Australian Dentists Issue Warning After Government Confirms Budget Deferral

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The Australian Dental Association has warned that changes to the dental budget, which were recently confirmed by the Government, will have a negative impact on standards of oral health.

Officials have confirmed that the National Partnership Agreement has been deferred for a year from this summer. The agreement has helped states to make drastic cuts to waiting lists, but the funding is due to run out in the coming months and dentists are worried that the deferral will contribute to growing waiting lists.

Karin Alexander, president of the Australian Dental Association, said that unless there were negotiations very soon, patients in the states and territories would undoubtedly miss out on essential services in the near future. The current funding, which is worth $390 million, will not last until the new agreement comes into play and this means that there will be a significant shortfall.

Alexander said that the best case scenario would mean that there was only a short gap in funding, but the gap could actually be a lot longer depending on negotiations. Waiting lists have been tackled successfully over the last few months, but it will take no time at all for them to “balloon” according to the association. Once patients have dental problems they escalate and the longer it takes for them to get treatment, the higher the risk of dental pain.

A spokeswoman for South Australia Health said that commonwealth funding has helped to reduce the number of patients on waiting lists by 9,000 people over the last year and news of the deferral will have obvious implications for the future. The board is currently working out the consequences of delayed funding and trying to find ways to adapt the services with minimum disruption to patients.

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