WORK NEEDED: The Kingaroy Hospital Dental Clinic.
WORK NEEDED: The Kingaroy Hospital Dental Clinic. Tobi Loftus

Dental wait times rise in Kingaroy

RESIDENTS who use the dental clinic at Kingaroy Hospital are waiting longer to see a dentist.

In the past year the number of people waiting between 12 to 24 months for general dental care in the public system has risen from 11 to 375 (as of October).

Nanango MP Deb Frecklington said her office had received an increase in complaints from residents affected by a "dramatic blow-out” in wait times.

"Of huge concern are the category 2 patients who are waiting longer than 90 days to receive treatment. In fact, only 13 per cent of people in this category are being treated within the recommended waiting time,” Mrs Frecklington said.

"There are people whose health is being severely affected by not being able to see a dentist.

"When you have dental problems, you cannot eat properly and this then causes other health problems. For example, some of the people who have contacted me have diabetes and they find it very hard to manage their condition when they can't chew the foods they need to eat.

"Figures are rising rapidly and I am worried for these patients who have a very long and frustrating wait to improve their dental health.”

A Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service spokesperson said the wait lists increased earlier this year due to two of the three DDHHS dentists at Kingaroy leaving to pursue work in the private sector.

"Two new dentists and a dental technician have since started, which has gone a long way to achieve a reduction in waiting times,” the spokesperson said.

"Australian National Oral Health Plan guidelines mandate that patients on the general wait list need to be seen within two years and this benchmark is achieved in Kingaroy.”

The spokesperson said the DDHHS closely assesses the waiting list numbers.

"We have engaged with an external provider to assist us in reducing the waiting list. They will be available from December,” the spokesperson said.

"All dental services in the South Burnett are set to be further improved with the completion of the project to replace the old Farrhome building at the rear of the Kingaroy Hospital with a contemporary, purpose-built oral health and community health facility.”

Queensland Health Minister Cameron Dick said the DDHHS oral health team was treating more public dental patients than ever.

"The Kingaroy Clinic team delivered 6933 dental appointments in 2016/17, 10 per cent more than the 6278 they delivered in 2013/14 under the (previous) government,” Mr Dick said.

He said the State Government was committed to the ongoing funding of public dental services with annual State funding of about $188million.

"Federal Government cuts to the National Partnership Agreement on dental funding are threatening to blow out waiting lists for public patients seeking a dental appointment,” he said.

Mr Dick said federal funding cuts were putting enormous pressure on the system.

"Currently, there are no patients in Queensland waiting longer than the clinically recommended period of two years for a general dental check-up. This is a significant achievement in the face of increasing demand, and was delivered through the NPA signed by the Queensland Government with the Federal Labor Government in 2013,” Mr Dick said.

"In the 2014-15 (Federal) budget, $78.3million was allocated for the provision of dental services in Queensland for 2017-18. In this year's budget, that has been slashed to just $21.6 million - a cut of 72%.

"This equates to 94,500 Queenslanders who will now miss out on the dental treatment they require.”

Mr Dick said Kingaroy had not escaped the cuts.

"This cut means that there will 5482 fewer public dental patients seen this year in the Darling Downs service area,” he said.

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