Dental clinic not taking new patients

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Check up. . . Birch Lane Dental dentist Chris Grubb prepares to give patient Sandra Allan of Tapanui her yearly examination. The clinicÂ’s patients are encouraged to have regular checkups and if they did not their registration would lapse after three years. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Gore’s Birch Lane Dental is not receiving new patients.

The clinic, which opened in 2011 to help solve the shortage of dentists in the town, is part of the services provided at Gore Hospital.

Gore Health business manager Rhonda Reid said the clinic had 4170 patients registered on its books.

“Unfortunately, we are full and can’t take any more patients without compromising the care we provide to our existing ones.

“While we would like to take more local patients, it isn’t possible.”

There was no waiting list for prospective patients, she said.

If patients wanted to stay registered at the clinic they had to have regular checkups, Mrs Reid said. If they did not do so their registration would lapse after three years.

However, they would receive a warning email before the registration lapsed.

The clinic’s patients would receive an appointment if they had a dental emergency like extreme toothache.

“If not our patient, they would be referred to the urgent dentist service.”

The clinic was fully staffed at present with two dentists, one dental therapist (on Fridays) and three dental assistants.

“We also have a dentist on Saturdays who comes down from Dunedin.”

The clinic did not have trouble attracting dentists, possibly because staff were paid a salary rather than being on commission, Mrs Reid said.

The Ensign approached Hokonui Dental and Luminos to find out whether they were taking new patients and were fully staffed and both declined to answer.

Gore woman Gemini Moseley said when she had a toothache recently she could not get an appointment in Gore.

“No-one in Southland was taking new patients .. Even with urgent pain I couldn’t get an appointment.”

She contacted the emergency dentist service and received an appointment.

The Ensign asked its Facebook followers if anyone was having trouble getting a dental appointment and about eight people said they were and two people said no.

One woman commented the closest dentist she could find recently was in Alexandra.

Others said they went to Balclutha because it was easier and cheaper.