Expansion of Oral Health Services in Friendship Clinic, Meghauli

Introduction - Friendship Clinic/Clinic Nepal, a registered NGO has been committed to uplift the quality of life of people of Meghauli VDC, Chitwan since early 90s through the provision of primary health care services, education (Kindergarten and scholarship programs), and water and sanitation aid. Four visiting doctors regularly provide services in various aspects of health such as, Family planning, psychology, orthopedics and general medicine. Dental extraction has also been provided twice a month. Health camps, Dental camps, ENT camps and dental camps have been also organized through the year.

The Friendship Clinic has been thinking of providing dental care services regularly and also of expanding the services for there is an increased number of patients when they provide services (cleaning of teeth and extraction of painful teeth) twice a month. For this purpose, Friendship Clinic would like to consider a plan of action for oral health and oral health care in the area.

Dental Camps – The first free dental camp was set up with the aid of INF (International Nepal Fellowship - with whom we have an excellent two-way liaison) over a three-day period in October 2001. 223 patients were examined and treated. One patient had 17 teeth extracted (roots and loose teeth) and another had 12 removed - most of them being broken and painful. The average number of extractions was between one and four! The majority of patients had extractions, however some required scaling and fillings. Dental Camps now happen 6 – 8 times a year.

Dental camps are now part of the ‘routine’ at The Friendship Clinic, with a dentist and dental nurse being ‘employed’ when an outreach camp is programmed. When circumstances allow (visiting Dentists etc), a dedicated dental camp will be organized.

AN OUTSIDERS VIEW - “After some rain during the night the thin remaining cloud is burned away by the strength of the rising sun. It will be another hot and humid day in the Nepalese lowlands. The dental team sit in some shade, sipping mugs of black tea and watching the steady stream of patients emerging from the lush green of the surrounding jungle. Just now the local dress is particularly colourful for the festival of Dasain, but several of the children bravely fight tears of nagging pain and fearful anticipation. The waiting area in front of the Clinic rapidly fills to near- capacity, and still more come, some on foot or bicycle, perhaps traveling for one or two or even three days, sleeping in cattle shelters or by the trail. Ekadev and Balram, the Nepali project leader and the technician, are already in the Clinic’s long, white tidy and re-assuring building preparing the way for today’s patients. Yesterday the team examined sixty-five of all ages, with several extractions and lots of remedial work, the legacy of neglect and sweet drinks and the impossible expense of attention. Ruth and David, the frontline dentists, slip into green overalls and walk through the quietly expectant throng: "Namaste", "Namaste" sing out the traditional greeting of respect, and is given and returned many times before they reach the surgery room. It is now eight o’clock and a straight-backed chair, scrubbed table, assorted instruments and anaesthetic syringes are made available - this is the dentist’s environment. They work sympathetically but quickly as a team whilst a little girl sits on her mother’s knee, comforted by encircling arms. Relief will come quickly after the offending tooth is painlessly removed. A minute later she shyly smiles in simple appreciation and her father lifts her into his arms whilst now it is the mother’s turn to compose herself, her eyes fearful of the unknown.

The morning slips by, and now patients appear from the jungle trail in search of the doctor who will come this afternoon. They exchange village gossip in the shade, and occasionally speak of the recent troubles in Nepal. Here we are far from the machinations of politicians, and people have belief in the firm and resolute hand of their King in guiding the country forward to a better peace and prosperity. These folk want very little more than to tend their crops, feed their animals, and enjoy their families and have just a little quality from life. The Clinic in the jungle, with the generous and continuing support of the people of the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Malaysia, U.S.A. and Germany and many others who help fundraise, will work on to extend the depth and breadth of its services in support of that dream”.