THE EDITOR, Sir:
Once again, I am forced to write to you concerning the parlous state of affairs affecting the governance of dentistry in Jamaica. Our profession is small and is represented by less than 200 members in Jamaica, and hence has no real political nor economic clout.
Nevertheless, we have to try to make ourselves heard, amid the clamour, when we are faced with issues that impact not only ourselves but the public to whom we owe a moral responsibility.
Last week, I wrote concerning the need to enact updated legislation to bring the governance of dentistry into the 21st century, as the Dental Act, which now guides the profession, was gazetted way back in 1972. This 1972 act gives the power to the Dental Council of Jamaica, when properly appointed and constituted, to appoint a registrar whose job and purpose it is to make a register of all the dental surgeons and also to make a roll of all the dental auxiliaries that have been properly vetted by the Dental Council. It is this registration, or enrolment, which gives these individuals the right to practise.
The registrar also provides practising certificates on an annual basis as proof to the public that such an individual is duly recognised. In addition, and in practice, the registrar also manages the whole process whereby new dentists/auxiliaries submit applications and credentials and then take examinations held by the council to ensure that these new practitioners meet the necessary standards. The registrar also marshals complaints about dentists made by members of the public.
The Dental Council has been without a registrar for many months. This has led to the delay in examinations for the dental surgeons and auxiliaries, as well as delays in hearing complaints levelled against dentists by members of the public. Dental-school graduates who completed their training in the spring/summer of 2011, for example, would have been unable to take exams and gain registration up to now.
Since 1972, the Dental Council has been ably represented by three registrars: Drs Coote, Lawrence-Beckford, and Edwards. The tradition has been that the registrar should be a practising dentist who is familiar with the many nuances of the profession. While this is not a legal requirement for the registrar to be a dentist, it is hoped that someone from outside the profession would be chosen as registrar only if no suitable candidate existed from within the profession.
The Jamaica Dental Association has submitted at least one candidate for the job as registrar, but to date, we have not heard further on the matter.
The 1972 Dental Act also calls for a tribunal to be appointed. The tribunal is supposed to be a sort of court of appeal for cases handled by the Dental Council. To my certain knowledge, there is at least one case that should be before the tribunal at this time; however, there has been no tribunal appointed since 2011.
So while we await a new Dental Act, we feel it is important that, at the very least, the present act be respected and observed. Unfortu-nately, we dentists feel that issues pertaining to dentistry are not being handled with the importance that they deserve. We are urging the minister to appoint the tribunal, the Dental Council to appoint its lay members, and for the fully constituted council to appoint an appropriate registrar as soon as possible.
JEFFREY W. MEEKS (DDS)
Jamaica Dental Association