One of the elements of the successful small grant application submitted to Scottish Government in October 2017 was to enhance some of the equipment in the Dental Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. Frances McLinden, General Manager of the NHS GGC Oral Health Directorate and Jackie Wilson, Clinical Services Manager of Glasgow Dental Hospital became aware of our ambitions in Lilongwe and intimated that there were twelve dental chairs in storage in the basement of the Dental Hospital which had been removed from a clinic that had been transferred to another site and that the chairs were redundant. Could they be put to good use?
We contacted the charity Dentaid (https://www.dentaid.org/) which undertakes a variety of activities globally to enhance oral healthcare, one of which is to service and, when necessary, repair donated dental equipment to ship overseas to areas of need. Our initial contact was with Jacqueline James, Dentaid’s Overseas Projects and Volunteering Manager. We were in luck on two counts. First, Dentaid was keen to partner with us and secondly, the chairs were of a type that is robust and relatively simple to maintain – ideal for our purposes.
Frances and Jackie confirmed the donation of the chairs for which we are all very grateful. One challenge was the transportation of the chairs to the Dentaid headquarters near Salisbury. With the support of two great colleagues, Mike Broad and Will McLean, Jeremy Bagg decided to rent a 7.5 tonne truck and transport the chairs ourselves.
The staff at Leslie Commercials were extremely helpful and we now had the wheels we needed to do the job!
Dental chairs are heavy! Hospital porters Paul and Robert worked very hard, both to bring the chairs up from the hospital basement and to load them onto the truck.
Once loaded we headed out on the road to Salisbury:
To cut a long story short, 405 miles in a truck that is not allowed to exceed 56mph takes quite a while. Overtaking is a completely different proposition and requires significant pre-planning! We shared the driving and had appropriate breaks including a final night stop before we reached our hotel.
After checking in and sharing some brief refreshments we turned in at about 1am and were up bright and early the next morning for a full cooked breakfast before driving the 10 miles to Dentaid’s Headquarters for the offload. Stuart Bassham (Dentaid Workshop & Engineering Manager) and John Elkins (Finance Director) were there to greet us and help with the unloading.
After unloading we enjoyed a brew and a tour of the facility. In addition to the large amount of donated equipment we were fascinated by the very neat and well-equipped workshop which included a number of pre-clinical skills units that Dentaid is generously donating to the MalDent Project.
Dentaid has designed a product it calls the DentaidBox, which is a portable dental surgery that fits in a wheelie bin (https://www.dentaid.org/overseas/the-dentaidbox/). The contents include a fully adjustable dental chair, a pressure cooker for sterilising instruments, a range of instruments and oral health education resources. This allows clinics to be operated in poor and remote areas. Recently they have been sent to Greece, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Zambia, Uganda, Nepal and Malawi.
After bidding farewell to Stuart and John we headed North into very heavy traffic. It was a 12 hour drive back to Glasgow, but a completely successful expedition.
We are very grateful to Dentaid for partnering with us on this project and look forward to a continuing and successful collaboration.