The waiting periods for public dental treatments in Northern Territory has increased from 30.8 months to just about 45.7 months. The Territorians with tooth issues, now have to wait up to 4 years for dental treatments within the public health-system according to the latest figures.
These waiting periods that have increased from the 30.8 months up to 45.7 months has occurred in one year and is a lot longer that any of the other territories or states. This is an exceptionally long wait period when comparing with general private dental health checks. Sydney dental clinic BexleyDental.com.au, the wait time was around 7 days for a dental booking.
However, the dentists have gone onto state that this has nothing to do with expert shortages. They are instead pleading with the Northern Territory Government for a way to outsource a lot more of the tax-funded cases onto to the private based dental clinics in order to ease the immense pressure placed on their public system.
This increase in the waiting periods was revealed in the Senate Estimates hearing held in Canberra by the “federal” Health Department officials. The second longest waiting period outside of Territory is a period of 16 months in Victoria.
The average nationally was estimated at 1 year, while the patients who reside in Western Australia have the shortest waiting period of 2.5 months. Last year none of the territories or states had recorded waiting times that exceeded 13 months, except for Northern Territory.
Ashley Freeman the president for the Australian Dental Association NT, stated that there are more than enough qualified dentists that work in the Territory, that are not busy. However, these dentists all work for the private clinics. Dr Freeman goes onto state that the government-system does not offer enough dentists in order to cover all the people, especially in the regional communities.
He also states that when it comes to dentistry in the other states, it is normally outsourced onto private sectors using vouchers that are taxpayer-funded.
Ashley Freeman also states that the populations in Northern Territory also has an extreme burden when it comes to dental disease. The majority of these patients rely heavily on public systems which has experienced a reduction in funding. The National Partnership Agreement previously held between federal and state governments only provided $155 million for a year for the public based dental services.
Mark Cormack a Health Department official told Senate Estimates that the new agreement put in place from the month of January this year up until June 2019, received and overall $242.5 million in funds, or around $97 million a year. He confirms that the funding on a yearly basis is definitely lower.
He goes onto to stress that the “dental services” are mainly the responsibility of state government. One of the spokeswoman for the NT Health Department stated that they didn’t publish the waiting lists because they did not feel confident enough with the provided data. She goes onto say that if the waiting times have increased, this could be associated in part with the decrease in Commonwealth funding.
Richard Di Natale, Greens Leader whose questions are what uncovered these figures, was truly shocked by the extremely long wait that Territorians with toothaches are faced with. Di Natale goes onto state that the waiting times have increased to 4 years and the Federal Government continues to cut the funds needed for public-dental services and care.