Tō Waha to Wairoa: The free clinic tackling Wairoa's dental service deficit

A free clinic running later this month in Wairoa will fill an urgent need for dental services which the town has been missing for nearly two years.

Tō Waha is a free dental clinic for patients over 18 that will run for a week at the Wairoa Community Oral Health Clinic from January 17-22.

The initiative was developed between the Hawke's Bay DHB, Ngāti Kahungunu and the Wairoa community partnership group.

Volunteer clinicians will come from across the region to help provide the dental services.

Wairoa has not had a dentist for its adult population for nearly two years, forcing residents make a choice between travelling nearly 100 kilometres to Gisborne or Napier for sometimes multiple appointments, or not getting any treatment at all.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board spokesman and executive director Māori health Patrick Le Geyt said in a statement that Tō Waha to Wairoa provided an opportunity for whānau with "urgent and unmet dental disease", who otherwise cannot access or afford dental care, to be seen by a dentist.

The last day for registrations was January 7, with all appointments already booked, but Le Geyt said patients would still be able to walk in.

"Even if bookings are full and people are on a waiting list, they can come along and talk to someone about any other health concerns they may have."

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said the clinic was a long time coming.

"This is just perfect, because a lot of people are suffering big-time, because they can't afford the time off work or a day off work to go get their teeth fixed," he said.

He said the DHB had been working on the project for quite some time.

"I have to say the DHB are really engaged in Wairoa. Things don't come overnight unfortunately, good things take time, which is what has happened."

He said it was great everyone had the opportunity to go to the clinic.

"It shows a bit of Wairoa, that's how we do things, we do it together."

The clinic will also be able to offer services such as cervical smears and diabetes tests to whānau thanks to health professionals from other fields coming in to help the clinic.

Tō Waha has successfully run a 2019 pilot in Flaxmere before, which was also organised by the DHB and Hawke's Bay dentists.

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