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Commitment to quality dental health long overdue

Commitment to quality dental health long overdue

The therapists and dental assistants union, the Public Service Association (PSA), is welcoming Labour’s $100 million policy to revamp New Zealand’s antiquated school dental service which was launched this afternoon.

Significant workforce and infrastructure issues were identified in a recent review of the School Dental Service. These include an ageing and decreasing dental therapy workforce, serious workload issues, run down clinics and equipment and the siting of facilities.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said Labour’s plan to revamp the services, train and employ new staff and modernise equipment is very welcome and long overdue.

“Labour’s plan to revamp free dental care for all children and adolescents up to the age of 18 is a critical social investment. Our members see children and young adults every week with serious tooth decay which has long term health consequences that could so easily be avoided.

“The School Dental Service has been operating in crisis mode for far too long. So much so that it likely to take between three and five years for the services to rebuild themselves even after this announcement today.

“Staff are currently overworked, coming to the end of their careers, forced to use outdated equipment and often situated a long way from the children who need their services most.

“Critical to the successful implementation of this plan will be an increase in the number of dental therapists and dental assistants being trained each year. The increase in per student funding for the two courses offered by the Auckland University of Technology and the University of Otago will ensure the quality of dental training is not sacrificed as the numbers going through the courses greatly expand.

“Also critical is a fair remuneration system for dental therapists and dental assistants. The PSA is currently involved in bargaining for both groups with the 21 district health boards and we are hopeful of securing significant pay increases which will help attract and retain quality staff in the services,” Richard Wagstaff said.


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