The portable dental chair donated by the Townsville Bulletin just weeks ago has now been put into operation in Papua New Guinea’s Gulf Province.
YWAM Medical Ships – Australia (YWAM MSA) has just returned from the Baimuru District, Gulf Province, where they have been working alongside Gulf Christian Services rural hospital, Kapuna.
Kapuna Hospital is the only hospital within paddling distance for 30,000 locals in the Gulf Province and the chair is being operated by Morea Joseph, a local community health and dental worker, who has been receiving training and support from YWAM MSA for the past four years.
The chair has already assisted 426 patients in the past 14 days of operation.
Morea said, “I learned to do basic extractions from a nurse that worked here at the hospital. After she left, I was just pulling out loose teeth with the few tools we had, but I knew I needed to know more to really help the people, lots of people come here with teeth problems.”
Since working with YWAM, including Dr. Daryl Holmes of 1300 SMILES, Morea has learned how to do complicated extractions and fillings. “It has improved our dental services a lot,” he says.
Over the last twelve months, Morea has trained a second dental worker, Manu Laiko, to keep up with the demand.
Both Manu and Morea have worked alongside YWAM MSA’s volunteer dentists again this week to gain more experience and knowledge in the Medical Ship’s onboard clinic and on land using the portable units.
The I-Dent kit includes a portable dental chair, a hand drill, pneumatic foot-operated speed control pedal, instrument tray, and solar panel.
While using the I-Dent kit in Maipenairu village last week, Manu met a woman who had been suffering from tooth pain for over three years. She had just returned to the village from Port Moresby where she tried to get treatment. After lining up in a long queue day after day, she gave up and returned to Maipenairu.
The woman heard about Manu and the YWAM dental team and came to be treated. He removed her tooth and sent her home to rest. She returned the day and told Manu it was the first time in three years she had been able to sleep through the night without pain.
The I-Dent kit will enable Morea and Manu to expand their services outside the hospital when the teams are on immunisation patrols along the Gulf Province’s vast river network.
Morea shares his excitement about receiving the chair, “Normally patients travel very far, maybe one day travelling for their teeth problems. With the chair we can just go with it wherever we want to go and set it up somewhere around the village and help people in their very own homes!”
Recent data in the Oral Health Atlas states that PNG has an extreme shortage of dentists with only 17 dentists in PNG currently working, which equates to one dentist per 372,412 people, the majority of these dentists are in urban centres.
YWAM MSA is actively working to address this through equipping locals in rural areas in basic dentistry skills, while also exposing PNG dental personnel to needs in rural areas through its dentistry outreach programs, along with other training, health and community development programs.