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Dentistry baffled by deficit

Dentistry is heading towards a deficit of nearly a million, but nobody knows how that happened.

The Dentistry programme has no idea how it is possible that they have been in the red for years. Last year, the programme thought they would end up with a deficit between 200,000 and 300,000 euros, but that turned out to be 500,000. If no action is taken, the programme is heading for a 900,000 euro deficit in 2015.

‘It’s considerably more than we thought’, say Rob Hiemstra, section director at the UMCG. ‘We knew we would be in the red. We found out in the spring that if we continued like this we would be in even deeper.’

More clarity

According to interim manager Lina van der Ploeg, the programme’s financial situation has been under investigation since April. ‘Right now, it is being analysed. We expect more clarity about the situation in late November. We were surprised at how far we had exceeded the limit.’

The deficits may in part have been caused by the transition from a five-year to a six-year programme, thinks Hiemstra. ‘Organising a six-year programme is more expensive, despite the fact that we have the same amount of students. We also didn’t have any income from diplomas for a year, and we’re suffering the after-effects of that. In addition to that, we are dealing with legionnaires’ disease, and that costs money. We’re still in the process of figuring out if these expenditures are incidental or structural.’

The programme has been implementing cutbacks since the summer. ‘We want to use the limited means we have to the benefit of the education. That is why we are here: to train people to be dentists. We must not falter in that. Improving the internal organisation is currently on hold, because we don’t have the manpower for that. There is no budget for hiring new people’, says van der Ploeg.

Vacancies

The amount of teachers will not be cut, but the open vacancies for positions such as department head, clinic manager and head of the skills lab will not be filled right now. ‘It’s absolutely very inconvenient that we can’t currently fill them. We need them to develop the centre for Dentistry. It will be fine for a while without these positions filled, but if it takes too long, we’ll end up in a downward spiral’, says Hiemstra.

Both Dentistry students and employees have been complaining about the programme for years. Last year, it was decided to tackle this culture of fear, but the deficit prevented much from happening. ‘We’ve had to adjust our pace’, van der Ploeg explains. ‘We are having some management issues. For example, tools and materials are not in the location they should be, which causes a delay in preparing consultations. This is very disruptive. We do have to do something about this, but we can’t hire anyone for it.’

Reorganisation

In 2016, they will be making plans to change the way the organisation is set up. Van der Ploeg: ‘We have to get back to basics and rebuild from the ground up. We will do that together.’ According to the interim manager, this will mean reorganisation no matter what. ‘We want to match the means to our ambitions. How severe and far-reaching that will be is something we don’t yet know’, says Hiemstra in reaction.

Whether this will mean there will be lay offs is not yet clear. ‘It’s our intention to continue with the people who work here’, says van der Ploeg. Hiemstra: ‘This will take some flexibility on the part of the employees. If someone isn’t a good fit within the new organisation ,dismissal is an option, but we’re not labouring under that assumption.’

03-11-2015