The University of Malta’s RIDT-funded mobile dental clinic will be hitting the roads in just a few weeks time. To celebrate this milestone, we spoke to Albert Bonnici, the engineer who has turned a regular truck into a state-of-the-art dental centre.
Can you imagine life without teeth? How would we chew our food? What would we look like when we smiled?
Yes, teeth are incredibly important, but many of us take them for granted and, unless we have a toothache, we often neglect to visit the dentist. How widespread is this attitude? How much do we care about our oral health?
To address this, Malta’s first-ever mobile dental clinic will – soon – start its journey through the streets of Malta, visiting not only those who are unable to leave their homes, but also schools and community centres. Its on-board specialists will give advice, perform check-ups and emergency procedures on the spot, while gathering crucial data and disseminating related information.
But who built this fantastic vehicle, and what did it involve?
This is the story of engineer Albert Bonnici, in his own words:
“I was approached about this project after Professor Nikolai Attard, the Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery, explained his brilliant idea of getting the Maltese community together (with the help some of sponsors) to promote dental health,” says Albert. “This inspired me, and I started thinking about the ways I could help bring the project to fruition.
“The first step was to get the best base unit available,” he explains. “I ended up with a very suitable DAF 45 LF cargo truck that had a 6m x 2.4m working space and a hydraulic tail lift.
“Obviously, the medical functions were my number one priority, but mobility, ergonomics, eco friendliness and, last but not least, radiation, and health and safety standards also had to be given their due importance from the initial stages.
“Designing the basic interior layout was left to the Faculty of Dentistry, while I did the rest, which included sizing, selecting and fitting the equipment and services, both on the inside and the outside the truck,” he continues.
“These included electrical power circuits and pipework for compressed air, vacuuming, hot and cold water, and drains,” he explains. “A hydraulic vehicle stabiliser unit also had to be installed under the chassis, while water tanks, pumps and an air conditioner were fitted to the sides.
“Then came the interior design stage,” he tells us excitedly. “Thermal insulation, cabin structure, panelling, flooring and furniture are just a few of the tasks that had to be completed before the medical equipment could be installed.
“The actual work started late in the summer of 2014, though planning had to be done quite some time before that date,” he continues. “At the moment, the project is at an advanced stage with the important finishing touches to complete, including related exterior artwork to suit.
“It wasn’t all a breeze, however” Albert says. “Financing was quite an issue at first, though, thanks to a number of sponsors, we reached our goals.
“Even so, the biggest issue was allocating time on my part… Working single-handedly for most of it meant I spent about one day per week on this project, and this resulted in certain tasks taking longer than expected.
“I have to admit, however, that although each minor job came with some sort of satisfaction, the cherry on the cake was the interior décor! It’s not my forte, granted, but switching on the LED soffit lights once most of the interiors were finished revealed a five-star clinic that, in my humble opinion, looks great!” Albert concludes.
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