Blog updates: Will California hygienists separate from ADHA?

California hygienists gather for CDHA house of delegates meeting in Fresno to discuss charter agreement with the ADHA.

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Updates from the California Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) annual house of delegates meeting in Fresno, Calif., where delegates are expected to discuss a decision by its trustees to terminate a charter agreement with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

9 am PDT, Saturday, June 4

The CDHA spent the early morning in reference committees. Another closed section is scheduled for 11 am PDT. Another vote may occur that would outline the objectives the CDHA would have regarding any ongoing discussions with the ADHA about its charter agreement.

The ADHA was contacted after the close vote yesterday to work through an extension. But the national association declined to comment until after the CDHA house of delegates closed tomorrow and received official notification from the CDHA. It may be be that the ADHA will not comment until its annual session next week in Pittsburgh.

No offense to the ADHA or dental hygienists from other states, but the photo above of a sign at the house of delegates rings true this week. In its own way, the CDHA has been "the voice of dental hygiene" in recent weeks.

8 pm PDT, Friday June 3

After the ADHA indicated a willingness to discuss the proposed charter agreement with the CDHA earlier in the day, California's delegates to the state association voted to agree to an extension for the talks with the ADHA. The main sticking point was developing a deadline for the ADHA to demonstrate "good faith negotiation," as one delegate put it. A vote on Saturday may establish a deadline. The extension is scheduled to be for one year.

So a second vote by CDHA delegates may occur around 11 am Saturday that outlines criteria for the negotiation.

The vote to proceed with negotiating with the ADHA was very close, within five votes of passing.

3:45 pm PDT, Friday, June 3

Ann Battrell and Jill Rethman exited the closed session for the CDHA house of delegates a few minutes ago. Battrell said they answered many questions, and she was very positive about the exchange of information. When asked if there was room for more negotiation about the charter agreement, she indicated there was, depending on any decision made by the CDHA this weekend, as well as with the ADHA board of trustees.

She said the California issue could be minimized into a situation similar to the current situation in Minnesota and Florida. Those two states were granted an extension by the ADHA while they worked through some clarifications in the charter agreements.

2:30 pm PDT, Friday, June 3

As mentioned earlier, Ann Battrell, Jill Rethman, or Lin Sarfaraz may be answering questions from the CDHA house of delegates this afternoon. Respectively, they are the executive director, president, and the regional district trustee for the ADHA.

After lunch, the house of delegates hosted its opening ceremonies, noteworthy for tributes to the late Dr. Peggy Walsh (click here or here) and the CDHA’s current president, Lygia Jolley.

The house of delegates then wasted no time in re-entering its closed session at about 2:15 PDT.

Despite dental hygienists' personal sentiments about the national association—both pro and con—a business decision is at the heart of the CDHA’s consideration of terminating the charter agreement. Can component structures handle the fiscal responsibilities outlined in the agreement? The state association remains concerned about losing control of its assets?

Forty-seven other states have already signed their agreements. During a break, I emailed an acquaintance for one of the other two states, Florida, who has not signed its agreement. The ADHA during its town hall meeting a week ago said Florida and Minnesota were merely clarifying details in their agreements. “Nothing about this process is simple,” said my dental hygienist friend in Florida.

1 pm PDT, Friday, June 3

The CDHA house of delegates hosted a full house this morning, so seating of attendees went slower than expected. After brief discussions about the policies for the meeting, the 180 delegates voted quickly to go into a closed session, and I joined a few other guests in the hall.

Two of those visitors are Ann Battrell and Jill Rethman, the ADHA executive director and current president. They made no statement, but there was some expectation that they would answer questions during the afternoon. The ADHA hosts its annual session next week in Pittburgh, and both Battrell and Rethman said they would remain in Fresno for the day. "We are here to answer any questions," Rethman said.

The CDHA's lobbyists left the house of delegates just before noon, and the delegates are concluding an hour-long lunch. They scattered across the hotel to eat, and it is evident that interest in the issue remains high. One delegate entering an elevator remarked, "It's going to be a fight" between those favoring termination of the charter agreement with the ADHA and those hygienists who wish to maintain the status quo.

8:45 am PDT, Friday, June 3

The CDHA house of delegates gets underway in about an hour. The primary hallway to the meeting room area at Fresno's DoubleTree has had a steady line of traffic this morning. The delegates arrive to pick up their badges, pausing to talk with each other about casual events in their lives, not the event of historic proportion for California dental hygienists that is happening this weekend. One delegate said they have been talking about the decision that led to the termination of the charter agreement with the ADHA for more than two years. Most everyone seems to think it's a foregone conclusion, and it's time to get the talking about it over with and move on to the next phase.

The CDHA board of trustees, which announced the decision via Facebook, is in the middle of a pre-house of delegates meeting. I asked if the hour-long meeting was discussing the agenda in general, or was there the possibility of something more significant happening. The trustee seemed confused by the question. "Any 11th hour negotiating?" I clarified. She shook her head very clearly, dismissing the thought of it. The CDHA business decision stands, in their minds.

In fact, the main issue for me is finding a place to write. WiFi is nonexistent in the meeting area, so I writing this from the hotel lobby, where many delegates are enjoying a late breakfast and catching up with old friends.

6 pm PDT, Thursday, June 2

Quite a few California dental hygienists have arrived for the early registration to the CDHA House of Delegates. A question I had regarded whether the CDHA board’s refusal to sign the charter agreement has led to a higher level of interest in the house of delegates session this weekend than usual. After talking with several dental hygienists who appeared for the registration, the answer is, yes, the interest level is higher.

Also, the CDHA delegates I talked with anticipated that a final resolution could come on Friday, the first day of the house of delegates. The delegates intend to address the issue upfront and act on it quickly. The ADHA indicated that they would have officials here in Fresno, but there has been no sign of them during the early evening hours. A debate could continue on until Sunday, the final day. The CDHA has the determination, though, to act quickly on this and then move on to other matters.

An interesting aspect of the pre-house chatter is the hope that the ADHA will negotiate the charter agreement with California dental hygienists, even though there was no indication that further negotiation was on the table when the ADHA hosted its town hall meeting a week ago.

The first day of the house of delegates could be lively and short-lived. This question may surface quickly: Will the ADHA be flexible with its terms of the charter agreement? If not, the delgate voting in the final closed door session could come about quickly.

3 pm PDT, Thursday, June 2

On the flight to Fresno, it dawned on me that, despite the fact the El Paso Chihuahuas lead the southern division of Pacific Coast minor leagues, 1,020 miles is probably too far for west Texans to drive this early in the season for a three-game series with the local Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are eight games out of first place in the league’s northern division. On Saturday night, according to the California Dental Hygienists’ Association, Chukchansi Park in Fresno will be the site of “Dental Hygiene Awareness Game.” Hygienists will have a tailgate party that will include the dispensing of toothbrushes to minor league baseball fans.

By the game between Fresno and El Paso starts, the CDHA will have completed the first two days of its house of delegates meeting at a downtown hotel just a few blocks from the baseball stadium. A rather looming topic of discussion will have been the CDHA board’s decision to “secede” from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association back in March.

If one thing has been clear throughout more than a month of writing articles prompted by a CDHA Facebook post about the board’s decision, it’s that the state’s dental hygienists are not unanimously supporting the decision.

If El Paso fans do wait for traveling to a more significant series with the Grizzlies, then there should be plenty of room in the stadium for the pro-secessionists to sit on one side and ADHA loyalists to sit on the other.

If a revolution does persist this weekend, what will happen afterwards? It seems almost certain that the ADHA will merely form some other state association in California that follows the national association’s protocols. All that may be required for California’s loyalists is that they know how to sign a document, something the pro-secession board refused to do.

The thought among secessionists is that something better will emerge from this revolution. The ADHA lacks the will and the resources to help California dental hygienists accomplish their objectives as health-care professionals. The state’s dental hygienists believe this separate path from the ADHA will result in career satisfaction, better health among citizens, and more respect for the profession overall.


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