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Speech: Dunne - Dental Clinic/Oral Health Strategy

Hon Peter Dunne
Associate Minister of Health

Friday, 27 November 2009 Speech

Address to Open first Fixed Dental Clinic Built under Oral Health Strategy

10am, Ilminster School, Gisborne

Tena koutou katoa, and good morning.

I am very pleased to be here today to mark this important step in improving the oral health of the children in the Tairawhiti district.

Before I talk about this particular facility and the benefits it will bring to the wider community, I would like to take a few moments to reflect how we got here today.

A few years back the Ministry of Health conducted a survey of New Zealand’s dental facilities, anticipating, at the time, that all that might be needed would be a new paint job and a few new chairs.

Well, they found that this wasn’t exactly the case and, since then, the Government, the Ministry and DHBs around the country have been working together to set in place measures that will improve oral health in our communities now and in the years ahead.

The Ministry’s survey led to the launch of the oral health strategic vision in 2006 which aims for “Good oral health for all, for life”.

Shortly thereafter, DHBs began to develop plans for improvements in their child and adolescent oral health services.

They asked some tough questions about exactly how many fixed facilities, like this one, are actually needed, the best areas to place them in and what other facilities were required to best serve their communities, such as mobile clinics.

I am happy to say that this Government has completed the assessment of the oral health business cases put forward by DHBs.

We have committed roughly $116 million of capital funding and up to $40 million each year in operational funding and this money is already rolling out to DHBs around the country.

The Government has also increased fees for the care of adolescents as of 1 July 2009, hopefully encouraging more private practice dentists to join in and help their communities.

I am especially pleased that, in these difficult economic times, the overall investment programme is largely coming in on budget.

We are likely to face significant fiscal restraint in the near future, as I’m sure you are well aware, along with a need to provide more and better services within the budgets we already have.

So, the commitment of people such as those gathered here today will become even more essential, and I therefore ask for your understanding and patience as we manage New Zealand’s emergence from the global recession in the coming years.

And so to today.

The opening of the Ilminster Intermediate Dental Clinic is a first for New Zealand and also a first for Tairawhiti.

It is the first fixed-site clinic in the country constructed using the new National Plans for oral health facilities and the first completed Capital Programme item in Tairawhiti’s oral health business case.

Tairawhiti DHB has successfully been operating mobile dental services for many years and the new model based about this ‘hub’ and supported but the five mobile ‘spokes’will reach more schools and preschools than ever before.

In terms of children’s oral health, the statistics speak for themselves.

While the previous school dental services have shown good signs of reducing the incidence and impact of tooth decay, there are still challenges to be faced in improving the results for preschool children.

More children in this district need regular access to quality, modern oral health care and the DHB’s ‘hub and spoke model’, based around this clinic, will accomplish this.

It doesn’t just stop at younger children though.

Fewer adolescents have been visiting dental clinics in recent years and the DHB aims to improve this by 30 percent by the end of next year.

While these new facilities are important, another essential component is dedicated health professionals committed to improving oral health.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the region’s dental therapists and assistants, whose ranks have been expanded as part of this new service model.

While it is important that everyone gets regular dental check-ups, preventative measures, like regular brushing and making sure both children and parents know about appropriate diet, are essential to improving the health of children and their families.

I gather that oral health promoters in Turanga Health, Ngati Porou Hauora and the DHB have been working hard to spread these messages to the community and I applaud them for their efforts.

This is all backed up by the Ministry of Health’s new “Let’s Talk Teeth’ initiative, a toll free number and accompanying website that lets people know about oral health services in their area and ways to protect their teeth, through both diet and brushing.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, the changes happening here are not isolated and the Government has made a significant commitment to clinics like this around the country.
Around 94 mobile clinics have been ordered to support upgraded fixed-site clinics across New Zealand.

All 21 DHBs, along with District Health Boards New Zealand, have worked collaboratively to hammer out a joint purchasing strategy.

And so it is with great pleasure that I declare the Ilminster Intermediate Dental Clinic and the mobile dental unit, “open”.

ENDS

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