A boy has his teeth checked by the dentist.
A boy has his teeth checked by the dentist. Sarah Harvey

Sunshine Coast public patients wait for critical dental care

ALMOST half of our region's public patients requiring critical dental care are waiting longer than they should.

ARM Newsdesk analysis of Queensland Health data reveals there are 7048 people waiting for dental care on the Sunshine Coast and in the Gympie region.

Our area has the sixth longest wait list of the state's 16 health regions, the August 31 statistics show.

The data also reveals that 46% of the 110 Sunshine Coast-Gympie patients on the general anesthetic list were not seen in the required period.

ARM Newsdesk can also reveal that 34% of the region's 790 priority patients and 69% of the region's 67 clinical assessment patients also waited longer than the preferred timeframe. 

However, every one of the 6081 Sunshine Coast and Gympie residents on the general list was seen on time.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service oral health services director Dr Elaine Mawdsley said the organisation saw a "record-breaking" 40,000 patients in 2015-16.


Dr Mawdsley said anyone needing urgent care was given an emergency appointment so they could be seen as soon as possible.

"Patients who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, or who have special needs or some other identified oral health needs, (for example they  have no teeth and request a new set of complete dentures, are assigned to the assessment list," she said.

"There is a low number of people on this list, which is regularly reviewed.

"The optimum timeframe for these patients to receive an appointment for a clinical assessment with a dentist is one month.

"Patients waiting for longer than two or three months may be unwell or unable to attend because they are away." - ARM NEWSDESK

Federal funding cut may bite into our dental services

OUR region's public dental services could be cut if a mooted Federal Government funding change gets the green light.

Health Minister Cameron Dick says Queensland will be short-changed about $22 million if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pushes ahead with replacing the National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services and the Child Benefits Schedule with the proposed Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme.

Mr Turnbull needs the Senate to pass the legislation that seeks to transfer responsibility for the provision of dental services entirely to the state and territories.

"This will, for the first time, introduce a cap that would effectively deliver a $200 million a year reduction on the schemes it has been designed to replace," Mr Dick said.

"Should this scheme be implemented, once the cap is reached, the full liability for providing additional dental services would fall upon the state budget."

Mr Dick said the funding shortfall for Queensland could be $22 million and this could hurt regional and rural public oral health services quite hard.

"While dental services in our urban areas will be affected, we know these cuts will be felt hardest in our regional and rural communities," Mr Dick said.

"There is no question these cuts will put at risk the dental health of communities across Queensland, especially in regional and rural areas."

A Queensland Health spokesman said Commonwealth funding supported 20% of all public dental activity in the state last financial year.

"If Commonwealth funding for Queensland is reduced, there is a risk waiting times for public oral health services will increase for Queenslanders," the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said her government would invest $2.1 billion in the Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme.

"The CAPDS would be the largest-ever Commonwealth investment to the states and territories to provide frontline public dental services," the spokeswoman said. - ARM NEWSDESK

Categories explained

# General care refers to routine dental care including preventive care, scaling and cleaning, fillings, extractions and dentures. Treatment to be completed within two years is preferred.

# Clinical assessment includes a brief examination by a dentist, dental specialist or dental prosthetist to determine what waiting list is appropriate for the patient. Assessment within one month is desirable.

# Priority care includes specialised dental care related to medical conditions as well as orthodontics, oral surgery and oral pathology.

Source: Queensland Department of Health

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