Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 3 June 2021) . . Page.. 1704 ..
commenced delivering services to identified schools and to vulnerable clients throughout the Canberra community.
MR DAVIS: Minister, are there any plans to expand the provision of affordable dental services closer to home for my constituents in Brindabella?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: As I am sure Mr Davis is aware, it is not appropriate to ask for policy announcements to be made during question time. But what I can say is that we have made additional investments in the oral health service–
Mr Hanson: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the minister has just pointed out that the member asked for a statement of policy, which would mean that the question is not in order, and I ask you to rule the question out of order.
MADAM SPEAKER: No, it is a comment by the minister; it is not my ruling in any way, shape or form. Minister, you have the floor.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: In terms of additional investment, the oral health service has, of course, been working on the recovery program for public dental health throughout the 2020-21 financial year, under the additional recovery funding provided as part of the COVID response. The waiting list has been reduced from 16.4 months—which I think we would all agree was too long—to a current wait time of less than 9½ months. This is now below the target that we have set of 12 months.
In order to reduce the dental waiting time to below 12 months it was identified that 1,900 clients would have to be removed and offered dental treatment outside the oral health service. And that was exactly what we funded through our recovery program. So a total of 3,661 of the longest-waiting clients have, in fact, been offered an appointment through this program. To date 1,826 of these clients have accepted these offers and have been referred for dental work.
Within that waiting list those clients who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander were prioritised, 67 clients were identified, and from those 24 clients have accepted the offer.
MR BRADDOCK: Minister, can you outline the number of Canberrans missing out on dental care because of the cost?
MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I do not think it is possible for me to provide a precise answer on that because there will be people on the public dental waiting list who are missing out. There are also people who will not have placed themselves on the public dental waiting list but who may not be accessing dental services because they are high cost or because of the gap they may be required to pay even if they have private health insurance.
What I can say is that as of 31 May there are just over two and a half thousand adult clients on the restorative waiting list for dental treatment, and there is no waiting list for youth services. As of 31 May, as I have indicated, we brought down the waiting