The Australia Dental Association (ADA) has condemned the Coalition’s newly proposed Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme (caPDS) as a reckless abandonment of the nation’s dental health.
The ADA is calling the new caPDS a “Hunger Games for the states and territories,” with the funding confirmed by the Department of Health as on a “‘first come, first served’ basis.”
“The devil is always in the detail,” said Dr Rick Olive, president of the ADA. “Not only has the government reduced available funding overall for dental care, it is now clear there is no funding distribution model being offered by the Commonwealth, so the larger states or those with greater capacity could potentially take more than their fair share of Commonwealth funding. To add further insult to injury, the caPDS cannot ensure that eligible patients from rural areas will be able to access a public dental clinic close enough to receive treatment, even if they got worked their way to the front of the waiting list. How will such a design ensure equity for all Australians eligible to receive services?”
This is not the first time the ADA has voiced concerns about the switch from the Child Dental Benefits Scheme (CDBS) and the National Partnership Agreement. They have said the Turnbull government’s new scheme is set to deeply disadvantage rural communities.
“For some adults and children, though ‘theoretically’ eligible under this scheme, they will now be expected to travel large distances to access care,” the ADA said in a statement. “Assuming they can afford the transport costs, in some regions this could be many hundreds of kilometres round trip. For others, the services will come so infrequently that they may have to wait even longer for treatment.”
Under the current framework of the CDBS patients can attend local dentists. The Coalition’s new plan is set to send patients to public clinics, cutting patients off from care and diminishing business for local dentists.
“The ADA supports enshrining funding for states and territories in legislation,” said Dr Olive. “However, without a fair distribution model and guarantees that eligible patients have the choice to either access public clinics or their local dentist appropriate to their specific circumstances, patients from smaller states and regional and rural areas stand a real risk of missing out on dental care under the Coalition’s caPDS.”
“Given that the legislative changes required to close the scheme did not pass both houses of Parliament before the proposed closing date of June 30, we will be encouraging all eligible patients to make appointments with their preferred dentist as soon as possible. Patients should be able to access dental care close to where they live.”
A petition has begun on change.org to save the CDBS, where the community can have their say. The ADA in particular is reaching out the oral health professionals across the nation to seek out their member for parliament in the current “election environment” and call for their help in saving the CDBS.