Dentistry closure pain for residents

LILLIAN AMOS

Retreat residents want answers from officials after the Retreat dental clinic was closed in February.

When Sherna Hendricks, from Cafda Village, made her way to the dental clinic last month to have her seven-year-old daughter’s teeth extracted, they were surprised to find the dental clinic’s doors closed.

“We got there and there was only a notification on the door saying we need to make our way to Lotus River Community Day Care Centre (day hospital). We then went to Lotus River Community Day Care Centre but they couldn’t assist us because we were apparently too late and there were already people waiting before us. We had to turn back home,” said Ms Hendricks.

“This is not right because I had to spend money to take a taxi to Lotus River Community Day Care Centre and to come back home when we weren’t even helped. I had to borrow money to take my daughter to a private dentist and it costs a lot of money,” she said. “We should have been notified and told ahead of time that the dental clinic was going to be closed so that we could have made other arrangements,” said Ms Hendricks.

Retreat resident Dale Stuurman was disappointed when he went to the dental clinic one morning in February but had to turn back home.

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“I had to extract two teeth because a few days before I was in severe pain. I couldn’t afford to go to a private dentist at the time but I remembered that the Retreat Dental Clinic does extractions for free but when I got there it was closed,” said Mr Stuurman.

“I was told to go to Lotus River Community Day Care Centre but couldn’t be helped there either. I eventually was helped there a few days later but had to wait from 5am because that centre now has to provide services for people of Retreat, Lavender Hill and the surrounding areas and for the people of Lotus River. It gets really full really quickly,” he said.

When Southern Mail asked the City of Cape Town about the state of the Retreat Dental Clinic and why it had been closed, Siyabulela Mamkeli, the Mayoral committee member for health, said even though the building that houses the dental clinic belongs to the City and City Health runs its primary healthcare services from the building, dental services are provided by the Western Cape Health Department.

He said the health department would be able to respond to questions about the closure but added that repairs have been taking place at the building. “Currently, painting, tiling and electrical work are in progress. As part of our Service Level Agreement, going forward, all services at the facility will be consolidated and rendered by the Western Cape Government Health Department,” said Mr Mamkeli.

Monique Johnstone, communications officer for the health department’s Southern structure, said the clinic was closed after vandals caused major damages to the dental clinic in January.

“The decision was made by management to temporarily close the clinic on February 1 until further notice and relocate staff members to the Lady Michaelis and Lotus River Community Day Centres until the repairs have been completed,” said Ms Johnstone.

She said management of Retreat Community Health Centre has informed the local health committee forum, including staff, and notices were placed at the facility informing the clients of the temporary closure.

“Prior to its closure, dental services were provided to a minimal amount of patients at the clinic. Dental services are specialised with fixed equipment and cannot be relocated to a different area in the facility, hence the reason for the temporary relocation,” she said.

“The normal practice is that the patients are then referred to the nearest clinic. When patients are referred, the necessary staff would be relocated to that referral clinic, as the service need would increase.”

She added that all efforts are made to get the repairs done as soon as possible.

“Management is cognisant of the fact that the closure is an inconvenience to the community, but the decision was made in order to minimise any health and safety and infection control risks to patients and staff. Once the repairs and improvements have been made, it will allow staff to provide a more effective and efficient dental healthcare service,” she said.