N.Z. Army dental team offer free service

The Royal New Zealand Dental Corps is in Samoa offering free dental services at the Poutasi District Hospital for the next 10 days.

Major Phil Worthington, the Regional Dental Commander, told the Samoa Observer that the exercise was planned mid late last year by the New Zealand Military's Joint Force in Wellington.  

"For us it’s a unit to primarily test our ability to deploy all of this equipment and people overseas. And the spin-off of that is that we have four fully operational dental clinics that we can treat people on any island or on any place in the world when the need arise," he said. 

The team arrived last Wednesday afternoon on a New Zealand Air Force Hercules with all their kit unpacked, set up and operational by 1.00pm Thursday afternoon — they have seen close to 100 patients since their arrival.

"If we see less people, we’re then able to do more dentistry for more people so they would have more procedures completed, than if we’re very very busy with patients."

The staff from New Zealand include 12 in the dental team plus an Air Force medic.

"So we’ve got three dentists working at the moment in the clinic and hygienist therapist, they are operating throughout the day from 8.00am to 5.00pm.

"And we are trying to workout where we see the need is greatest and that need was identified earlier and in conjunction with the M.O.H. and Ministry of Women’s and community affairs, that’s given us a really good push as to where we should set this up and the decision was made to select Poutasi health clinic," he said.

Major Phil said Poutasi Hospital is a very practical and appropriate choice of location and facilities for them to operate in.

When asked if they had any plans of mobilizing their services, he said Poutasi Hospital will be the dental team's only stop during their visit in Samoa.

"It takes us half a day to pack it and half a day to reassemble it. And when we’re here for a limited amount of time; to move would be a waste of a clinical day.

"And so I think given the projected number of patients that we would see, the need is very apparent here in Poutasi and on the southern coast of Upolu that moving would be a waste of time and resources," he added.

Fourty-year-old Sau Faoagali of Poutasi told this newspaper that he was appreciative of the free service offered by the New Zealand Army, primarily targeting people in his community. 

"This is so important because at the moment here, the service is free and it’s not available in other villages, communities and countries. And usually overseas, these treatments cost more than $1500 but thanks to the opportunity that the Falealili district are able to be treated for free," he said.

Major Phil told this newspaper that the standard of care offered is no different from the standard of care that they give to our soldiers and sailors back in New Zealand.

A father from Sa'anapu, Misa Toto said he was satisfied with the services by N.Z dental team saying he is thankful for not only their free service but also the way they treated the people.

"And this is very good for the old people as well as the kids. And we thank them for their kindness to our country as it is here for free and that they don't discriminate at all," he said.

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