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Welcome to Outreach to Tulbagh

The Faculty of Dentistry went to Tulbagh for an outreach weekend in September 2012.  A team of eight 5th year, six 4th year and two 3rd year Dental students together with six lecturers took part.


 Faculty of Dentistry Outreach to Tulbagh 15-16 September 2012


Snow-capped mountains, beautiful historical buildings, peacocks walking in the road, scenic farms and people with dental disease - the former are in the tourism brochures, we were there for the latter.

The Faculty of Dentistry went to Tulbagh for an outreach weekend in September 2012.  A team of eight 5th year, six 4th year and two 3rd year Dental students together with six lecturers took part.

On the Friday afternoon, we travelled to Tulbagh in two mini-buses.  The first left at 14:00 with the 3rd and 5th years, the second left at 16:30 with the 4th years because they first had to write a test.  This meant that the first group had to do all the setting up of our portable equipment, instruments and consumables at the clinic, before meeting the second group at the guest house.  We stayed at three different venues as there was not a single one that could accommodate us all, and we were very well looked after.  After supper and some games of pool, we retired for the night.

    Arriving early Saturday       Final instructions at the clinic

When we arrived at the clinic soon after 08:00 on the Saturday morning, there were more than 200 patients waiting for us.  We arranged for 45 of them to go back to the school hostel and return on the next day, and tried to manage the 160 who were left.  The clinic in Steinthal Street was ideal for our purposes with a spacious waiting room, wide passages and many consulting rooms.  We used our 5 portable chairs in separate consulting rooms plus the clinics own dental surgery as well as the 2 chairs in our mobile clinic.

    Mobile clinic in action                  Coffee break

With 8 chairs we could really make an impact.  As usual, the students worked hard (persuading them to take a break is always difficult) and work progressed well.  

    Examining a patient    Hard at work

We had a visit from officials from Cape Winelands Health District Office in Worcester: Ms Surina Neethling, Deputy Director, Professional Support Services and Ms Jo-Anne Otto, Principal Communications Officer.  Dr Luise Lunnon, Medical Director for the Langeberg Sub-district also came and wants us to provide outreach services her sub-district!  We also had an interview with “Die Son” about our outreach programme.  Dr Carlo Prins, Medical Superintendent of Ceres Hospital also popped in to meet us.  It was great to meet them as we dentists often feel left out of the picture in view of the many other serious health problems that need addressing.  It was good to hear from them that we were providing an important service, and that they want to work together with us in solving dental problems.  We will try to work on a plan to take conscious sedation services into the rural areas so that we can treat the young children, but we also need to prevent dental disease more effectively.

Finally, after seeing 160 patients, we called it a day.  We tidied up and went back to our guest houses to relax, before having dinner at a restaurant in town and an early night.

When we returned on the Sunday morning there were more than 150 patients waiting – an indication of how great the need and demand is for dental services.  By now the team was familiar with the system, and the work continued with speed and enthusiasm.


 Sterilizing the instruments       Sunday lunch (packs)

Maybe because of all the hard work, one of the chairs in the mobile clinic caught alight!  Clouds of smoke were produced by a motor that burned out and hydraulic fluid leaked onto the floor!  It reminded us of the Afrikaans saying: “Werk dat die rook draai!”  We were however able to continue using the other chair in the mobile.

Highly skilled patient administrators     Faithfully waiting for owner to be treated

We realized we were not going to get finished as early as we had planned on the Sunday – there was just too much work, and we didn’t want to turn anyone away.  Most of the patients had been waiting since early morning – and they were hungry too.

We continued working, using one of the chairs and sometimes 2 of the chairs for triage and administering local anaesthesia, so that the other chairs could be used for treatment.  The system worked well.  Despite the fact that the students were getting tired, they remained cheerful and kept working hard.  It was so encouraging to see both staff and students getting involved in anything that needed doing, without having to be told to do it.


    Packing up                                 Empty waiting room

Finally, we were able to treat everyone (except for one person who arrived as we were packing up).  After packing all the portable equipment into the mobile clinic and taking a group photo, we returned to Tygerberg, arriving at 18:30.

Over the two days, we treated 328 patients – a new record.  We extracted 477 teeth, placed 18 fillings, provided 36 patients with a scaling and polishing and provided 33 other treatments, mainly active brushing.  We also gave 200 brushes and tubes of toothpaste to the local school hostel since many of the children there do not have basic necessities.

    The Tulbagh 2012 team

A special word of thanks to my colleagues from the Faculty who accompanied us, Prof Attie Louw (and his hard-working wife, Julie who helped clean and sterilize instruments), Dr Razia Adam and Dr Carol Cloete as well as Dr Nashreen Behardien who came through on the Sunday.  Dr Costa Saridakis, our private practice colleague who regularly assists us, did so again on the Saturday. 

We were also ably assisted for the weekend by Dr Riyaaz Jainoodien (the community service dentist in Ceres, and our top graduate in 2011) and on the Saturday by Ms Tamsin Martin, the oral hygienist in the Witzenberg Sub-District.  Also thanks to our three drivers; Malcolm Adams, Hansie Koopman and Carlo Gertse.  Thanks is also due to the Western Cape Department of Health for allowing us to use their clinic, and in particular to the facility manager, Sr Bugan, as well as the general assistant who were there all the time and were very helpful.

This was our fifth outreach activity for 2012.  Once again I was impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of our students.  They were really fantastic.  Many patients were treated and our students developed clinical skills, which makes these outreach programmes so mutually beneficial.  But the thing that really impressed me is the empathy, commitment and enthusiasm of the students.  The University of the Western Cape can really be proud of them.

Dr R B Barrie

Outreach Co-ordinator

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