‘Not so bad’ - Health ministry downplays problems facing dental services
The Ministry of Health is downplaying reports of a crisis in the dental health sector, despite reports from several clinics in the Corporate Area that they are short of supplies and personnel.
However, the ministry has admitted that the dental heath clinics at several health centres are under strain.
Days after a Sunday Gleaner team visited several clinics in Kingston and St Andrew (KSA) and was told of a severe shortage, the ministry said there are supplies in stock to last until March.
"KSA received supplies on February 2 and 10, 2015. These are projected to last until March 31, 2015," the ministry said in emailed response to Sunday Gleaner queries.
"Patients are not required to purchase any dental supplies. The policy is that if for any reason a patient cannot be seen at the clinic he/she has visited, he/she will be referred to another facility," added the ministry, as it refuted claims by persons who said they were asked to purchase needles and other items to be used in their treatment.
"Appointments are made
for all elective, non-dental emergency cases, while emergency care is facilitated without any appointment in all dental facilities."
According to the ministry, there has been an increase in the demand for dental services in the past five years and so additional pressure has been placed on the service.
"The Minister of Health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, has been prioritising oral health services. Since 2012, several steps have been taken by the minister to alleviate the pressure and improve dental services in the island," declared the ministry.
The ministry claimed that Ferguson has ensured the procurement of additional dental chairs and an increase in the number of dental surgeons through a partnership with Cuba.
Ferguson has also reportedly developed a partnership with organisations and overseas dental missions such as UTech, Nova Southeastern University, Great Shape Incorporation and Food For The Poor to assist in the provision of service and supplies.
The modernisation and upgrading of several health centres with new equipment, the establishment of four centres of excellence with significant upgrade to the physical dental plant and the quality of oral health services, were also named among the improvement undertaken by Ferguson.
"Full dental services are not provided at every health centre and a full-time dentist is not placed at all facilities. There is a referral and support system in place and linkages with all facilities which offer dental care to accommodate patients. There are 25 facilities in KSA, including two hospital-based clinics and the dental clinic on Arthur Wint Drive," said the ministry.