Dentistry in dire financial straits
‘It has to become a safe learning environment once again, where students dare to make mistakes’, read the complaint letter submitted one year ago. That was also the conclusion of the subsequent research that was conducted into the situation. The head of the centre for dentistry and oral care (centrum voor tandheelkunde en mondzorgkunde – CTM – in Dutch) Frank Abbas, stepped down immediately, together with bachelor coordinator Nynke Blanksma. Interim manager Lina van der Ploeg was appointed to fight back against the culture of fear that existed within the programme. But since then, little else has changed.
‘The plans and intentions for improvements have been drawn up, but they have been by and large delayed or postponed due to the financial situation.’ That was a statement addressed to the students and employees of dentistry last Friday in a newsletter.
The directors of the department were ‘completely surprised’ in April when it was discovered that they had gone dramatically over budget by roughly 900,000 euros. ‘The cause is the decrease in revenue and the rise in costs in particular. What has led to that and why it was not brought forward in the business figures sooner is being investigated. The CTM cannot give out any money that it does not have.’
That is why the Board of Directors of the teaching hospital have been instructed to enact heavy cut backs in the programme in an attempt to halve the budgetary excesses. That means that fewer dental assistants and student assistants will be utilized in the short term. Vacancies for positions such as department head, clinic manager and head of the skills lab will remain unfilled. The programme will also be forced to postpone any investments and try to save on equipment costs.
In order to repair the financial situation, revenue and expenses will have to be critically examined. What that will mean for individual employees is not yet known. In 2016, a plan was made to overhaul the organisation. Whether or not there will be an official reorganisation remains to be seen, but it will be roughly six months before the plans are completed. In early 2017, the new organisational structure is meant to be implemented.
Students and staff have had complaints about the dentistry school for years. In recent years, there have been multiple reports released which addressed the complaints and recommendations were made. There seems to be little done with the reports, however.
Nevertheless, the programme consistently scores well in the Keuzegids (66 points in the edition published on Monday). But according to the committee that researched the letter of complaint from last year, the high score likely comes from the culture of fear in the school: students don’t dare criticise the department.
Despite the financial troubles, several initial steps have been taken to improve the situation in the programme. There have been reports written based on interviews with students and employees, core values have been formulated and improvements to the clinical education have been implemented. A new bachelor coordinator has also been appointed.