Adelaide’s southerly buster

Adelaide's dental students could be disadvantaged by changes to the Dental school, says the ADA SA.
Adelaide’s dental students could be disadvantaged by changes to the Dental school, says the ADA SA.

The ADA’s South Australian branch has criticised the SA State Government following the Government’s seeking tenders from all Universities in South Australia for the development of new arrangements  for the education and training of dental and oral health students.

The salvo is the latest in a fight that has been brewing since last year, when plans to build a new School of Dentistry at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site were dumped. The University’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing were moved, but due to a state government desire to find cost savings in the Health Department, the dental school was not included.

Dr Jack Gaffey, spokesman for the ADA’s SA branch, said “The State Government has put the best ranked Dental School for research in the country at risk with this foolish decision.”

“You can’t buy a top ranked Dental School but you sure can ruin it with short sighted choices. How do you spend billions on a new hospital, SAHMRI and other research facilities and then jeopardise world class Dental Research in South Australia? It is simply ludicrous.”

“The SA Government has now decided to give an equal opportunity to other Universities which have never been involved in this highly specialised field or said they wanted to be. It’s not a fish and chip shop. You can’t whip one up overnight.”

An concrete example cited by the ADA as illustrating the problem with tendering out the school was the recently built a Simulation Laboratory at the current site. Built at a cost of $7million, the organisation described it as a vital element in teaching. The ADA was hoping that any new facility would be near this laboratory and not located at a distant site, such as the West End Biomedical precinct. It is now possible that if, for example, the University of SA won the tender, that this facility would be lost or it would have to be duplicated, presumably at the University of SA’s West End campus or the new building they have planned for that area.

The ADASA had understood that there was a strong resolve by the University of Adelaide to develop a joint State-University clinical and research facility that improved efficiencies and met the training requirements of the Dental Board of Australia through its accreditation partner the Australian Dental Council.

Dr Gaffey continued:  “This is a bizarre move by the Government to attempt to change the training of  dental professionals by opening a new shop down the road. It’s not what this State needs right now. The students don’t need their training disrupted and the staffing of a new school would be very difficult. And that is only the beginning of the risks and challenges of starting a Dental School from scratch. Who is speaking up for the students who study for years to get their degree in a highly specialised field? Does the Minister care what happens to them while their studies are put in limbo?”

He added that if another school opened, the Adelaide University Dental School would no longer be viable. This would lead to the loss of over 90 years of accumulated intellectual property, clinical expertise and research excellence. “The ADA SA Branch does not support trashing an international brand such as the Adelaide Dental School he said. The ADA SA calls on the Minister to publicly release estimates of what this new funding arrangement will potentially save South Australia. “We would like to know the value the State Government puts on our top dental teaching and research body.”

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