Page 3603 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 22 November 2022

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MR BARR: Thirdly, knowledge-based economic growth, inclusive innovation and responsible investment. Three key missions for this city, for this decade and beyond. A clear agenda for the future—one that is sustainable, one that diversifies the territory economy—and investments from the government that make Canberra more liveable in the long term.

Health—dental services

MR DAVIS: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, I was recently contacted by one of my constituents who is a low income student and has had trouble accessing affordable dental care in Canberra. I am aware that the ACT government does provide some publicly funded dental services to people with a healthcare card and to asylum seekers; however, the waitlist is about 13 months, there is a discretionary co-payment of about $40, and these services do not extend to all low income people. Dental fees are largely unregulated and, as cost of living pressures increase, people are less likely to undertake preventative care like regular dental check-ups. What can the ACT government do to improve access to dental care for low income Canberrans?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Davis for the question, and it is an important one. Of course, Mr Davis, you are right: the ACT government provides adult dental services to ACT residents who are primary holders of a Centrelink issued pension, concession or healthcare card, a veterans’ affairs card or an ACT services access card. Emergency dental services are available to all of those eligible adults once they have been assessed as needing a priority appointment, with a very short wait time. You are also correct, Mr Davis, that it depends on the circumstances as to exactly what the wait time is. The wait times for people who do not need that emergency care are considerable for adults, although there is no current waiting list for children for
dental services.

The ACT government has continued to invest and grow its investment in its oral health services. The total dental budget for 2022-2023 was more than $13 million, inclusive of the commonwealth’s federal funding agreement funding for adult public dental, which amounts to $0.96 million, or $960,000 per annum.

Part of the challenge we have had with the dental services is we have had a previous commonwealth government who cut funding for dental services under the national partnership we have for dental and, in recent years, only extended the agreement for one year at a time, providing no certainty for states and territories about what funding was going to be available and making it very difficult to plan for the expansion of this service, which is supposed to be a partnership between state and territory governments and the commonwealth. I look forward to working with Minister Mark Butler, who has indicated that he is keen to work with states and territories to resolve this situation.

MR DAVIS: Minister, what actions is the government taking to recruit even more dentists to the public program to help meet demand?

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