Opposition dental care promises | Gippsland Times

Stefan Bradley

UP to 32,000 Victorians needing priority dental treatment will be able to access a $500 dental voucher scheme to be introduced if the Coalition forms government at this month’s state election.

The scheme will allow Victorians to receive dental care at a private clinic. The Liberals and Nationals have also pledged $200 million in additional funding over four years to go towards public dental services.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, said with 64,000 Victorians currently waiting on critical dental care, more needed to be done to improve the situation.

“The Nationals in government will implement a new dental voucher scheme to cut wait times and improve health outcomes,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Our solution is to provide up to 32,000 Victorians in need of priority dental treatment a $500 voucher to allow them to access care privately.

“This will halve the number of Victorians on the waitlist for critical dental care within two years and reduce the risk of flow on health issues for those patients.”

Mr O’Brien said the evidence was clear that poor oral health had a big impact on other areas of life.

“I am regularly hearing from Gippslanders whose lives are severely impacted by their inability to access timely dental care,” Mr O’Brien said.

“I am being told of vulnerable locals who are not only struggling with constant pain, but also the financial, social, and mental health implications that poor oral health can result in due to missing work or school, finding it difficult to eat or drink and even negative impacts on self-esteem.

“It is clear that this is an important issue that needs a real solution, which is what The Nationals in government will deliver.”

The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) welcomed the announcement.

“Waiting times to access public dental care have surged from 20.3 months in 2018 to 26.7 months in June this year,” said ADAVB president, A/Prof Warren Shnider.

“These clinically unacceptable waiting times have a significant impact on the oral health of patients, which in turn compromises their general health.

“The pandemic lockdowns prevented people from seeing the dentist, and the oral health of Victorians is suffering as a result. We are calling on Labor, Greens, minor parties and independents to support this positive measure to improve oral health in Victoria.”

The Labor candidate for Gippsland South, Denise Ryan, said the Liberals couldn’t be trusted on dental services, claiming they had cut more than $280 million from public dental services in Victoria.

“Matthew Guy’s Liberals have failed to listen to the experts or consult the workforce. A Productivity Commission report found ‘ad hoc use of fee-for-service vouchers has not resulted in systemic improvements in user choice or the effectiveness of public dental services’,” she said.

The Productivity Commission report was released in 2018. It looked at possible reforms to human services.

One of the report’s key points was that public dental patients have “little choice in who provides their care and most services are focused on urgent needs”.

Ms Ryan’s campaign said the Victorian Budget 2022/23 allocates $322.7 million in funding to public dental services.

“In December 2021, a $27 million package was announced to deliver more check-ups and treatments for another 40,000 people across the state, helping public dental providers to catch up, targeting waiting lists and providing immediate access to public dental services and treatment for people who had deferred or delayed treatment during the pandemic,” Ms Ryan’s campaign said.