Peak dental body slams public system’s two year wait lists

DENTAL TREATMENT: Funding spat erupts between state and federal governments.
DENTAL TREATMENT: Funding spat erupts between state and federal governments.

THE state’s peak dental body has criticised two year wait times for fillings, extractions and dentures after a funding spat between state and federal government.

Australian Dental Association Queensland chief executive Professor Ian Meyers said emergency procedures were clogging the public system, meaning public patients needed to wait up to 24-months for simple, general procedures.

“It is too long to wait and the Association would like to see that reduced,” Mr Meyers said.

“It is an overloaded service.”

The two-year time frame for non-emergency procedures, which includes preventative care, is listed by state government as “clinically recommended”, with 97.3 per cent of patients treated within 24-months of referral.

Mr Meyers said it was up to individual state governments, including Queensland, on how Commonwealth funding was used to shorten waiting times.

He said money could be used for options including buying private practice treatment vouchers or to employ extra public service dental staff.

Mr Meyers’ comments came after Commonwealth spending as part of the National Partnership Agreement’s public dental services for adults allocation was reduced by $8.7 million this financial year for Queensland, compared to funding delivered in 2015/16.

Bowman MP Andrew Laming defended the funding cut, alleging the state government had used its previous dental funding inappropriately.

“Queensland funding was reduced, for the simple reason that the cost of services delivered was not adding up to the money provided,” Mr Laming said.

“The Commonwealth is boosting funding to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule by $153 million, but only if states spend that money on dental care.

“Analysis showed that the value of Queensland dental care provided was only 70 per cent of the funding provided.

“In the latest available data, Victoria delivered 77,000 more dental services than Queensland, with a nearly identical level of investment.”

Health Minister Steven Miles said many factors contributed to wait time increases, including demand for services, an aging population and population growth.

He said the current funding arrangement expired on March 2019, with no guarantee it would be continued.

“Our oral health teams work extremely hard to ensure patients receive treatment within the recommended waiting times,” Mr Miles said.

“Although we have seen an increase in the waiting times for public dental care, the majority of patients on the general dental waiting list are being seen within the clinically recommended time frame of two years.”

“However the most significant reason for dental wait times in Queensland is a reduction in Commonwealth funding.”

“The Palaszczuk government is committed to the ongoing funding of public dental services.

“However a long-term funding commitment from the federal government, not just until March 2019, is crucial to ensuring a sustainable system.”