My Casebook

Open letter to Ms Maretha Smit, CEO of South African Dental Association

 Ms M Smit




Dear Maretha,


In response to your communique in SADJ September 2012, Volume 67 no 8 page 442, I would like to raise a few points.


Firstly I have been considering these issues, and publicly debating them, when I suspect you were still a teenager with stars in your eyes.


You make a few vague statements about how to “reduce the cost of dentistry”, whether the “dental profession has taken the time to consider what the regulators want to achieve”, and whether the profession “ has offered its assistance to achieving these objectives”, that “the dental profession in South Africa is at a crossroads” that we “ will not survive” unless there is a complete unification”.  You use the words “ difficult”, “shifting the collective mindset” and you end by asking whether we are “going to take hands in support, encouragement and bravery as we enter this next phase of transformation in the profession?”


My dear Maretha, these are noble sentiments but...


Dentistry is a unique activity in the realm of human existence.  No amount of legislation will force a dentist to do good dentistry.  Dentistry is an art and art comes from within, from the depths of the soul.  This silly, inept, greedy, corrupt government can not and will not, under any circumstance, force me to practise my art on terms and conditions determined by them.  They can call it transformation or they can legislate their communist National Health Insurance just like they want, I will not do it.  My brand of dentistry does not lend itself to be concocted to the standards of the Department of Health, as evidenced by its collapse.


Why am I so intransigent and so obstructive and unco-operative? I hear you ask.


The answer is simple.  I love my patients too much.  Their interests come first.  I have been practising dentistry for thirty three years, according to the principle in Mathew 7:12, “Do unto others...”.  Socialist dentistry can never do that.  “Taking hands" and "playing devil’s advocate” and “creative solutions” and “shifting the collective mindset” also can not do that.


It all starts with me and you, on an individual basis. The survival of the art of dentistry does not lie with negotiations in smoke filled rooms or creative deals with authorities and legislators. It lies with the reinforcement of the ideals of professionalism, ethics, quality of service and dedication to our patients. It lies with us doing what we know best, serving the needs of our patients. Our future is in our own hands, not that of the "authorities".


It is not quite clear what it is that you set to achieve in your communique. From where I am standing it looks all too much like bending the knee to the socialists, like cowing in front of the "mighty oppressor", or like grovelling for the pitiful crumbs from the table.


I say let them go their own not so merry way. I will continue on my chosen path, resting firmly in the conviction that by serving others, I will continue to prosper.

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