CNC Dental Staff Rallying the Public Troops
Prince George, B.C. – The College of New Caledonia Board of Governors this Friday will vote on significant cuts and alterations to its dental programs and counseling services in order to deal with a $2.8 million deficit.
The board postponed a decision on the budget proposals at its March meeting and, with five days remaining until decision day April 24th, the Dental studies faculty and staff are attempting to rally public support in their effort to halt the proposed suspension of the Dental Assisting program, which has existed for 46 years, and the Dental Hygiene program which is now in its 28th year. An open house was held Sunday to show the public what will be lost if the proposed suspensions take place this September.
Dental Hygiene Faculty and Curriculum Coordinator Leslie Battersby says the board has proposed making these cuts without gathering input on possible alternatives which might allow the programs to remain intact. “We talked about increasing our patient fees at our clinic, where patients now pay $30 for an adult and $15 for a child. That’s all-inclusive of their dental treatment, hygiene, cleanings, fluoride treatment, all their x-rays. So that is a viable option of increasing the patient fees, and we’ve polled the patients and they’d be willing to pay more to keep the services here.”
Battersby says “we also talk about bringing back restorative clinics where patients could get fillings and extractions for a fee. Also right now we do injury prevention, we make sports guards for some of the sports teams in Prince George so we could do a lot more of that and charge them. And we also looked at, now it’s not our first choice but we would be willing to look at our student/faculty ratios, something that would have to be negotiated within the collective agreement. But we’d be willing to look at that as that would lower some of the salaries.”
Asked how much of a ratio increase might be contemplated Battersby says “well that’s what we’d have to look at because what’s most important is quality education for the students. Right now our ratios for Dental Hygiene in-clinic are 1-to-5, and Dental Assisting they’re 1-to-8 so we could look at increasing that a little so it would lower having to hire another full-time person or part-time people.”
Battersby says the information was presented to the CNC board in March “hoping that they’ll take that information and make a good decision.” Asked if they’ve had any feedback she says “we did receive an email and they asked us three questions that they wanted clarification on and that was it. So we’re hoping that by them asking a few questions means that they’re seriously looking at it and that the decision hasn’t already been made.”
The Dental studies faculty says should the program suspensions go ahead in September, the CNC Executive envisions altering the programs’ curriculum and possibly bring them back in 2017 or 2018 with a significant increase in tuitions. Battersby says “our first concern is suspension might not actually mean that it comes back at all, because when we’re asked President Henry Reiser what his plan is to bring it back, there’s no timelines involved in that plan. To us, if there was an actual plan and dates that might be a little bit easier to accept but we’re fearful that if it closes it won’t re-open at all.”
Battersby says “the reason for him calling it a suspension is he wants to re-introduce the program with an increase in tuition. It has to be a “new” program to be able to do that. So if he closes the program he can re-open it and raise the tuition.”
Battersby believes about 12 full-time and 15 part-time employees would be affected if the cuts proposed by the CNC Executive go through. She says those in Dental Assisting would be gone, 50% of the Dental Hygiene staff would be laid off and three would stay on for one year to finish the first year of the Dental Hygiene class, which is a two-year program. She also believes all support workers in the Dental programs would be out of work.