A lukewarm, half-hearted and disappointing response is how the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has labelled the Morrison Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommendations.
“The Government’s response to the recommendation will do nothing to change the oral health of older Australians,” ADA president Dr Mark Hutton said.
The final report of the royal commission was unequivocal about the endemic neglect of oral health of those in residential care and supported most of the proposals made by the ADA including implementing the ADA’s solution for improved access to dental care for seniors by adopting the Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS), and increasing the oral health skills of care staff through mandatory minimum qualifications.
But the Government’s response released last week fell significantly short of the expectations of the commissioners and the community.
“The failure to adopt the SDBS, saying funding adult dental care was the role of states and territories with National Partnership Agreement support, demonstrates a lack of understanding of what is needed,” Dr Hutton said.
“Given both the unaffordability of private health insurance for increasing numbers of older Australians and the chronic underfunding of the public dental system with its disgracefully long waiting lists, setting up such a scheme is critical to improve and maintain the oral and general health of millions of older Aussies including those accessing aged care services.”
Dr Hutton added: “While the Government has accepted some of the commissioners’ and our recommendations including ring-fencing funds to educate and train existing staff, even that doesn’t go far enough as it fails to stipulate training specifically in oral health care.
“And most recommendations they’ve accepted are subject to further consultation with the states or further review, with outcomes that can’t be predicted.
Dr Hutton continued: “The ADA calls on the Morrison Government to acknowledge the impact poor oral health has on general health and wellbeing of the community and to work with them to develop permanent solutions to the many issues raised in the commission report before the oral health of the nation’s older citizens deteriorates further.