Hawke’s Bay’s small Wairoa district hasn’t had an adult dentist in nearly two years.
Authorities have discovered that there is a great unmet dental need due to drug addiction and the city desperately needs solutions.
In Wairoa, people over the age of 18 cannot access a dentist locally.
That caused a big problem for Bev Jury’s friend who needed dental care.
“He had to go to the doctor for antibiotics because he has an infected tooth and he needed to go to the dentist, but there is nothing in Wairoa,” Jury said.
“So we called Gisborne and about four or five dentists and she couldn’t get in, but one of them called again and they had an appointment for her because someone had canceled.”
I had an appointment but needed a follow-up in Gisborne or Napier and didn’t want to drive down the notoriously winding Napier-Wairoa Highway.
“She needs someone to walk her to Napier because driving is too much for her,” Jury said.
The friend of the jury had to go about his daily life, his face swollen and sore.
“In the meantime, he has to go to work, he’s taking antibiotics and his tooth hurts,” Jury said.
Denise Eaglesome-Karekare, Wairoa District Councilor and Youth Services Manager for the Wairoa Young Achievers Trust, had heard horrendous stories.
“They will try some thread around the tooth and, people will identify with this, and they will tie it around a door handle and close the door and it will come out! that happens “.
Wairoa has a community dental center next to the under-18 high school, but nothing for everyone else.
The old dental surgery is still there, but its new owner, Samar Khanna, can only give dentures.
Khanna is based in Auckland; He used to come once a week but said he couldn’t even make it because of the blockade.
He tried to advertise a dentist, but said he wasn’t interested.
“We have been constantly looking for a dentist to come to work in Wairoa, but unfortunately that is not happening, no one really wants to go to a rural setting,” he said.
Hawke’s Bay DHB data shows that from May to November last year, 50 percent of people who came to emergency departments were there due to tooth problems.
Doctors who bear the brunt
Queen St Practice is the only GP in Wairoa.
Its director, Marion Terry, said she received up to five calls a day from people complaining of toothaches and that there was not much there was for doctors to do.
“We are really stuck in a difficult place. But we do not stop for that, we still have to provide some means of treatment, be it pain relievers or antibiotics.”
Her colleague Trixie Terry, a health improvement practitioner, said that for an underserved area like Wairoa, even getting a dental quote was hard work.
“They have to travel out of town to Gisborne or Hawke’s Bay to a dentist to get the prices, and then ask WINZ for help, so there is a cycle of deprivation.”
The way to follow
Wairoa Deputy Mayor Hine Flood, who is also on the DHB’s Maori relations board, said some solutions were worked out.
“Wairoa was assigned a week of free dental clinic services running from the DHB Community Center during the week of January 17-22. So I’m absolutely thrilled.”
She said they hope to date 250 during that time.
But Denise Eaglesome-Karekare said that alone couldn’t be the answer.
“I mean, I’m not trying to be negative, I think it’s great that they found a short-term solution, but that’s all it is, and I don’t want them to be on their laurels and think ‘oh we’ve fixed Wairoa’, because they haven’t. “
Immediately, DHB is considering finding a Wairoa dentist on a fixed term contract and is trying to find a dental assistant.
Other short-term initiatives include free dental packages for young parents, pregnant women, and their whānau.
Over the next 12 months, the DHB is looking for long-term solutions by analyzing ideas from other parts of the country, such as mobile dental units in Northland and prioritizing Maori for care, such as in the Bay of Plenty.
Board members have been told to expect an update in January.