The University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry has opened a new clinic on its Prince Albert Campus as well as a new clinic in the Big River First Nation Health Centre to improve access to care for priority populations, according to the school.
The seven-chair clinic on the Prince Albert Campus is part of the college’s Inclusive Community Outreach program. It will be overseen by the college’s director of inclusive community care, Dr. Amrinderbir Singh.
“This clinic is not just about improving access to care for northern communities in Saskatchewan, but also teaching our students social responsibility and educating them in providing culturally appropriate care,” said Singh.
Originally set to open in September, the clinic was delayed due to the pandemic. To ensure the safety of patients, students, faculty, and staff, it adapted its space in response to changing infection prevention and control standards established by the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CDSS).
“We are thrilled about this launch because the original plan was to open the clinic in stages due to budgetary restraints,” said Dr. Doug Brothwell, dean of the college. “However, thanks to a generous donation of $1,050,000 from dentalcorp, we can welcome patients into a finished clinic.”
Oral healthcare primarily will be provided by licensed dental professionals. The clinic also will serve as an outreach site for dental students. Senior dental students will provide dental care throughout the academic year as a part of their clinical rotation.
Treatment provided by students will be supervised by licensed dental professionals. The clinic will be open year-round, providing dental care Monday through Friday.
Meanwhile, the clinic at the Big River First Nation Health Centre was opened to provide service to a community with limited access to oral healthcare. Prior to its opening, community members would travel to the nearest dental clinics in Shellbrook, Prince Albert, or Saskatoon.
“Access to care is a barrier to oral health that can be seen across underserved populations, as well as rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan,” said Singh. “It is our pleasure to partner with the Big River First Nation as we work together to improve access to dental services and bring culturally appropriate care closer to home for residents in the area.”
The new clinic will offer diagnostic, treatment, and preventive services. It will operate on scheduled days based on demand, with extended hours including some evenings and weekends for flexibility to access.
“As leaders of the community, we are continuously searching for ways to improve the overall health and well-being of our people,” said the Big River First Nation chief and council in a statement.
“Access to dentists and other medical services is an issue for a large part of the population on reserve. The opportunity to have a dental clinic in our community means we are moving forward in our goals of improving health disparity for indigenous people. When we are able to bring services to the people, we increase the chances of success,” said the chief and council.
The College of Dentistry said it is actively in touch with the community to assess needs and plan services. It has also been responsible for recruiting the dental team for the new clinic. Housing for the dental team and the location of the clinic in the health center is an in-kind contribution from the Big River First Nation.
“This clinic will be a great opportunity for First Nations people to receive continuing oral healthcare rather than emergency treatment only,” said Melanie Martell, senior dental therapist in the area. “Bringing the services to the community is an exciting adventure.”
The college additionally has recently extended dental services with four clinics serving other Northern and First Nation communities in Saskatchewan.