Public dental services restricted during lockdown

By Maria Kandjungu

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services has put brakes on the delivery of public dental services in Windhoek following the first reported cases of coronavirus infection, Confidente has learned.

While the dental clinics at health centres and state hospitals are still open, there are no dentists at some of them and patients are being turned back without so much as a Panado or any prescription.

Patients are also not being told when the clinics will be re-opened as nobody seemed to have that information available and patients were told that due to coronavirus all dental services are halted.

Confidente spoke to one patient who said they were turned away after visiting a number of government dental clinics in Windhoek this week.

The 19-year-old Simsolia Amutenya told Confidente that she drove from one dental clinic to another, only to be turned away without any sort of help with her dental emergency.

“My tooth started aching on Sunday morning and on my Monday my face started swelling up. I was in pain so me and dad decided to go to the clinic. We went to Robert Mugabe clinic but we were told they are not working due to coronavirus. We then went to Katutura Hospital where we were told the same thing. We went to Central Hospital and again we were told the dentists are not working, and so there too we turned back,” she explained.

She said her whole mouth was still swollen, but no effort was made to assist her. “They could have at least given me pain pills to help with the pain and something to help bring the swelling down. They just gave me cold shoulders and said they are unfortunately not working.”

Confidente understands that the decision was taken after dentists felt that they are more at risk of exposure to coronavirus infection as the virus is directly transmitted through saliva.

When Confidente visited the Khomasdal Clinic, we were informed by the guard on duty that dentists are off duty throughout the lockdown period and consequently no dental service is being offered at the clinic until further notice.

Corroborating Amutenya’s story, another patient said she was also turned away without being assisted.

“They are apparently not working today. My teeth have been aching since the weekend and so today I decided to visit the clinic but they are sending me back without even giving me painkillers. They did not tell me when I should come back. They only said they cannot help,” she said.

Speaking to Confidente, a Katutura Hospital superintendent Dr Shikongo, who was at first not aware of the situation, later told this reporter that the clinic at that hospital was open but only for dental emergencies.

Asked what constitutes a dental emergency, the superintendent before hanging up her mobile said, “All I can say is that the dental clinic is open but because of coronavirus, we are only dealing with emergencies.”

Confidente is reliable informed that the delivery of public health services have slowed down, especially in Windhoek as the ministry is trying to shift focus and resources towards combating the spread of coronavirus.