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King's dental plan full of holes

Paul Hutchison National Party Health Spokesman

19 July 2005

King's dental plan full of holes

National Party Health spokesman Paul Hutchison says Health Minister Annette King must front up with a realistic plan to improve our children's teeth.

"Labour's failure to offer a fair and realistic special dental benefits contract, which resulted in its rejection by Southland dentists, is likely to spread throughout the country and cause a major crisis," says Dr Hutchison.

"Ms King's so-called 'vision' for child and adolescent dental care seems quite unrealistic now, because of the low number of dental therapists and the large number of dentists exiting from the special dental benefits contract.

"Currently there are only about 500 dental therapists in New Zealand, compared with 860 in 1990. Only 36 new graduates are recruited each year.

"In addition, now less then 20% of dentists around the country have a special dental benefits contract.

"Labour expects dentists to cover for its failing school dental system, but pays them less than 50% of the average private fee. Costs run at 65% of the average fee and dentists can't break even.

"Clearly, dentists and dental therapists should be working in collaboration, but the reality is that many dentists may be forced to exit the system because they can no longer work at a loss.

"It would be a tragedy to lose the expertise of dentists, but this will happen if the Minister does not face the reality of the workforce issues.

"It is pathetic that after six long years of Labour Government, with $3.5 billion extra put into health, the Minister has still not come up with a viable and sustainable dental plan," says Dr Hutchison.


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