Dutton introduces law to protect dentists

Peter Dutton has introduced legislation to protect dentists.

Opposition health spokesperson Peter Dutton this week introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that seeks to ensure that dentists who have provided appropriate dental treatment to almost one million chronically ill patients since November 2007 are not unfairly penalised for failing to comply with strict administrative requirements that have little or no bearing on patient treatment and patient outcomes.

Mr Dutton has said he is hopeful the bill will be voted on by the end of May, and it does have reasonable prospects of success.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott says he has already raised individual cases of dentists in his electorate with the Health Minister, and he will listen to the debate with interest.

The Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale has said they support the intent of the bill.

According to Dr Matthew Fisher, CEO of the Australian Dental Association (NSW Branch), a small but growing number of dentists have now been asked to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars each for failing to provide all patients with a written treatment plan and quotation before commencing treatment (including emergency dental treatment) and for not providing the referring doctor with a copy of the patient’s treatment plan.

Audits completed to date by Medicare Australia indicate that over seventy per cent of all dentists audited were non‐compliant with administrative aspects of this scheme. ADA NSW believes close to ninety per cent of all dentists who have participated would be deemed non‐compliant under the existing audit regime.

“The administrative requirements of this scheme were poorly communicated to dentists and both Medicare Australia and the Department of Health and Ageing have privately conceded that their education program for dentists was not as comprehensive as it should have been.”

“Even today, four years after this scheme came into operation ADA NSW is aware of instances where Medicare Australia staff do not provide dentists with information they are entitled to know or provide them with incorrect information making it extremely difficult for dentists to comply with the requirements of the scheme”, said Dr Fisher.

“Dentists have been unfairly and very publicly accused of “rorting” this scheme for financial benefit when most non‐compliance stems from a failure to complete required paperwork prior to attending to their patients dental needs.”


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