By Bernadette Blueday
At 8am nine people wait, lucky I am here early. The place is dead quiet.
No one at the desk yet.
Mobile phones must be off in the dentist’s surgery, that’s a problem because I don’t know how to switch mine off! And when I do, noone can ring me.
Deadly quiet, I wonder if they all have a toothache. I’m afraid of the dentist. Nice and warm in here anyway, I would like a drink, I can see some in a display cabinet – Coke and juice at one end. Healthy things like fruit, bread and water in the other end to emphasise to us what to eat for the good of our teeth.
TV is up high in the corner, mercifully it’s switched off. Four notices are stuck prominently around the walls…”Have your say about our service”.
This is an invitation to put comments on the reception desk downstairs. What can I say about this place? I wouldn’t know, I’ve had no service yet. I feel sick, probably because to get here so early I skipped breakfast.
I hear some bumps behind the screen of the reception area, but the screen doesn’t move. It is just 8.05 now, thirteen people wait including one child. I wonder if they voted for Labor or Liberal or if any of them could have made any difference to the Dental Health System. Payment is $25 but that’s only for the first tooth treated. A phone is ringing in vein, no one answers it. The screens go up and a lady with a child talks to the receptionist who tells her that children are not allowed in for emergency treatment. The mother says she rang twice yesterday and ‘they’ told her to bring in the child. I didn’t hear what the receptionist replied but the woman reluctantly went away. I hear the receptionist say to one man, “Did someone hit you in the face?” I glance at the man with a swollen face who is now looking very confused. Why would he come here if he didn’t have a dental problem? We are asked to fill in a form to describe how bad our pain is…. PAIN …..Very severe, moderate or bearable. Forms are confusing especially if you forgot to bring your glasses, like me. I wonder how long I will have to wait? Do I have a dental problem? If not, I’ll have to go on a six month waiting list. Everyone has to pay before they see the dentist. They sort you out quick, if you have a swollen face, they ask if someone hit you? I heard this several times. It points to the fact that they don’t trust people to have a ‘real’ dental problem. It is now over an hour since I came in. I’m feeling nauseas. I had no breakfast, just coffee. It’s very hot in here. There are now over twenty people waiting. I stare at Bugs Bunny on the wall, it says….Make a date with your dental therapist. How? Bribe him with some carrots? It’s 9.30, I have been here one and a half hours. Could be another couple of hours before I’m seen by a dentist.
I’ve paid my money, filled in forms for my medical history. I feel sick. I go to the bubbler, which is outside down the corridor to take a pain killer. There is no glass there and the bubbler doesn’t work. I go to the basin in the toilet and lapped out of cupped hands. I start thinking, if you had a bad toothache how could you prove it? I feel sorry for you. I go to the children’s waiting room around the corner, might be a bit cooler there, maybe a bit of fresh air. I feel like going home but then I think it may not be much longer to wait.
One of the dentists comes out and goes to the toilet. he doesn’t come out of the toilet all the while I’m there… what happened to him? He has been in there for 30 minutes at least.
My face is very hot and my tooth hurts, wish I could get some outside fresh air but I can’t go outside in case they call my name. I will miss out. They can’t give me any indication when my turn will come up.
It is close to 2.00pm when my name is called, I am the last one left in the waiting room from those who were there at 8.00am. Next time I will bring MY BED and some WATER! For my $25 I get a rough dentist who takes a long time to pull out a double tooth. They don’t fill old people’s teeth any more, they pull them out…IF THEY DON’T FALL OUT BEFORE THEY CAN GET TO SEE A DENTIST!!