On Wednesday NSW Premier Kristina Keneally announced a $12.5 million plan to remove 20,000 people from the state’s dental waiting lists. But the plan has been criticised by the ADA and APOH as being inadequate, and Shadow Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said, “After 16 years of refusing to take action on dental care, a promise to do better at the eleventh hour is a token gesture.”
The plan involves giving concession holders, pensioners and children a $400 dental voucher. In announcing the plan at a pres conference in Sydney’s south west, Premier Keneally said dentists costs were a burden to many families and her plan was to ease the pressure of living costs: “Labor is determined to do what it can to take the pressure off families to maintain good dental health.”
There are 120,000 people, including children, currently on the dental waiting list. The package would provide 10,000 extra vouchers, worth $400 each, for people eligible to receive free dental services. There will also be 5000 free new dentures for pensioners if the government is re-elected in March. The Government has also committed to investing in specialist dental equipment and continuing its water fluoridation program.
APOH head Associate Professor Hans Zoellner said, “This Government has never even tried to do something for public dentistry. You need to look at what other states are doing and for this state to match the others, it needs to pour in $192 million a year, not $12.4 million over four years.”
The Australian Dental Association NSW branch president Mark Sinclair was quoted in a newspaper as saying desperate families on low incomes would still miss out, and even though the extra money was welcome, it “won’t touch the sides of the significant need within the NSW community”.
Shadow Health Minister Jillian Skinner described the plan as an ‘unfunded, eleventh-hour Labor promise’: “There are 92,000 adults and 27,000 children on dental waiting lists in NSW,” she said. “People in NSW have been forced to pull their own teeth because the State Labor Government has neglected dental care for 16 years.
“And now the same old State Labor Government is expecting those same patients to trust them to deliver an unfunded, eleventh hour Labor promise. The Australian Productivity Commission’s report on Government Services for 2011 found NSW has below average availability of public dentists per 100,000 people, and a below average availability of public dental therapist per 100,000 people.
“Labor’s so-called dental announcement does nothing to address the serious staff issues that are plaguing the NSW dental sector.
“For Kristina Keneally to offer an eleventh hour Labor promise to do better next time after 16 years of Labor failure simply isn’t believable.”