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
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
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
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