A Trip to the Dentist

Helen M’s experience of taking one of our English Beginners students (Mohammed from Ethiopia) to the dental hospital.

1) Mohammed had had a terrible toothache for a few days following a failed tooth extraction at his own dentist. They had referred him to a special dental clinic in Cradley Heath for the extraction because they said it would be quicker than the dental hospital, but when I called the Cradley Heath clinic, they could see him the next day but only for a consultation. They said he might have to wait weeks for the extraction, plus it was very far for him by bus.  So we called the dental hospital in Edgbaston (old Pebble Mill site between Bristol Rd and Pershore Rd) – there is no longer a dental hospital in the city centre apparently.

2) You can’t go to the dental hospital, it seems, without a referral letter from your own dentist, even if you are in extreme pain. The dental hospital told me to get a referral via 111. I have since heard that you can just turn up and wait to be seen, but I probably wouldn’t risk it.

3) So we called 111, with me explaining the situation and saying that his English was very basic, and Mohammed was assessed over the phone with an Amharic translator that they provided. (It took about 30 mins to get one and they had to call us back once they’d got the translator). They said we could be referred to the dental hospital but only with a referral letter from his dentist in Handsworth. Sorry, I can’t remember if the 111 doctor called the dentist to ask for this letter or me, but it was ready within an hour and we went to collect it.

4) The 111 doctor said not to bother going to the dental hospital that day as it was late, but to go at 9am the next day. We turned up at 9am on Friday but once the receptionist realised Mohammed did not speak good English, they told us that he would not be seen and we should have booked a translator. (I thought that 111 had done this for us with a specific appointment time of 9am, but this was not true – I needed to have done it). We had to leave, booking a translator with reception for Monday morning. This was now a specific appointment for Mohammed, because the translator is booked. If you don’t have a specific appointment time, you may have to wait 2-3 hours as it’s a ticketing system. I guess any patient who didn’t need a translator would have to do this, because we only had a specific appointment given to us for the Monday because they booked us a translator. (Poor Mohammed had to go back home in terrible pain for the weekend, although we did get ibuprofen which he said helped more than the paracetamol he’d been taking. He didn’t know the difference).

5) Crucial part: You need to call the dental hospital at least 24 hours before if you need a translator as they have to book one. They don’t guaranteethat someone will be there, so even if you book 24 hours before, you have to call early in the morning on the day (for me 7.30am) to check they have got someone booked. They said this can take more than 24 hours sometimes, but we were lucky and they did get someone, and when we turned up on the Monday at 9am, the translator was already there.

6.) Even though we had a booked appointment and the translator was there and presumably being paid for by the hospital, we were not seen promptly, and even after an initial assessment and x-ray (both myself as Mohammed’s unofficial support worker and the translator went into each stage of this process with him, except the x-ray itself!), we were left sitting for almost an hour. The translator was only booked until 11am and time was running out. He had another job at City Hospital to get to. He said the hospitals constantly book appointments that are too short, and everyone wants him to stay longer, but he can’t, usually. This is a reason to advocate for being seen promptly when you arrive, if you have a booked translator. If they leave, the patient has to go home without being seen.

7.) As it was getting desperate, with the translator having 30 mins left, Mohammed in awful pain thinking we would have to leave, again, with no treatment, and no sign of anything happening, I made this case to the hospital staff member who was available (not sure if he was a doctor or some kind of clinic manager or officer – he wasn’t a receptionist). He got shirty with me, reminding me that everyone wanted to be seen, but I calmly and assertively asked him not to tell us off, reminding him that I was just doing the best for my friend in terrible pain, and that we were worried because the translator had to leave soon. He softened at that point and some miracle occurred, because he agreed to make Mohammed’s tooth extraction happen straight away. I have no idea why this was seemingly not happening otherwise. We were just left waiting with not much information up to that point. If we hadn’t argued for it, the extraction would not have happened that day because the translator would have left and they would not have done it without clear consent from Mohammed in his own language.

8.) The dental hospital has open bays for treatment. The translator and I both accompanied Mohammed to his bay and the dentist began explaining everything. The translator was critical at this point for informed consent. I then went to the waiting room. The translator had to leave about halfway through, which the hospital would probably say is against policy but we got away with it as consent had definitely been obtained. At that point I returned to the bay so that Mohammed had someone with him, although I sat in an empty bay nearby. This was fine with all the staff.

9.) The tooth came out. Mohammed couldn’t talk because of all the dental gear but raised his arms in victory! Finally it was gone! They gave him a replacement bandage in case of continued bleeding, and advised ibuprofen (we picked some more up from the pharmacy on the way home), and that was it. At no point was any cost incurred or mentioned (we only had to pay parking and it was very reasonable – maybe £3 for 2 hours). He didn’t need any follow up appointments.

 

Maybe this will come in handy sometime for another student or visitor to St Chad’s Sanctuary. The key points are:

1) You need a referral for the dental hospital from your own dentist, and 111 seem to be able to facilitate this.

2) 111 can provide translators, within 30 mins or so in our case.

3) You need to book your own translator for the dental hospital by calling them, with at least 24 hours notice, and then a confirmation call by you at 7.30am on the day.

4) If you have a translator there, try your best to be seen promptly, even though the staff will get a bit cross with you, as you otherwise risk having to leave if the translator runs out of time, which is likely.

5) Despite the difficulties, the dental hospital was very impressive – big, new and the dentist who did the extraction was brilliant – Mohammed was delighted with his procedure, which he said was far better than at his own dentist.

Teeth

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