Island strife

04 January, 2015 / editorial
 

Just what is stopping a dentist from taking up a full-time position on the majestic island of Islay, off Scotland’s west coast?

Despite some of the world’s finest scenery, the answer may lie in the surgery facilities that a new recruit would have to work in.

This is either a portacabin in a Bowmore car park where, it is suggested, patients use their cars as their personal waiting rooms. Or a mobile surgery on the back of a lorry that no-one is sure when was last on the road.

Whatever the reason, it is the patients who are suffering with waiting times to see the part-time dentist on the island, other than for children and emergencies, said to be stretching out for up to a year.

The situation has become so acute that one dentist in Paisley has even begun advertising his services on the mainland in the local paper that covers Islay and Jura. But that is only available to those who can afford the round trip by plane or boat.

For locals on these stunning islands, the problems began a year ago when their only full-time dentist retired. Now, one part-time dentist is left to provide a service to residents. And because of the workload she is having to prioritise children and people in pain.

Although 16 people expressed interest in the vacant post, and three were offered the job, the position has not been filled.

“The facilities are just not attractive and the Community Health Partnership has told us there’s no funding to upgrade them,” local resident and retired GP Pat McGrann explained.

For the time being at least there appears to be no resolution in sight.

Elizabeth Reilly, assistant dental director for NHS Highland, said: “We have resumed the recruitment process for this position and we will continue our efforts to secure another dentist on Islay as soon as is practically possible.”

Dr Alasdair Watson of the St Mirren Brae surgery in Paisley is originally from Jura and has worked on the islands in the past. He said: “A lot of patients come from Islay to go to the RAH Hospital in Paisley, to go shopping to Glasgow and to visit friends and family. We see quite a number of patients from the islands and as we were aware there is a problem with getting access to a dentist on Islay. So, we thought it would be a good idea to put an advert in the local paper.”

Dr Watson said it was too early to say what the response had been like but put the trickle of patients down to the time of year. “We have seen some, but I imagine we will see a better response in the spring time,” he added.

The dentist said that during his time on the island, he had worked in the mobile van on Islay. “This was about 10 years ago. But I actually thought it was quite well-equipped. It was a mobile van that they had and I think some dentists would be quite happy with the facilities that we had then. I don’t know what it’s like now,” he said.

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