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05 Mar 2013 | Press Release

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Another example of private health insurers' focus on profit

The Australian Dental Association Inc. (ADA) has condemned news of private health insurer Westfund employing overseas trained dentists to staff its new dental clinic in MacKay, Queensland, while there is an oversupply of dentists in Australia.

"Private health insurers have already received a big win from the Federal Health Minister's recent announcement of health insurance premium increases. We now see a private health insurer trying to push their profit margins further by taking dentists from areas where they are needed overseas disregarding the fact that we have an oversupply of locally qualified dentists. This is immoral and un-Australian," President of the ADA, Dr Karin Alexander, said.

The Facts:

1. In the last 11 years private health insurers have returned profits from ancillary cover of approximately $7.4 billion.

2. The latest report on Dental Workforce showed that dentist numbers increased over 21% in the 5 years 2006 to 2011 so that there were over 14,000 dentists in Australia. Since 2011, with the increase in dental schools, there has been a further increase in dentist graduates each year. The Australian Council of Dental Schools indicates there will be 920 graduates in 2013 from dental and oral health programs. The 2012 Grad Stats Survey results released in late December show that only 83.6% of dentists were in full-time employment at the time of the survey.

3. Many countries that overseas graduate dentists are recruited from have shortages of dentists.

"No doubt private health insurers, focusing on their bottom line, recruit overseas trained dentists because they believe their productivity is greater than recent graduates. However, private health insurers ignore the investment (in both time and money) Australian students have made in training to be a dentist.

"The ADA always supports the role of overseas skilled migration in alleviating workforce shortages. However, Australia is experiencing an oversupply of dentists, and so if private health insurers want to recruit dentists for their practices in rural Australia, they should be obligated to tap into Australia's resources first before looking overseas. The Australian Government's investment in university places for dentist students and the financial incentives it offers to encourage Australians to obtain private health cover must place an obligation on private health insurers and other recruiters to utilise Australian university graduates before accessing overseas trained dentists.

"In times of fiscal restraint Australia must ensure that its investment in education and training of all dental practitioners is economically sound and that those graduating have a place in the community to ensure that that investment is repaid and not wasted. There is no need for private health insurers and other recruiters to go off-shore to find a dentist workforce. Local graduates must be utilised first," Dr Alexander concluded.

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