Efforts continue to establish a permanent, free dental clinic to serve low-income patients in Penticton.
Local dentists have donated their own clinics and time for several one-day events since the program’s inception last summer, but the hunt goes on for a steady funding source and supplies.
“I’ve gathered some equipment, and I have a lead on a place… but I sort of have to gather my equipment before they’ll give me the place,” said organizer Greta Henning.
“I’m just in the process of getting charitable tax status so I can offer receipts to people who donate equipment and then I can go after the equipment more so than I am now. But I have an X-ray machine and a couple of chairs already sitting in a garage somewhere just waiting to be used.”
Henning said the local dental community has been supportive of the idea to help people who simply fall through the cracks of the health-insurance system.
Penticton woman Robbin Loughridge said she and her husband have made use of the previous clinics to address serious issues, but routine checkups are out of the question for her family of five, which has no health insurance.
“Regular dentist visits for an adult who has no insurance costs a minimum of $100 a visit,” she said. “Personally, with three children I can’t afford it. That’s not something to me that’s a priority anymore.”
While young children have access to oral health programs, the buck apparently stops at older people.
“I just find it odd that we live in Canada and get treatment for anything we want but we can’t walk into the dentist and do the same,” Loughridge said.
Henning has another free dental clinic organized for later this month, but has already filled the day with about 20 appointments for the two participating dentists: Drs. Ian Dickinson and Amaal Ayoub.
“It doesn’t take much,” said Henning, discussing the need for the free dental clinics in the South Okanagan. Since the first clinic in August 2011, Henning said about 62 people have been helped by the program, which operates with the assistance of Quota International of Penticton.
Free dental clinics operate in Kelowna and Vernon with a mix of private and public funding.
Henning said she intends to approach some local charities and Interior Health for help starting a permanent clinic here.
“We really see that a dental program that focuses on low-income and marginalized residents is very good and very important work,” said Susan Brown, Interior Health’s community administrator for the South Okanagan.
Brown noted that IH has not yet received such a funding application but would “consider it very strongly.”
Anyone who wishes to help with the clinic in any capacity can reach Henning at 250-493-9299.