Monrovia - An aging Dr. Ayele Ajavon-Cox is worried that when she retires from public service to private practice, there would be a shortage of dentists in Liberia.
“We have only six dentists and two of the six have already past the retirement stage, and they are me and Taylor Neal, and there is nobody to replace us,” she says. “I want retire and work for Smile Liberia, but if I do, what will Liberians have? Dr. Neal is in private practice, I am the only oldest dentist in government practice right now. So it is about time the younger people come on board.” Making this revelation at the observance of World Oral Health Day hosted by Smile For Liberia International and partners at the Paynesville City Hall, Dr. Cox disclosed that the Government of Liberia has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Methodist Church to train low level practitioners for dental purposes. The trained nurses who meet the criteria of being a BSC Registered Nurse (RN) must have practiced for more than five or six years. “I do not think the government has thought that when these people graduate, they would need equipment to be able to take care of the people they are assigned to. Presently, two of the trainees work at the ELWA Hospital and one works in Voinjama, but there is one who was in Bomi, but had nothing to work with, so he is gone to work as an RN instead”, Dr. Cox narrated. Dr. Cox who has been practicing since 1973 and has been working for over forty years as a dentist, said there are young Liberians abroad who have taken student loans and they must repay those loans before returning to work and live in Liberia. Dr. Taylor Neal, one of the oldest dentists in Liberia briefly spoke about the dilapidated infrastructure at Liberia’s public facilities. He said the situation in Liberia is very difficult when it comes to oral hygiene for a population of over three million people and only four dentists, adding that it is not enough. “We must look at the infrastructure of the medical situation in Liberia; you will find that the equipment used at our public facilities is outdated. There are equipment in the medical department at JFK that have been there for over forty to fifty years. There has to be an overhauling of the infrastructure and equipment at our public facilities, because Redemption is even worse,” says Dr. Neal. “Those outdated equipment includes X-rays machines and other equipment that will make our work easier. Only the private clinics have those machines for proper care. We also need to get instruments in our public facilities. They are non-existent; they are all makeshift situations that you have to manage and do your work. The emphasis has to be placed on training of people who will come back and be of service. I am not a politician, but a concern Liberian and I think that somewhere along the line, we should make an effort to improve our oral health system.” Dr. Neal said he is pushing closer to retirement age. He warned that Liberia needs to more dentists to handle its oral health brouhaha. “We cannot rely on nurses who are helping the dentists, because they are not familiar with the entire practice so we cannot rely on them. We must find a way where trained people can come in and take over from our aging doctors”, said Dr. Neal. Emphasizing on oral health, Dr. Cox said they targeted 200 children and adults to service free of charge. As students registered and walked in for examination, others waited in chairs for their turn. Held under the theme “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body”, World Oral Health Day brought together forty students from Candle Light School in Paynesville, and the Christian A. Richards Elementary School, located in Clay Ashland.