Good news – the dental chairs that were donated by Glasgow Dental Hospital and serviced by Dentaid before being dispatched, together with other donated equipment, in a container for Southampton docks last December, have reached Mozambique. They are now ready for the 14 hour overland journey to Lilongwe.
During a teleconference with Stuart Bassham and Andy Evans at Dentaid to discuss arrangements for the installation of the chairs and pre-clinical skills units, it was agreed that longer-term maintenance of the equipment also required careful thought and forward planning. The outcome of the discussion was that a face-to-face meeting of interested parties would be very valuable, to ensure a joined-up approach. A date of Monday 25th February was agreed for a meeting at Dentaid’s offices near Salisbury. The meeting would include representatives from Dentaid, Bridge2Aid, Smileawi and Henry Schein, in addition to the MalDent Project.
As a result it was an early start on 25th February for Vicky Milne, representing Smileawi, and myself as we boarded the 7 am flight from Glasgow to Southampton
We left on schedule and were close to Southampton when the captain informed us that the runway at Southampton Airport was obstructed by a light aircraft that had suffered a burst tyre on landing.
Our plane circled Southampton for an hour but as the runway remained closed we were diverted to Bournemouth Airport. By now our meeting should have been in full swing! Following exchanges of text messages whilst we waited to disembark, Jacqueline James (Overseas Projects & Volunteering Manager for Dentaid) drove across to Bournemouth Airport to collect us. After a very scenic drive through part of the New Forest we eventually arrived at the Dentaid offices just before 11am.
Waiting for us there were Andy Evans (CEO of Dentaid), Stuart Bassham (Engineering & Workshop Manager at Dentaid ), Shaenna Loughnane (CEO of Bridge2Aid), and Patrick Allen (Managing Director of Henry Schein Dental).
Fortified with coffee we had a very valuable discussion, focusing on equipment maintenance and consumable item supply chains. Multiple connections were made across the portfolios of the organisations represented, with many common challenges and potential solutions identified.
Firm plans were made for the installation of the dental chairs in the Dental Department of Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe during the week of 11-15 May. Stuart Bassham and one of his team, Terry Bristow, from Dentaid would be joined by Jonathan Langley, an engineer from Henry Schein whose services would be generously provided by the company free of charge. The engineers would also visit the Dental Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, which already houses equipment installed many years ago by Dentaid. At both centres, a full site survey would also be undertaken to check other items of equipment and infrastructure. It was agreed that I would join the team for the Lilongwe installation to support networking with key contacts from the College of Medicine and Kamuzu Central Hospital Dental Department and to interface with representatives from Henry Schein based in South Africa.
The MalDent grant from Scottish Government includes funding to train two Malawian engineers / biomechanical scientists in dental equipment maintenance. Dentaid and Henry Schein have agreed that between them they will develop a suitable programme and deliver this training within the UK. A mechanism for delivery of ongoing training in-country will subsequently be developed. There was significant discussion about the potential for these roles to include a commercial element, which would help to ensure sustainability.
After an intensive discussion we headed out for a photograph next to the Dentaid mobile dental unit – a model of care delivery that may, in due course, find a place as part of the developing dental infrastructure in rural Malawi!
Patrick and Shaenna needed to leave in the early afternoon, but Andy, Jacqueline, Vicky and I headed to a local hostelry for lunch:
The weather was beautiful and very warm in the sunshine so we were able to eat outside – a real treat considering it was still only February!
During lunch it was agreed that Dentaid and Smileawi would share a stand at the forthcoming Scottish Dental Show in Glasgow on 26th and 27th April, at which Jacqueline would represent Dentaid.
This public display of collaboration reflects the recognition by all present at the day’s meeting that partnership is essential if progress is to be made towards our joint ambition of ‘Oral Health for All’ in Malawi.
After lunch, Andy drove Vicky and I back to Southampton Airport, which by now had re-opened, and we enjoyed a trouble-free flight back to Glasgow. Despite our delayed arrival, a great deal was achieved during the meeting. Many thanks to Dentaid for hosting the event and to all who participated.