“If my life is in danger, then it’s not worth it to carry on.”
These were the sentiments by Dr Joseph Joshua after witnessing individuals threatening to stab his patients and burn down his free dental clinic in his home town of Saldanha.
Joshua says mayhem erupted at 06:00 on Monday 5 August and continued the following day, while his team of volunteers were setting up their work stations at the White City Multi-purpose centre.
He was the only dentist on duty during the two days, during which he managed to extract over 1 000 teeth in a single day.
“There was an incident where some people arrived late and had an argument with one of the patients. One of the guys got so angry he went to fetch a knife to stab the people sitting downstairs. The patients also had to body-lock the guy from entering the hall,” explains Joshua.
“On Tuesday morning at 06:30, there were already 350 people wanting to be helped, but I could not deal with all of them.”
He could only help 80 patients a day as they had to set up their stations in Langebaan later that afternoon.
“Some of the people became so angry that we had to call in security and police for our own safety. People refused to leave and threatened to burn down the clinic.”
He says the demand for dental healthcare has grown compared to last year. “Since the Diazville clinic burnt down there is no public service for the area. I can see how oral healthcare has worsened since I was here last year.”
Joshua, who now lives in the Netherlands, says people still think his clinic is run by the state. “They see me and assume I’m working for the state and think ‘why don’t you come more often’,” explained Joshua.
Asked whether the recent incidents were the worst kind of treatment Joshua and his team have received, he said: “People were rude in the past, but never intent on attacking you physically.”
The first clinic was held in Saldanha in 2012 and was meant to take place every second year as the clinic is financed by himself. Due to the increasing demand the clinic has become an annual event since 2014.
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