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Free Dental Care Likely To Disappear

5 July 2005

Free Dental Care Likely To Disappear

The mass resignation of Southland dentists from a scheme providing free care for children referred from school dental clinics should send a message to Health Minister Annette King that action is urgently required to prevent the complete collapse of the scheme, says New Zealand First health spokesperson, Barbara Stewart.

“The subsidy for dentists to carry out work on children's teeth has been inadequate for many years. ACC fees of $67 per visit are about 75 percent of the average private fee charged in Southland but the Government has set the dentists’ fee for school children at around $33 for a basic treatment.

“This is obviously way below what is acceptable for dentists who are not charities and require reasonable fees for services carried out,” said Mrs Stewart.

“School dental therapists do a great job, but they often need to refer children to dentists who carry out more complicated work.

“The parents of Southland children who need dental care will now have to pay for it and if they are unable to do so the children will be added to the waiting list at Southland Hospital for treatment.

“The situation in Southland is not unique and the dental care system for children throughout the whole country is at risk of collapsing under the weight of inadequate funding and ministerial inertia. The Minister has done lots of talking about the sort of system she would like to see established – it’s time we saw some action,” said Mrs Stewart.


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