Imagine having a terrible toothache day and night and no way of stopping the pain. Or worse, there is no dental clinic on your island. Sadly, in Solomon Islands this is the reality for many.
Dr Genna Levitch, a Sydney-based dentist now in semi-retirement, was thinking about this. He recalled providing basic dental care in Solomon Islands after graduating as a dentist in 1978 and decided to return to assess current needs.
When he arrived in Honiara he met with chief dental officer, Dr Loreen Oti, an Adventist, who explained that there is an enormous need in the city and a greater need in the provinces. “We have qualified dentists in Honiara, but after our dental hospital was condemned as unsafe several years ago, we have had just one public dental chair to service a population of 70,000. Can you help us?”
Following inquiries back in Australia, Dr Levitch was given four mobile dental vans (ex-school). Each was fitted out with a dental chair, x-ray unit, air conditioning, overhead light, stainless steel cabinets and benches. All that was needed was to plug it into power, attach a garden hose and a waste drain.
In partnership with ADRA, an appeal was launched in the Greater Sydney Conference to raise the funds needed to ship one van over and assess its suitability. Although the cost of sea freight was high, the amount was reached thanks to the generosity of church members and private donors. The van arrived mid-2016 to great fanfare and made the front page of the local newspaper, so great was the enthusiasm for the much-needed dental equipment.
Dr Levitch followed up with another trip to Honiara. On arrival he was met by a beaming Dr Oti who showed him the van fully installed and in use. The hospital had built a permanent enclosure to house two dental vans. The site has power, water, waste connections, a concrete floor and a metal roof to provide weather protection.
“So far the Ministry of Health has not been able to provide funds to ship the other vans over,” said Dr Levitch.“We are appealing to church members to donate through ADRA to this specific project.”
According to Dr Levitch, $A35,000 is needed to pay for the freight. “The SI Government has agreed to provide dentists and will pay for maintenance of the vans.”
The SI Dental Department is hoping to send one van to Honiara Hospital and the other two to hospitals in outlying islands. Visit adra.org.au for more information.