John is 45 years old; he lives in Tabani village, Butiama district, in the northern Lake Zone of Tanzania with his wife and two children. John is a farmer and grows maize and other crops for both feeding his family and for selling any surplus at market. Having been in pain for a whole year, John decided to walk for an hour to visit someone he knew locally who had served as a medical officer in the army. The retired army officer was well-known in the area and no doubt respected due to his army officer status. Every Saturday he used to set up a stall at the local market where he sold home brewed beer and offered people extractions…
Despite having limited dental knowledge, the retired army medical officer carried out an extraction for which he charged John Tsh5000 (£1.90).
Five months after receiving the extraction, John began to feel pain on the side where he had had the extraction and a fistula was beginning to develop. John returned to the army officer who refused to give him any further help; refusing to acknowledge that it was the extraction that he had done that had caused a problem in the first case. For John, the pain got worse and worse and eventually was so bad he was unable to work on his farm. As the head of the household and the main provider for the family this put his family in a very difficult and stressful situation; because he wasn’t working on his farm, he and his family struggled financially and for food.
After seeing a poster in his village advertising the dental training programme, John walked for an hour to see the training team at Buhemba health centre where the training was taking place. The team found that some roots had been left in place following the extraction and an infection had developed. Unable to do anything for him on site, the team referred him to the District Dental Officer.
Although the team were unable to remove the remaining roots for him during the training, John is now in the capable hands of the District Dental Officer. An important part of the training is teaching limitations; Clinical Officers are taught at what point they should be referring a patient case. Had there been a trained Clinical Officer available locally for John to see in the first instance, he would not have had to endure nearly a year and half of pain and financial struggles for his family; the Clinical Officer would have either identified the fact that John’s case needed to be referred on immediately or would have been able to extract the tooth safely and correctly.
During 2015, Bridge2aid will be continuing training in the northwest Lake Zone of Tanzania and the northeast Manyara region and will also be expanding the training programme into 3 new regions in the east of the country. 48 additional Clinical Officers will undergo training by Bridge2aid volunteer dentists and nurses. With each Clinical Officer serving a rural community of around 10,000 people, 480,000 people like John will be provided with access to safe emergency dental care and will not have to resort to risk being treated by untrained personnel like the home-brew peddling, retired army medical officer who in trying to make a quick buck made John and his family’s situation even more of a struggle.