Vernon, Kelowna denturists hit hard amid COVID-19

Vernon, Kelowna denturists hit hard amid COVID-19

Okanagan denture clinics wonders if they’ll ever be able sustain the sting of pandemic

It’s been two weeks now with no clients, no work and no income for an Okanagan family.

Owners of denture clinics in Vernon and Kelowna, Regan Truscott and Tyler Perrault, are definitely feeling the pinch since closing their office doors March 16.

Both the Vernon Denture Clinic and Kelowna Denture Clinic closed after three practitioners may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus after attending the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver March 5-7.

The doors have remained closed as the type of work has been deemed too high-risk to re-open.

“We acknowledge that our patients are in a high-risk category for COVID complications due to their age and potential for underlying health conditions,” said Truscott, who owns the clinics with her husband Perrault.

“As our practitioners need to see patients in order to generate revenue, we have had no income since then,” she said. “Business expenses continue, however.”

The two clinic locations can’t take advantage of the Work Sharing program, tax-payment deferrals, or wage subsidy programs, as the clinics can’t open and therefore no wages being paid.

The only option remaining for the owners is debt, which has the them worried about how long the pandemic may last.

“Unless new government supports are rolled out that do not involve incurring more debt, the reality we are facing right now is that nine people (including ourselves) will not have jobs to come back to when this is all over,” said Truscott, who also has two elementary-aged children at home.

“There are, so far, insufficient business supports available to help us avoid bankruptcy.”

The Vernon Denture Clinic has been around since 1958, started by Frank Knobel, who was the first denturist in the Okanagan valley. The Vernon couple purchased the clinic from Knobel in 2000 and expanded with its Kelowna Denture Clinic in 2016.

Knobel died in November 2000, but the new owners are still friends with his widow, Iris.

Having invested everything into the business for the past 20 years, the local couple are hoping things will turn around and they can open their doors again.

They are awaiting further information from the College of Denturists of BC, the Denturist Association of BC and the Provincial Health Officer as guidance.

“At this point, it seems reasonable the dental and denture clinics could be largely closed for months to come, with the exception of very limited urgent and emergency cases,” Truscott said. “I do not think that our existing credit resources will carry us for that long.”

It’s a scary state to be in, especially since the clinics are in a growth phase with huge demand in the area for denture services. A new denturist was brought on board in 2016 and a student was in training until COVID-19 hit.

The Kelowna clinic was at capacity and was in need of additional lab staff. A second practitioner was also being considered at the Kelowna location.

“I am trying to remain hopeful,” said Truscott, acknowledging how much work the federal government is putting into its new measures. “At the end of all of this, even if we have not gone bankrupt, we will have a massive debt hole to dig our two companies out of.”

READ MORE: Vernon business pumped to expand amid COVID-19

READ MORE: COVID-19 closes Vernon, Armstrong, Salmon Arm convenience store


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jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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Wendy Walkinshaw makes an appointment for a client at Vernon Denture Clinic, which has been closed since March 16 and feeling the squeeze. (Rebecca Siewart/Little Below)

Wendy Walkinshaw makes an appointment for a client at Vernon Denture Clinic, which has been closed since March 16 and feeling the squeeze. (Rebecca Siewart/Little Below)

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