ADA slams half-hearted government approach to aged care report

21 May 2021

A lukewarm, half-hearted and disappointing response is how the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is labelling 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," said Dr Mark Hutton, ADA President.

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 proposal 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),

- increasing the oral health skills of care staff through mandatory minimum qualifications,

- increasing the time care staff devote to residents with a mandated higher ratio of care staff 
to care recipients, and

- improving the access of care recipients, their families and staff to professional oral health assessment and care, advice and referrals, training and support.

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. 

"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 ringfencing 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.

“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.”
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