Time to put new teeth into dental laws
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I write on behalf of the entire dental profession to express our grave concern with respect to the current state of legislation concerning our profession.
The Dental Act which now governs the profession of dentistry was enacted in 1972, and in the last 40 years, the profession and its practice have changed in ways unimaginable to the framers of that 1972 document.
Among the more important recent changes in the profession has been the introduction of the training of dental surgeons at two of our local universities and the certain understanding that continuing education is a necessary and vital ingredient of modern health care.
The 1972 act entrusted a Dental Council, in a manner akin to the Medical Council or the General Legal Council, with the task of overseeing the regulations relevant to dentistry, and also to administer to the registration and deregistration of dental surgeons and dental auxiliaries. The act also spoke specifically to the training of dental auxiliaries in Jamaica in a system where the Dental Auxiliary School had just been founded, and it gave the Dental Council the authority to regulate the training of auxiliaries.
Almost 40 years had elapsed before the training of dental surgeons began in Jamaica. So those who had written the 1972 act can be forgiven for not including any framework for the regulation of institutions training dental surgeons.
The dental profession, however, saw this day coming and recognised that the Dental Act (1972) was hopelessly outdated, and significant resources were committed in drafting a new act. This new act should have become the Dental Act (2007), and it addressed the new landscape in which dentistry was to find itself in the 21st century.
SLOW TO ACT
Unfortunately, to date there appears to have been no progress, whatsoever, in moving this document through the legislative process so that we can have modern legislation governing our profession. In fact, it is of increasing concern that by the time this document actually makes it to Parliament, it will already be outdated.
Bear in mind that the same 1972 act was legislation designed to replace the 1962 act.
In this legislative environment, the Dental Council and the dental profession, through its association, are powerless to address the queries of the public, dental students or their parents on many issues that they might have cause to question.
While this matter has languished under two administrations, the dental profession had cause to be expectant when the new minister of health was appointed, as we hoped that, as he himself was a dental surgeon, matters pertaining to dentistry would be taken off the back burner.
Unfortunately, this has not materialised, and the dental profession is once again in danger of being viewed in a bad light, as it will be unable to adequately govern itself.
I hope this correspondence will remind all concerned that only chaos can reign where good laws are absent.
JEFFREY W. MEEKS (DDS)
President-elect, Jamaica Dental Association