Stacy Squires / Stuff
Tō Waha, a free week-long dental clinic for people over 18, will provide residents of Wairoa with in-home dental care for the first time in nearly two years. (File photo)
Residents of Wairoa in need of urgent dental care will be able to see a local dentist for the first time in almost two years with a free week-long clinic to be held later this month.
From January 17-22, Wairoa will host Tō Waha, a free dental event for people aged 18 and over at the Wairoa Community Oral Health Clinic.
“It’s a week-long injection to come and get it if you can,” Wairoa Deputy Mayor Hine Flood said.
The northern town of Hawke’s Bay has been without dental services since early 2020, with residents having to travel 94 km to Gisborne or 117 km to Napier for assistance.
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Dentiq, the city’s only private dental practice with more than 2,000 patients, was sold in March to Esskay Dental Ltd. However, Covid-19 and the difficulty in attracting a dentist to the district have prevented the company from providing dental services.
Flood said the city had reached a “crisis point”, adding that they were “up to nothing at the moment”.
The cost and time spent visiting dentists in Napier and Gisborne meant people were “suffering in silence” and putting additional pressure on local GPs who could only provide pain management to others, a- she declared.
“For now, this will only be for those who are in pain and may need extraction, fillings, cleaning and scaling,” Flood said.
She said demand had already exceeded the 250 available appointments, and a special focus would be on Maori and the elderly who have the greatest needs in the district.
“Affordability for people to go to the dentist is out of the question for those who need it most.
“I hope that over time we can meet everyone’s needs. “
Other medical professionals also supported Tō Waha so that whānau, which may require health examinations such as diabetes checks and cervical smears, could be seen and received dental treatment.
Flood saw the event as a double-edged sword, saying that while it would be a “big bang injection” it would also raise expectations.
“We don’t want to miss the opportunity that presents itself, so we want to make sure that as many people as possible know about it. “
Georgia-May Gilbertson / Stuff
Wairoa’s private dental practice was sold in March, but residents have yet to see any signs of a dentist
She estimated the clinic would cost $ 50,000 to operate, with nearly 30 clinicians from around Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti volunteering.
“Some dentists in the Bay have closed their businesses for a week to come and support this kaupapa.”
Hawke’s Bay District Health Council spokesperson and executive director Patrick Le Geyt said in a statement that Tō Waha in Wairoa provided an opportunity for whānau suffering from “urgent and untreated dental disease,” which otherwise could not access or afford dental treatment, to be seen by a dentist.
“Even if reservations are full and people are on a waiting list, they can come and talk to someone about any other health problem they might have.”
The last day of registration is Friday January 7th.
This is the second Tō Waha event, after a successful pilot, at Flaxmere in 2019, which was a collaboration between DHB, Defense Force and Hawke’s Bay dentists.
Le Geyt said feedback from the dental community has been very positive, showing a willingness to be a part of such community events.
“Hawke’s Bay DHB will continue to help the community of Wairoa develop options for a long term sustainable solution for dental care. “
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said the lack of an adult dental facility in town was a “real obstacle”.
Tō Waha would help meet short-term needs while the appropriate agencies continue to work on a long-term sustainable solution, he said.
“The reduction in service that we are experiencing affects our entire community and we are very grateful to everyone working on solutions for Wairoa whānau. “