Coonamble Residents Facing Lengthy Trip To See A Dentist

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Residents in Coonamble will be forced to travel long distances to see a dentist as a result of the cessation of the Chronic Dental Disease Scheme.

The Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service managed to encourage dentist to work in the rural practice in July and the post was funded by Medicare; however, just a few months later, the practice will have to close as a result of the cessation of the Medicare dental scheme, leaving residents without a dentist. The nearest dentist will be 150 kilometres away in Dubbo.

Mr Tim Horan, chief executive of the health service dental clinic, said that there is no option but to close the clinic because private practice only contributes to 20 per cent of the income and this will not fund a full-time dentist.

The health service had spent money on refurbishing rooms and buying new equipment to encourage a dentist to join the centre but the Chronic Dental Disease Scheme will be axed at the end of the month.

The government voted to replace the CDDS with a universal dental scheme, which will provide children with free dental care; however, there is concern that people previously supported by the CDDS will suffer, especially as the new scheme is not coming into play until 2014. Critics suggest that chronically ill Australians will be forced to join waiting lists of up to two years in order to see a dentist.

Coalition regional health spokesperson Dr Andrew Laming, accused Tanya Plibersek, health minister, of “opening the indigenous health gap.”

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