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Court Decision Vindicates Dental Council Stance

High Court Decision Vindicates Dental Council Stance

The High Court decision which will see some $15 million returned to the University of Otago School of Dentistry, dentistry students and graduates between 1995 and 1999 vindicates ongoing lobbying by the Dental Council of New Zealand over the past seven years.

Dental Council chairman Brent Stanley said today the Council was delighted the court had recognised the injustice of iniquitous funding cuts made in 1995.

“Those cuts resulted in hardship and a huge burden of student debt for graduate dentists and were the major contributor to the loss of so many of our recent graduates.”

Dr Stanley said the Council had “consistently and strongly” made its views known to Government.

“The position in which the majority of dental graduates from those years found themselves resulted in many leaving the country,” he said.

The Council was so concerned about the impact the fee situation was having on loss of graduates it commissioned a survey of dental graduates registered between 1994 and 1998.

This showed the number of respondents owing more than $80,000 in student loans increased from 3% in 1994 to 79% in 1998. And 97% of graduates from 1998 had debts greater than $50,000.

“The debt loads of the new graduates had an inevitable impact in patient fees and access to care,” Dr Stanley said.

The report also showed:
- Fewer graduate dentists working in New Zealand. The percentage of recent graduates remaining in New Zealand has now decreased to 56%.
- Fewer graduate dentists working in dentistry as their first job.
- More dentists looking to private or overseas work in preference to public health work.
- More dentists not interested in returning to work in New Zealand.

“The respondents commented on the inequity and injustice they feel, not only at the crippling level of fees they had to pay, but also at the effect of compounding interest,” Dr Stanley said.

The court’s decision was extremely welcome, Dr Stanley said.

“The end result will be to the benefit of the New Zealand public. Without this move we could have faced a serious shortage of New Zealand-trained dentists and the cost of dental services could have become untenable.”


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