As Christmas cheer begins to sweep the nation, a recent announcement by the Federal government to yet again attempt to reduce public dental funding has Australia's leading Oral Health Professionals (OHP) association calling for an urgent rethink to ensure that the most vulnerable populations are not hit the hardest.
President of the Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association (ADOHTA), Ms Hellene Platell says that the timing of the announcement is questionable.
"As people begin to wind down for the calendar year and slip into holiday mode, the coalition government is attempting to slash the funding of public dental health services over the next three years."
"2016 has seen a number of ups and downs for public dental funding, with the introduction of controversial changes to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS), which were successfully removed from the Budget Savings Omnibus legislation in mid-September. At the time, this was considered a 'win' for the community and our sector."
"The Government is now looking to decrease the existing cap for child dental benefits to $700 capped per child across two years, meaning the 'total savings measure', or funding decrease if you will, has now increased from $52 million to $100 million."
Ms Platell says this funding decrease is likely to hit hardest to those in the community who need it the most.
"Our organisation and the Government are both well aware that, for approximately 1 in 5 children who access the CDBS, families are spending in excess of $700 per child across two years for treatment and services which are not elective but essential."
"By reducing funding and creating a gap, families on lower incomes will either have to find the difference in their wallet or forego parts of oral health treatment altogether."
Ms Platell says that oral health care for all Australians is a major issue in the health sector.
"It is no secret that good oral health is closely related to the overall health and wellbeing of the general population, particularly children and adolescents."
"We have an intergovernmental National Oral Health Plan (NOHP) which says 100 per cent of children should see an OHP and these likely cuts to the existing scheme just don't seem to match what is outlined in this plan."
"Our organisation sees the issue of reasonable, accessible funded oral health care becoming more of a problem for Australians, both young and old."
Ms Platell said that better utilisation of the OHP workforce is key to addressing the gaps which currently exist in the oral health service delivery, particularly amongst vulnerable populations, such as families on lower income, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the elderly and those who live in rural and remote settings.