Can a taskforce save NSW?

Associate Professor Hans Zoellner says the public system is failing.

Pressure is rising on NSW Minister for Healthy Lifestyles, Kevin Humphries, to develop a better state plan for the provision of dental services following his announcement last week of the establishment of a Dental Health Taskforce. Some members of the taskforce are concerned that NSW will face a public health disaster when the federal government removes $340 million of funding for dental treatment at the end of this year, when the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme is wound up.

The federal government has promised just $30.4 million to replace that scheme.

“Our election commitment to reform the delivery of dental services and improve dental outcomes for the people of NSW is a key priority for the NSW Government,” Mr Humphries said at the time of the Taskforce launch.

However, the director of the Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS), Alison Peters, said the taskforce—on which NCOSS had a representative—was good but urgent resources were also needed.

“The problem exists now and it has existed for quite a while,” Ms Peters told a local newspaper.

“To pretend people are going to be adequately served by the public system, which is already failing, is farcical,” Associate Professor Hans Zoellner, head of oral pathology at the University of Sydney, told the same newspaper.

Untreated tooth and gum diseases have been linked with an increased risk of vascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke, and themselves cause great suffering.

“There are people walking around in Australia with great festering abscesses in their heads they can’t afford to treat,” said Associate Professor Zoellner, who is also the chairman of the Association for the Promotion of Oral Health.

He said there was such a shortage of dentists in the public system, public dentists would have to see five times as many patients daily as private dentists.

The Chair of the Dental Health Taskforce, Professor Chris Peck, has welcomed the establishment of the taskforce and the opportunity to develop an action plan to deliver more equitable dental services to the people of NSW.

“The Taskforce has the potential to prioritise and drive better dental health outcomes in NSW and I look forward to working with the NSW Government to achieve this aim,” he said.


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  1. This program has been a godsend to many people who cant afford private dental care and who can’t access the public dental clinics. At the moment you can’t even get through to the public dental hospital. The demand is so high the phone is permanently engaged.
    The complaint it is being primarily accessed by the rich is nonsense. the reason for its budget blowout is the desperate need and chronic underfunding/understaffing of public dental in the past. this government has shown an ongoing determination to dismantle any scheme set up by the previous government no matter how good it was using specious arguments and inaccurate data. it is the politics of spite and in the same way that the children of warring divorcees suffer so will the Australian public suffer especially those with the least resources.


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