Page 261 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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with money. What we are not doing is tearing around the bottom of these big flats saying, “Ooh, er: you’re unsafe; ooh, er: you’re not going to have a house at the end of the month” and inciting riot. Well, good on you! We are getting on and doing it and all you are doing is going, “Bleep, bleep!” Well, good for you!

Health—dental waiting lists

MS MacDONALD: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister Corbell, can you advise the Assembly of the latest dental waiting list figures, please?

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. Yes, dental waiting list figures have significantly improved since the Stanhope government first came to office in 2001. It is a matter of great regret for this government, and I know for all of my state and territory colleagues, that the commonwealth government, when the federal Liberal government was first elected in 1998—1996, I am sorry—decided—

Mr Smyth: It was a good year, ’96.

MR CORBELL: It was not a good year for all those people on public dental waiting lists, I can assure you—decided to withdraw all funding that the commonwealth provided for public dental waiting lists and public dental treatment. And who this hit hardest were pensioners, people with health care cards, concession card holders, and so on—those who could least afford to see a dentist privately.

The reduction of public dental waiting lists was significant. In July 2003 there were 2,878 clients waiting an average of 22 months for restorative services. I am very pleased to advise the Assembly that, as at 30 October this year, there were only 1,187 clients waiting for restorative services—a reduction of more than 50 per cent—and the waiting time was only six months, compared to the 22 it was in 2003. The waiting list has been reduced by over 58 per cent, and the average waiting time by a very similar figure.

The reason for this is that the government has invested an additional $500,000 annually in the ACT budget for restorative and denture services. These funds have been utilised to reduce the waiting times for restorative and denture services by developing and implementing partnerships with private providers, whereby we contract private dentists to do the work on people on the waiting lists, rather than have them all waiting to get into the public dental clinic. We have also recruited extra dental teams and improved access to our own programs.

We are not complacent about improving these services further. Indeed, we have committed, through the election, an additional $2 million over the next four years to further reduce the public dental waiting lists. When you consider how important good dental health is for your quality of life, you would really appreciate the importance of improving access to these services.

This is a reform the government is very proud of, an outcome that we believe is making a real and substantive difference for older people in our community, pensioners, health care card holders and so on, who otherwise cannot afford to access public dental services. This is another great example of the government investing to deliver better public health outcomes for the people of Canberra.

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