FEDERAL BUDGET 2007/2008
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is pleased with some of the measures introduced in the Budget. More important than the dollars allocated, they mark recognition and some willingness on the part of the Federal Government to assume a greater role in dental care delivery to Australians.
However, the ADA had envisaged a greater role. Too many Australians with dental problems have been ignored and are the losers in this Budget. The measures don't go far enough for those Australians suffering disability.
The provision of funding to assist in the establishment of a dental faculty at Charles Sturt University (CSU) is welcomed.
Dr John Matthews, President of the Australian Dental Association said, “Australia has a maldistribution of dentists in rural and remote sections of the country and the CSU proposal, if successful, will go some considerable way to redress this maldistribution.”
The ADA has cautioned the Government that the creation of this new faculty will have its difficulties to overcome - with academic staff shortages and shortages of dentists in the area of the faculty to mentor students. Regardless, the ADA congratulates the Government on the funding for the CSU dental faculty.
Sadly, nothing has been done to remedy the shortfall in the numbers of dentists in the public sector. The ADA had suggested financial incentives be granted to graduates who agree to work in the public sector. The Association suggested fee forgiveness for example, in return for the graduate doing a stint in the public sector. This recommendation has been ignored.
“The extension of the rural retention program available to medical practitioners should have been extended to dentists,” Dr Matthew said.
Improvement of the Enhanced Primary Care scheme by the Budget proposals will assist to overcome the deficiencies that exist under the current scheme. This scheme caters for those (generally economically disadvantaged Australians) with chronic and complex illnesses whereby dental treatment will alleviate the illness. The increase in the extent of services available will enhance the ability of the scheme to effectively serve patients.
Modification to Medicare to include provision of prosthetic appliances is essential; as without it the treatments are ineffective. Failure to modify the scheme to include this is a significant oversight and will result in the ongoing failure of the scheme.
"The proposals put forward largely ignore the 650,000 Australians on waiting lists for urgent dental treatment. Some of those people have been on those lists for years," Dr John Matthews said.
The National Oral Health Alliance, of which the ADA is an active member, delivered a strong message to Federal politicians in March 2007. It called for targeted Federal funding to the financially disadvantaged to enable concession cardholders access to a free basic course of dental care.
The ADA says this is not a complex thing to do. If 6,500 of the nearly 10,000 dentists in Australia were able to see 3 extra patients a month from this group, within two years the waiting lists would nearly disappear. The ADA feels this group has been largely abandoned by the Government, although the enhanced Medicare items will give limited assistance.
90% of dental disease is preventable - $4m was sought for an oral health education program. The ADA greatly regrets that no provision was made for this in the Budget. 11 million dollars has been allocated for skin cancer awareness. Investment in oral health promotion would produce much the same favourable impact on dental health as fluoridation.
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