Dentist shortage relieved

Newcomers . . . Luminos the Dentists, Gore has employed English dentists George Lilly and Connie Browne and for the first time in two years the practice is accepting new patients. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Gore’s chronic shortage of dentists has been relieved by two English tourists who visited the country earlier in the year and liked what they saw.

Lumino the Dentists, Gore has recently employed Connie Browne and George Lilly who visited the country six months ago.

Dr Lilly said the couple spent a week in the North Island and two weeks in the south.

‘‘By the end of that we just loved it out here and thought the quality of life was very nice compared to the UK.’’

When they were at the airport waiting for their flight home they were researching on their cellphones to find out how they could get a job and return, they said. While they did not make it as far south as Gore, the appeal of being close to the snow slopes attracted them to the town.

‘‘George is a very keen snowboarder,’’ Dr Browne said.

The couple met while completing their bachelor of dental surgery degrees at Newcastle University.

After graduating they were employed in the National Health Service in Newcastle.

Both were interested in dentistry because of the potential to help people, they said.

‘‘When you get someone out of pain, you help people, that’s where I get my job satisfaction,’’ Dr Browne said.

It was satisfying fixing up people’s stained or cavity-filled teeth, Dr Lilly said.

‘‘In the space of an hour you can completely change how they look.’’

The couple were settling into rural town life.

‘‘Everyone’s been very nice and friendly, which is good, and it seems like a nice little community,’’ Dr Lilly said.

In Newcastle they lived in a ‘‘tiny little box apartment’’.

‘‘Now we’ve got a bit of space. . .[and] a garden, ’’ he said.

‘‘Some cows visit us as well, in the field behind the house, so it does feel very different,’’ Dr Browne said.

They attended the weekly Parkrun at Hamilton Park and were exploring the district.

‘‘We’ve been doing quite a few of the walks,’’ Dr Browne said.

They were impressed with the quality of the dental care provided in New Zealand, they said.

Practice manager Roxy van Zyl said it had been two years since the practice had accepted new patients.

‘‘ It has been liberating being able to take on new patients and help the community that has had a need for dentistry for a while, having to go to Invercargill or Dunedin if needing a dentist.

The practice was now fully staffed with three dentists, one part-time dentist and two oral hygiene therapists and two dental assistants.

‘‘Each of us are a piece of the puzzle that fits well with the other to make an amazing team and to bring Gore Lumino to new heights.

‘‘We have a fairly new, but great team.’’

The two new dentists were fitting in well.

‘‘George and Connie’s patients absolutely adore them, so that’s a bonus.’’

Lead dentist Dr Manuaroha Walker said it was challenging recruiting and retaining healthcare professional particularly dentists in rural and remote areas.

‘‘However, I’m pleased that our Lumino Gore practice is currently fully staffed with the recruitment of two highly skilled dentists, and we are delighted to welcome back Dr Robyn Pahl, renowned for her expertise, [who is] is dedicating one and a-half days to contribute her services in the community. ’’

Southland dental association branch president Dr Jennifer Lee said several clinics in the region had closed their books due to being at capacity.

‘‘We had patients travelling to other regions to receive dental treatment.

‘‘It is a huge relief there are some new dentists starting in the Gore region which will alleviate the demand built up in the last few years with a lack of dentists.’’

In the past few years more dentists had been recruited to Invercargill.

‘‘This has immensely helped relieve the increased load after Covid.

‘‘However, it still remains a challenge to retain them in the region long-term.’’

The other dental practices in the town, Birch Lane Dental and Hokonui Dental, are not taking on new patients.