• Hawke’s Bay DHB fund locum dentist for Wairoa

Hawke’s Bay DHB fund locum dentist for Wairoa

Wairoa is set to have an adult dental service for the first time since 2020. 

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board is funding a locum dental service to provide adult dental care in Wairoa for the next year.

Since the private provider closed in 2020, the only dental clinic operating in Wairoa has been for tamariki and rangatahi.

Emma Foster, Executive Director Planning and Funding, said the DHB had been working with local Māori leaders, the Wairoa Community Partnership Implementation Group and other health providers to find a solution.

“The absence of adult dental care in the town has been a financial and physical burden for Wairoa whānau and we have been working hard to find a solution that meets the needs of the people and lifts the wellbeing of the community." 

The DHB will provide the locum service for a minimum of 40 Saturdays until June 2023 to help support adult oral health care needs until a more permanent solution is found.

“We know Wairoa will welcome a locum service which will mean regular weekly access to dental care for the next year," Foster said.

As the nominated provider by the Wairoa Māori Leaders, Kahungunu Executive will lead the delivery of the locum service, working collaboratively with the DHB’s Community Oral Health Service, and the locum dentists.

“Kahungunu Executive was the nominated provider by the Wairoa Māori Leaders and will soon be informing the community of the booking process for upcoming appointments expected to start end of May.

Sarah Paku, General Manager of Kahungunu Executive said her team was excited to be part of this initiative.

She described the interim solution as a step in the right direction and acknowledged the work of so many people across the board who have enabled this next stage to be rolled out.

“Our whānau need local access to oral and dental health care. Having to take time off work and travel out of town for dental care is not sustainable from a financial, employment or cost perspective.

“This is a local solution that will help keep our whānau healthy. Although it is only a one day a week locum service, it will go some way to meeting our immediate needs while we work towards a long-term sustainable solution.

“It’s important to note that there will be a fee for the service as the Government only funds free oral healthcare for tamariki and rangatahi up to their 18th birthday. However, we are working to have the service provided at a reduced rate." 

Foster said there was more work to do in developing a long-term sustainable solution for dental care in Wairoa.

“The vision for Wairoa is a low cost, whānau oral health service which is what the community asked for when surveyed during the recent Tō Waha event.”

Tō Waha provided urgent dental care to whānau over five-and-a-half days, using a volunteer dental and community workforce, 307 dental appointments were filled resulting in 677 dental treatments.

“Tō Waha demonstrated what can be achieved when activities are established on foundations of tikanga Māori and community-driven. When this happens, whānau are empowered, the community and staff are working as one team, and whānau outcomes are maximised,” Foster said.

Wairoa has been named as one of the first pilot locality planning networks as part of the upcoming health reforms. One of the areas of implementation is a dental service for Wairoa.

“The DHB will continue to work with the Wairoa community to achieve its goal to deliver an integrated whānau oral health service,” Foster said.

Wairoa Mayor and Chairman of the Wairoa Community Partnership Governance Group Craig Little said the initial Tō Waha programme was hugely successful and responded to the immediate need.

“We recognise there is still work to be completed around a long-term solution, but in the meantime this medium-term option will meet the demand while we work towards the final goal of permanent Wairoa based adult dental care.”

“This one day a week option provides continuity of service while we investigate other long-term and permanent options. The Tō Waha initiative in January was a great success and we know it helped hundreds of people. We do not want to lose momentum and this service enables us to continue to provide dental/oral health care.”

Little acknowledged the work of all the partners in rolling out a community-led response.

“From the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and Wairoa Community Partnership Group to the local providers, iwi, health staff and other local organisations, this has been a true community effort. This is a further demonstration of Wairoa’s community leading the way, with support from iwi and agencies, to find solutions for our unique challenges,” Little said.