Studies show that 15% of poor rural households live more than an hour away from the closest clinic and 20% live more than an hour away from the closest hospital. “In the past, the few patients who could afford it, paid R200 for transport to Ngwelezane Hospital in Empangeni, or to King Edward hospital in Durban (400 km away) to access complex dental treatment,” says Dr Mngomezulu.
For most people, oral health simply declined. This is because the only option at Mosvold was tooth extraction by a dental therapist, with the patient sitting in a normal chair – even for teeth that could have been saved. “Unnecessary extractions are tantamount to medical malpractice,” explains Dr Mngomezulu.