Some of the biggest problems facing remote Australians are long waiting lists as well as dental staff recruitment.
Some of the biggest problems facing remote Australians are long waiting lists as well as dental staff recruitment.

Rural Australia still behind the times with dental health

RURAL and remote Australians continue to suffer worse dental health than their city counterparts, a parliamentary inquiry into the issue was told on Monday.

The inquiry is looking at what can be done to ensure the new National Partnership Agreement on dental health is a success when it starts in July next year.

The inquiry was set up after successive independent and government reports highlighting the inequities in dental health for rural, remote and indigenous Australians.

The Australian Dental Association, Royal Flying Doctor Service and Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health all highlighted the problems in rural areas in submissions to the committee before a round table meeting on Tuesday.

Each group reiterated the need to address the inequities of regular dental health services in rural areas, backed by evidence from the only private health fund running dental centre in regional areas, Westfund.

Managing director Grahame Danaher told the inquiry on Monday the biggest obstacles facing remote Australians were the cost of appointments and long waiting lists as well as staff recruitment.

"The recruitment of medical professionals to work in regional areas is a well-known workforce issue in Australia," he said.

"The establishment of the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement and 457 visa arrangements have both helped ease this problem.

"But the reality is that Westfund still needs to offer very attractive conditions to encourage dentists to work at our Lithgow and Mackay clinics."

The ADA and SARRAH both outlined the need for a more national approach to dental health, to battle falling funding at the state level.

Those groups and the RFDS will speak at an inquiry roundtable discussion in Canberra on Tuesday.


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