It was a precious moment when the YWAM Medical Ships – Australia’s (YWAM MSA) team reunited with local dental worker, Jack two weeks ago at Daru Island in the Western Province.
Jack paddled almost 30 hours in his canoe from his village to meet the YWAM Medical Ship at Daru to receive further dental training alongside YWAM MSA’s volunteer dentists.
Jack is one of four Community Health Workers in his village and the only one that is offering dental services for his village and the surrounding communities. Jack works from a simple plastic chair, his tools are very few, and his consumables are limited to what he can obtain from the local health centre; yet patients travel for many miles to receive Jack’s services.
Jack shares about the oral health challenges in his community, “Many, many people have tooth pain. Often people stop eating or don’t sleep because there is too much pain. I do what I can, but I am very limited.”
The YWAM team first met Jack during their fifth outreach for the year in the South Fly District where they set up mobile primary health care, optometry, and dentistry clinics in his village, Wasua.
When the YWAM Medical Ship arrived in Jack’s village, Jack was eager to jump onboard and see the dental clinic in action. It had been over 20 years since he had even met another dental worker, let alone receive further training or work in a proper dental clinic.
Jack spent one day onboard the ship’s dental clinic where he observed restoration procedures and performed extractions. The team saw enormous potential in Jack and invited him to join the dental team on Daru Island where the ship would be in four weeks time.
Jack arrived the day after the ship arrived in Daru; eager and willing to help with the hundreds of patients that were waiting to be seen while receiving in-service training from New Zealand dentist, Joo and Papua New Guinean Dentist, Vasity.
“Jack is a rare find in rural PNG, and needs all the extra support, resources and training we can give him to serve the enormous need in his community,” share Vasity.
At the end of Jack’s two weeks onboard the ship, YWAM MSA gave Jack an Ident kit; a portable solar powered dental chair with basic tools and a drill that all folds into a backpack weighing just 15 kilograms.
The Ident kit will not only allow Jack to improve the services he is providing out of his local health centre, but will also enable him to provide dental services to surrounding communities when the health centre conducts immunisation patrols.
“This chair will allow me to do better work and reach people with the care that they need. I am very happy to receive this gift,” shares Jack.
The Oral Health Atlas states that oral health is a worldwide neglected health issue. Papua New Guinea has an extreme shortage of dentists with only 17 working dentists in PNG* currently. This equates to one dentist per 372,412 people. The majority of these dentists are in urban centres, leaving the rural majority with almost no access to dental care.
YWAM MSA is helping to bridge this gap by training and empowering dental workers in rural areas of PNG with the resources and skills they need to deliver services in isolated, remote communities. Jack is the third dental worker in PNG to receive an Ident kit this year.