There are many places around the world which have been unable to get even the most basic dental care, but what do you do when you have to provide support to over 250 thousand people over 40 miles of often harsh and challenging terrain? I have been supporting a recently opened hospital in Kasguma, in the Puma district of Pakistan Kashmir, and will be visiting it in November to see how the new hospital is helping people on a daily basis.
Before the hospital in Kasguma opened the people in the Puma district of Pakistan Kashmir were forced to travel about four hours to Islamabad on fairly rough roads to receive medical treatment...not much good if you were in need of urgent care! Since it was opened the hospital has been able to offer vital, lifesaving treatment to thousands of people, including 750 people in July alone.
While Pakistan has private dentists, treatments are expensive and public dentistry is limited, resulting in long waiting times for those unable to afford private dental fees.
Currently the hospital runs on a principle that they do not charge anyone who cannot afford to pay for dental treatment and are truly dedicated to treating as many patients as possible even if they are unable to pay. With no National Health Service, such as that in the UK, the hospital is supported mainly via fundraising and donations from the Kashmiri community in the UK. The wage bill is being sponsored by a wealthy builder in Oldham, who acts as chief Exec for the Kasguma Trust.
The hospital is taking inspiration from the Gujrat Cleft lip and palate centre which has been running a similar dental support system for locals for many years. This has enabled them to be able to train a suitable dentist to carry out dental assessments for the cleft lip patients, offer follow up care and provide important out-reach for dental prevention work in a wider area around Gurjarat.
In November I will be travelling to Kasguma to see this plan in action, and taking with me £2,000 worth of equipment to help set up vital aspects of the dental treatment area such as the cleft lip operations and ultimately open up the dental unit if all goes to plan.
At Kasguma hospital we will be providing free cleft lip and palate surgery to children which is partly funded by donations and carried out for free by visiting surgeons. All these dental patients need dental assessments and their parents will also be given information and advice on a healthy diet and how to best care for their teeth.
Good oral health is a fundamental global issue which applies to everybody, yet it is often neglected by many governments in their national health policies. Many oral health problems are entirely preventable yet they account for some of the most prolific non-communicable diseases in the world, often due to poor knowledge and adequate support.
Projects, such as the hospital in Kasguma, have the ability to make a huge difference to the local population and provide them with much needed, available and free healthcare.