Remembering 2004

Posted in: Blog, by Rachel Purdy, on 7th November 2014 | Comments Off on Remembering 2004

Dr. Samuel Kalongoji had been working as a District Dental Officer in Magu district of Tanzania for 15 years when he was approached by Bridge2Aid’s Ian Wilson.

kalongoji remembers_2004 group

When Ian met with Dr. Kalongoji and the District Medical Officer of Magu district and first explained to them about Bridge2Aid’s plans, to train rural health workers (‘Clinical Officers’) in Tanzania in delivering emergency dental care, Dr Kalongoji admitted he had doubts. His immediate thoughts were of issues of language, numbers of patients attending the training and of supervision; how could Bridge2Aid ensure that these Clinical Officers would continue to work safely? Who would ensure they would practise in the way they had been trained? In 2004, training Clinical Officers in emergency dental care had, to his knowledge, never been tried in Tanzania before. He admitted he feared for the success of the training programme; would the rural communities accept having their teeth treated by a Clinical Officer? Would the Clinical Officers themselves accept being trained, and being given an added responsibility?

kalongoji remembers_2004 patients

Once the training started, all his fears and doubts vanished; he was very impressed with the way the training was conducted and the way the Clinical Officers learnt, 175 patients were treated in total. Dr. Kalongoji remembers being excited thinking about the potential that the training, if rolled out, would have on rural communities’ access to emergency dental care, about the potential of a service where people living in the rural areas could receive immediate pain relief and where oral tumours and other serious conditions could be identified early.

Dr. Kalongoji, now working for the regional government office in Mwanza, was involved as a District Dental Officer in more than 12 programmes. Without the Bridge2Aid training programme, he says access to emergency dental care in the rural areas would never have reached the level that it is now; 3.2 million people living in the rural areas of the northern Lake Zone, Dodoma region and Manyara region now have access to safe emergency dental care.

kalongoji remembers_treating

He goes on to explain that by increasing the scope of the service that is now available from rural dispensaries and health centres, there is a feeling of increased trust in the Clinical Officers by the surrounding communities. As he also explains, simple cases are being dealt with in the rural clinics which means the District Dental Officers, working out of the District Hospitals in the towns, now have more time to complete their ubiquitous admin tasks and to concentrate on more complex patient cases and specialised dental services like operative dentistry.
A decade later Bridge2Aid is celebrating its ten year anniversary and is now working with 21 districts in 7 different regions of Tanzania.

Dr. Kalongoji is proud to have been involved in Bridge2Aid’s first programme; “I feel like one of the important founders of the training programme”. He explains that being involved in the Bridg2Aid training programme has benefitted him personally in terms of his professionalism, his professional integrity, his planning and his technical know-how. “It’s [the training and the access that has been provided] a remarkable achievement; it has definitely changed the way I think about emergency dental care”.

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