So Many Questions on dental assistants

14 February 2016 - 01:38 By Chris Barron


According to a new law, dental assistants will have to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa or lose their jobs. Chris Barron asked the president of the council Dr Kgosi Letlape . . . Did you consult with the South African Dental Association?For the past 11 years at least.Because they're entirely opposed to this legislation, aren't they?The fact that they don't like it is their right. But this is not about dentists.They will be directly affected ...The context is that dental assistants want to be professionalised, they want to be recognised as healthcare providers. They asked that they be recognised by council.story_article_left1Is there an organisation representing dental assistants? Because otherwise how did they communicate this to you?Our job is not dependent on people having a representative association. Dental assistants approached the regulator.How many?This was in 2003, so I don't have those facts.What are the advantages of registration?It gives them security of tenure, it makes them employable, it makes them professional, it means they can have rights.Did you find that those who are not registered are abused or exploited?No, I don't have any information to that effect. All we know is that they wanted to be recognised as a profession because they provide a professional service.Won't this law put many of them out of work?That is not true.What will happen if an assistant is not registered?mini_story_image_hright1That assistant will be contravening the laws of the country, because they need to be registered.Will they be allowed to continue working?No. That assistant has had 11 years to comply. If they do not comply, the law will follow its course. If they have not registered they cannot work.So isn't it a fact that those who are not registered will lose their jobs?No, the fact is that they've had 11 years to comply. What people are missing is that the dental assistants are alleging it is the dentists who do not want them to comply, so that they can continue to exploit them as a workforce that has no qualifications, that is not registered and not protected.Why is a law necessary to make them do what, according to you, they want to do?This is what amazes me. Are dental assistants not able to speak for themselves? Why is it dentists that are opposing this?Why do you need a law to force them to do what they say they want to do? What's stopping them?It might have been helpful if that issue was investigated, so that you go and ask them, don't ask me. It might be intimidation. If I have worked for you for the last 10 or 15 years and now there's an opportunity for me to register, but you as my employer are not supportive of me being a registered healthcare professional, then if I register you fire me.Are there cases of this happening?Don't ask me, ask the dental assistants. Let there be investigative journalists that investigate that aspect. This [law] was not initiated by council. This was an initiative of dental assistants themselves. Council agreed, so that dentists can have properly trained professional assistants. Because part of our duty is to ensure professional standards.Shouldn't you start with your own organisation?I'm not sure what you're talking about.I'm talking about the investigation commissioned by the minister that found that your organisation is dysfunctional.story_article_left2In all fairness, tell me what you want to talk about and we'll talk about that. Do not do an ambush.I only asked because you said it's your duty to uphold professional standards.The ministerial task team is correct to have looked into the professionalism of council. All the issues raised are being addressed. If your argument is that until we've addressed the issues we've no right to do our job ...I'm saying you're not doing your job very well, according to the report.We've just come in and we've been asked to deal with the [task team's] report that council has not been doing its job optimally, which we're doing.Hasn't experience shown that registration with your council is no guarantee of professionalism?It's a mechanism to deal with problems that may arise, so that remedial action can be taken. It's not a 100% guarantee.You say registration will ensure properly trained assistants. But they get on-the-job training, don't they? Why mess with a system that works?You can start with on-the-job training, but as things evolve and people need to be professionalised this would be the step. If you are suggesting to dental assistants they are better off not being professionalised then take it up with them. What we are dealing with is from dental assistants themselves who want to be professionalised.So why aren't they registering? They're not all being intimidated?I don't want to speculate.Didn't you say dentists might be intimidating them?I said it is curious that it is the dentists objecting, not the dental assistants.

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