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Funding hole risks decay in dental services
Friday 24 April 2015
The number of Victorian patients waiting for public dental treatment is growing as public dental services hold out for the commencement of the currently delayed second National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for adult public dental services.
The Victorian Healthcare Association (VHA) Acting CEO Tom Symondson said Victoria had found itself in funding limbo following the lapsing of the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) for treating more public dental patients in March this year and the delayed commencement of the NPA for adult public dental services, postponed from last year’s Federal Budget.
“Dental Health Services Victoria does an exemplary job in providing ongoing dental treatment to Victorians on its scaled-down budget but that high level of care is at risk without an assurance from the Commonwealth Government that it will deliver the currently delayed dental NPA in this year’s budget,” Mr Symondson said.
“The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne has already seen a 40 per cent reduction in the number of patients it treated in the latest quarterly report when compared with the same period last year.
“Without a commitment prior to the next Federal Budget that the $230 million of promised funding for Victoria under the NPA will be delivered there is a serious risk we will see this decline continue and resonate across Victoria as health services are unable to undertake critical planning or secure ongoing services.
“We are still hopeful a strong commitment is imminent however every day we get closer to the release of the Federal Budget on 12 May the greater our concern that Victoria’s health services will need to cut public dental treatments. The VHA has sought a commitment to this funding in our Federal Budget submission but no assurance has yet been received.
“Additionally we are also calling on the government to continue the Child Dental Benefit Schedule in the next Federal Budget to ensure Victoria’s children have access to dental care that will have lifetime benefits not just for their teeth but their overall social and physical wellbeing.”
During the peak of activity under the most recent dental NPA period numbers of patients waiting for care significantly reduced to almost half for general care and one third for denture care but have since increased to near pre-NPA levels with the winding back of service activity following the lapsing of the NPA.
“Through effective management Dental Health Services Victoria exceeded its NPA target for the number of public patients treated by 61 per cent which means an extra 111,000 Victorians receiving care. Many of those treated were priority patients including nearly 6,000 Indigenous patients, 18,000 refugees and asylum seekers and almost 2,000 homeless people,” Mr Symondson said.
“Good oral health is essential for general health and evidence shows that Australia’s lowest income earners are more likely to experience complete tooth loss, live with toothache, or avoid food due to pain. This pain will usually worsens, until sufferers with preventable dental disease visit their GP or the Emergency Department of local hospitals which are generally not equipped to offer dental care.”
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