No smiles for public school dental check wait times

A public sector union has criticised wait times for dental checks.
A public sector union has criticised wait times for dental checks.

A PUBLIC sector union has criticised wait times for dental checks in north coast suburbs, but a health service says they are below average.

A Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association (CPSU/CSA) statement said the public dental system needed more staff to overturn long waits at school dental therapy centres.

It said Butler had a 25.8-month waiting time, while Quinns Beach was 23.3 months, Somerly was 21.4 months and Merriwa, 19.4 months.

“Waiting lists at some of the clinics continue to be unacceptably high,” CPSU/CSA branch secretary Toni Walkington said.

“Unfortunately many people on the long-term lists will give up and not receive much-needed dental treatment.”

North Metropolitan Health Service spokesman Brian Cowie said while primary health care, including dental care, was the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, the State Government funded a back-up service via Dental Health Services (DHS).

Mr Cowie said that included subsidised care at government dental clinics for adult health care and pension concession cardholders, plus free care for children enrolled in the school dental service.

He said the National Oral Health Plan 2015-2024 indicated that people should receive an oral health check-up every two years.

“As of September 1, the average waiting at the Joondalup government dental clinic has an average waiting time for a non-urgent general course of dental care of 3.3 months,” he said.

“The overall average at all government dental clinics is 4.2 months. The average waiting time for a recall examination in the school dental service was 18.7 months.

“Over the same period the average waiting time for a recall examination at the dental therapy centres within the readership of the North Coast Times is 21.2 months.

“These wait times in the government dental clinics are very low and below the National Oral Health Plan 2015-2024 recommendation of two years.”

Mr Cowie said wait times had dropped by 70 per cent over the past two years, and as of September 1, there were 7177 patients on the general waitlist, with an average wait of 4.2 months.

Ms Walkington said long waiting lists and workload pressures could see more public system staff lured to the private sector.

“The only way to reduce the wait times is to employ more dental clinic assistants and dental technicians and make working in the public system more attractive,” she said.

Mr Cowie said DHS monitored waitlist numbers, times and activity levels, and had the ability to review the allocation of resources to address the areas of greatest need.

“The Department of Education is responsible for the building of dental therapy clinics within schools (which) are operated by DHS via Department of Health,” he said.