Once a month, Dr Jalal Khan (Bachelor of Dentistry, 2012) bids farewell to his North Sydney dental practice and goes bush for a week. South-west Queensland, to be precise – Quilpie (population 595), Cunnamulla (population 1,140) and Thargomindah (population 270), as well as Bourke in far-north NSW (population 1,824).
These are remote towns, in the depths of the outback – towns without a dentist as far as the eye can see. A dentist in the public system will sometimes visit on their rounds, but they can only see residents with a Centrelink account.
“So, there’s still a vast majority of people in these towns who are private paying patients and can’t access that treatment. I’m trying to fill that gap in service delivery,” says Jalal.
Jalal bought a dental truck in March 2017 and has since been going on the road for a week every month, usually seeing about 20 patients a day.
“We return regularly to the same towns, to make sure we can have a continuity of care with the visits, which allows me to do more comprehensive dental work rather than Band-Aid type treatments,” says Jalal.
The truck is a chance for Jalal to give back, by treating patients who wouldn’t otherwise have access to dental care, and who often have poor oral health.
“I’m also learning things that I wouldn’t get from private practice alone – there are different ways of doing things, there are different ways to reach people, and it’s a completely different business model,” says Jalal.
“It’s also a refreshing change from city life, where it feels like dentistry is increasingly seen as a commodity – people are going to a dentist because of how cheap they are, or what health fund the dentist is associated with,” says Jalal.
“But in the bush, I feel that my service is definitely just that – a genuine service, which is immensely satisfying for me. Basically every patient who walks in, the first thing they’ll say is ‘thank you so much for making the effort to come out’.”
Jalal has plans to grow his team of clinicians, allowing the truck to service more towns. If you'd like to help in anyway, visit his website to find out more.
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