School Dental Clinics under threat
"Many school dental clinics have been badly neglected through lack of resources. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are now reviewing the clinics' futures.
"One of the options being considered is a transfer of responsibility for maintenance from Education to Health, with variations allowed to "encourage resource utilisation change".
"That's bureaucrat-speak which means the most out-dated rundown clinics are likely to be closed, rather than being modernised.
"The Health Minister Wyatt Creech has the HFA's Oral Health Strategy on his desk and it was due for public release several weeks ago. What's the hold-up?
"I believe the Minister will try and soften the blow of closing school dental health clinics by announcing $100,000 will be spent on oral health projects. But it is the comprehensive provision of school-based services that is the foundation of a successful system. National's tampering with the School Dental System has led to deterioration in the dental health standards of our children.
"Labour believes the principle of comprehensive school-based services is vital in ensuring full enrolment and wide coverage. In addition we will ensure dental therapists are registered to ensure safe standards. Labour is keen to see an extension of the use of dental therapists, working in a team approach. One of the new Health Goals the next Labour Government would like to establish is improving the dental health status of New Zealanders, especially children and adolescents.
"The shrinking number of dental therapists are continuing to do a wonderful job, but they are not receiving the support they require," Annette King said. "The National Government has failed to make the necessary investment in dental health. We are now seeing the results - mouths full of rotting teeth."