While the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has applauded last week’s announcement by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt that National Partnership Agreements (NPAs) have been extended for another year for Adult Public Dental Service, the ADA has questioned its short shelf life.
With such a short funding guarantee, it is difficult to plan for the long-term delivery of services to public patients.
“One year is not enough time to resolve the many outstanding issues surrounding the funding of these complex relationships between federal and state governments,” ADA president Dr Carmelo Bonanno said.
NPAs are funded by Commonwealth money and allow states and territories to increase effort on reducing adult public dental waiting lists, including outsourcing to the private sector where the majority of the dental workforce is engaged.
While children eligible for public dental have access under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), the future of funding for additional adult services was in jeopardy until the Minister revealed his plan to direct $107.8million to this service, extending it from 1 July for another 12 months.
However, the ADA believes while its continued advocacy helped bring about the renewal, the one-year extension doesn’t go far enough.
“The best outcome for the oral health of Australians is for the government to work with the profession and the state dental sector to develop a long-term solution.
“We want to see a Commonwealth dental benefits scheme for older Aussies, the socially disadvantaged and those who are on low incomes, similar to the CDBS .
“This can only be achieved by future proofing funding arrangements through a long-term commitment. The ADA’s Australian Dental Health Plan is part of the solution and we are willing to be at the table to share our ideas when government is willing to discuss it.”