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a blog by Chris Barrow

Arrival in South Africa and scoping out the dental landscape

Full credit to Emirates for knowing how to deliver a customer service experience.

I arrived in Johannesburg at 16:25 local time yesterday to be greeted by Marc Perotti, head of Wright Millners who are hosting my three-date lecture tour this week.

After meeting Marc’s wife Melody and unpacking in the beautiful apartment located above their home in the Serengeti Golf Estate, we were straight out for dinner with co-host Dr. Norman Cahi and his wife Alida in a nearby restaurant, Villa Bianca, where I was inducted into the South African love of great food and good wine.

(Manchester United playing Wolves live on plasma screens around the restaurant – and none of the diners taking any notice)

Over dinner it was time to get down to a brass tacks talk about the South African dental landscape, levels of confidence in the profession and the objectives of my presentation.

It starts with a population of around 60 million, serviced by 3,000 dentists in the private sector and another 1,000 in public service.

The simple law of supply and demand would indicate an economic bonanza – but not so – so how can that be?

The domination of insurance plan funding seems to be the main reason for dissatisfaction, as the insurance giants squeeze the pips – but I did ask my dinner hosts three simple questions:

  1. if a Millennial wants a new smile – is that funded?

  2. if a middle-aged family member wants a new smile – is that funded?

  3. if a baby-boomer wants a new smile – is that funded?

The answer to all three questions is “no” – so now we have the basis of a conversation.

I’m sensing a deja vu here – listening to dentists in the UK for 20+ years who have become used to Government funding and are fearful of the consequences of change.

We may be having a similar conversation with my 120 guests this evening at the first session.

I’ve been given permission by my hosts to be as controversial as I like.

This morning I’m over to the Wright Millners office in nearby Gauteng to meet the back-office team who have worked so well on putting this tour together.

Then it’s off to Norman Cahi’s practice to meet his team and facilitate a conversation with “that guy from England who keeps giving you all these crazy ideas.”

Then back to Gauteng this evening to pop my head into the lion’s mouth.

Of which, more tomorrow.

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