Is the ADA really listening?" Several Viewpoints and Letters to the Editor in recent months have posed much the same question.
And the positive answer is, "Yes!" Not only are ADA leaders listening to expressed member concerns, they are responding. We have received (and published) two polite, firm, timely letters from ADA President William TenPas, in which he explained ADA policies that had been questioned either in Comment, Viewpoint or Letters in recent issues of Dental Economics. We also have received letters from other ADA Trustees and Delegates. In other words, current ADA leadership is not stonewalling dissent, but answering stated concerns and inviting additional observations from dentists. This is a healthy attitude and I applaud ADA leaders for their open and willing discussion of sensitive issues.
This does not mean that the ADA will take action that will please 100 percent of the dental profession. No one expects that in this era of change. But it does show that they are open to listening to the concerns of individual members.
In the April issue of Dental Economics, Dr. Robert J. Gherardi, ADA Delegate from Albuquerque, New Mexico, stated that he planned to present a resolution to the 1996 House of Delegates that would state: "The American Dental Association objects to those parts of the Americans With Disabilities Act that treat infectious diseases as disabilities." And further, "That the American Dental Association actively pursue the re-evaluation of the Americans With Disabilities Act as it pertains to infectious diseases." If you feel that the ADA should challenge the interpretation which, to my way of thinking, interferes with the way you practice dentistry, then you should let your association leaders know that you support this challenge.
Having an infectious disease may well be a disability. But it also is an infectious disease. Referring a patient with an infectious disease to a health-care facility that can provide specialized, life-extending care is not discrimination-it is medically-sound conduct. A broken leg can be a disability, but referring that patient to an orthopedic facility that could provide optimum care and therapy certainly could not be construed as discrimination.
From the response to published material addressing this issue, it appears that many dentists feel the Americans With Disabilities Act is wrong in regard to its handling of infectious diseases. If you want your association to challenge this provision, then you should take pen (or fax or word processor) in hand and let leaders know where you stand. If you want to send your messages through me, then you can: send them to the E-Mail address that accompanies my signature; mail to Box 3408, Tulsa, OK 74101; or fax a message to 918-831-9804. All received messages, for or against the resolution, will be forwarded to Dr. Gherardi. It would be even more effective if you would take the time to send your supporting messages directly to your own ADA Delegate. Don`t acquiesce! This is the time to take a stand. If you sit on the sidelines and do nothing, then please don`t complain about whatever action your association takes. The ADA is listening. Let them hear from you!