Sunday, October 25, 2020
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Sr. Georgette Tells the Story of the Mobile Dental Clinic's History

Sr. Georgette Gregory speaks.

"The Mobile Dental Clinic is a 40-foot customized coach that is fully accessible and is equipped with two dental stations, a sterilization centre and a reception area. The clinic is staffed by a dentist, registered dental hygienist and a certified dental assistant. The bus will travel throughout Toronto visiting neighbourhoods and community agencies Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide free dental care to those who meet eligibility requirements." — From the press release of Toronto Public Health.

Sr. Georgette Gregory was one of the four speakers when the Mobile Dental Clinic was launched at the Sherbourne Health Centre on Nov. 6, 2012. Below are her words on the efforts of a coalition over 12 years to make this happen:
"As a founding member of the Toronto Oral Health Coalition that continues to advocate for dental care for people who cannot afford it, I would like to give a little history of our journey to arrive at this moment.
  • In 1997 I began volunteering with the Wellesley Health Bus which was started to look after the community in the Wellesley area after the closing of the Wellesley Hospital. Very soon I began to notice that many of the clients I was seeing on the Health Bus were in need of dental care and we had no place to refer them. The hospitals had begun closing their clinics and the only referral point we had was Regent Park CHC. This facility was also experiencing financial difficulties and was telling people they might have to close. We who were referring clients began to discuss what could be done.
  • In 2000 we asked a number of agencies to come to a meeting whose focus was to discuss what we might do to alleviate this growing problem.
  • By 2001 an informal coalition had formed around the issue of access to dental care for many of the clients served by St. Michael's Hospital, Regent Park Community Health Centre, Central Toronto Community Health Centres, Wellesley Central Health Corporation, Toronto Public Health Department, the Health Bus of the Wellesley Central Corporation and the District Health Council. Sherbourne Health Centre joined after the health bus was transferred to them in 2004. We focused on dental needs in southeast Toronto. However we very quickly realized that the issue was city wide and so we sent out a survey throughout the greater Toronto area to obtain some solid data on how vast the problem really was. From this a Report "Dental Care: Who has Access" was produced in Sept. 2001.
  • In 2002 we wrote the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and had a meeting on Feb.10th, 2002. We discussed our concerns around access to dental services for Toronto residents who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
  • In May 2004 we held a National Oral Health Symposium and followed this with a Pilot Proposal for Dental Services in Sept. 2005 which was submitted to the Provincial Government to obtain funding for 6 pilot sites for 5 years to meet the oral health needs of marginalized persons.
  • By 2006 there were a number of Oral Health Coalitions established in Kingson, Peterborough, and Halton Region, to name a few.
  • In 2008, as this issue is a Provincial issue, the provincial government announced an investment of $45 million annually to fund dental programs for low income Ontarians.
The first clinic to open was in Parkdale called Partners for Parkdale Health Network. It is an inter-agency grass-roots network. At that time it was involved with Toronto Western Hospital, St. Christopher House, St. Joseph's Health Centre, LOFT Community Services, Parkdale CHC, and Toronto Community Housing Corp. Scarborough followed and we now have 4 clinics operating.
Today in 2012, we celebrate the launching of the Mobile Dental Bus. This is what we have worked and advocated for over the last 12 years. This means that those of us who are less fortunate and who have difficulty accessing dental care will now have an alternate way of getting one of the most ignored primary health care services: primary oral health care.
I cannot express in words my feelings of gratitude and elation to realize we have come to this day. I can only say "We did it" Hooray and thanks to all the people who have been involved over these years. Perseverance and hard work has paid off."
Participating in the launch of the Mobile Dental Clinic were, left to right, Abdul Fattha, Board of Health Member, Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for Toronto, Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Children and Youth Services, Suzanne Boggild, CEO of Sherbourne Health Centre, and Sister Georgette Gregory, Assistant Ministry Director of Fontbonne Ministries' Mustard Seed.
The new Mobile Dental Clinic.
Photos by VVC


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