Medicare dental closure leaves town without dentist

The wheat belt town of Coonamble has lost it's dentist
The wheat belt town of Coonamble has lost it’s dentist with the closure of the CDDS.

The closure of the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental scheme has cost the wheatbelt town of Coonamble its dentist, according to reports this week in News Ltd newspapers.

After five months of having a full-time dentist at the Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service, the centre’s chief executive Tim Horan has told the newspapers the service will have to close its dental clinic, which had relied on Medicare rebate funding under the CDDS to help cover the costs of offering a dental service.

“The private side of the practice is only 20 per cent of the income and its just not enough to keep the dentist on full time,” Mr Horan told the papers. He explained this would mean the 400 people who had been using the dentist will have to travel 150km to Dubbo to get public treatment.

The Aboriginal health service had invested money in renovating the rooms and had purchased new utensils to attract a dentist to the town.

“We were treating six-to-seven patients a day and averaging $10,000 a week in income,” Mr Horan said.

In August, the government won the support of the Greens to axe the $1 billion a year CDDS that provides $4250 worth of dental treatment to people with a chronic illness every two years.

It will be replaced with a Medicare dental scheme providing children with $1000 worth of dental treatment in 2014.

There was a last-ditch attempt to save the Medicare scheme, primarily because of the gap between the closure of that scheme and the start of the next. The next problem, Dr Fryer of the ADA explained, is the 2012/13 Federal Budget will provide about $225 million for dental health over the latter half of the 2012/13 year and the following year, but even if waiting lists are reduced by 30 per cent, the National Advisory Council on Dental Health estimates it will cost $343 million per annum to address the public sector waiting lists.


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