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Minister All Plaque On Dental Care

Minister All Plaque On Dental Care

Thursday 29 Jul 2004

Heather Roy - Press Releases - Health

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today accused Health Minister Annette King of playing games with the oral health of New Zealand teenagers, by refusing to front up and tell parents whether she plans to cut dentist visit subsidies altogether.

"For some time, dentists have been trying to draw attention to the fact that they have not received an increase in the Government subsidy for the dental care of secondary school students in the past decade," Mrs Roy said.

"The Health Ministry has devolved responsibility of this area to DHBs, who are now responsible for contracting with individual dentists. The Minister has made it clear that, for her, dental health is obviously not a priority area - surprising for a former dental nurse.

"Dentists currently have the option of accepting a new contract - an $85 fee to cover the costs of a check-up, x-rays and up to six fillings - or they can opt for the provisions of the old contract: $24.77 per filling and check up, x-rays and clean for $39.35.

"Most dentists charge around $70 to $80 for a routine check, x-ray and clean, and it is obvious to all - except the Minister - that dentists costs are not covered. It is unsurprising, then, that only a quarter of Wellington dentists are willing to sign any contract at all. Those looking for a dentist for secondary school children are finding it increasingly difficult.

"Meanwhile the nation's oral health suffers. It is estimated that around 30 percent of secondary school students are not seeing a dentist - but, as the Ministry does not keep figures, it is hard to substantiate the real number.

"We have a Minister who claims to feel strongly about oral health. Her delaying tactics and lack of leadership in this area is staggering. If her real aim is to cut this subsidy out completely, she should come clean and tell parents that this is the situation.

"ACT believes that parents should be able to use their tax dollars to access public or private dental care. Access and choice for students would be improved, and dentists would be paid properly for their service. This would be a more honest way of providing oral health care.

"Children's dental care is in near crisis - Ms King should come clean that our children's teeth are not being kept clean," Mrs Roy said.


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