Oral health boost for south-west low income earners

PEOPLE on low incomes will have greater access to dental services across the south-west.

Next month Western District Health Service (WDHS), Portland District Health (PDH) and South West Healthcare (SWH) will introduce an integrated dental service model which will see better access to public dental services.

SWH chief executive officer John Krygger said Portland and Hamilton residents would see a continuation of services and would bring major benefits for residents.

“In both towns it has been extremely difficult to recruit and retain public dentists,” he said.

“It’s well known if you have poor oral health you’re more likely to have poor general health.”

Mr Krygger said Warrn-ambool had benefited from having multiple dentists and the collective strength of the city would help serve the other two cities.

The new model will provide improved access to public dental services for the 110,000 people who live in and around the Southern Grampians, Glenelg, Warrnambool and Corangamite municipalities by recruiting additional dentists and dental therapists to the region. 

It will see WDHS doubling its staff from three to six and PDH being able to retain its entire workforce of seven. 

Mr Krygger said in the past it had been difficult to recruit and retain dentists in the region resulting in the general public being forced to travel excessive distances to access public dental services. 

He said this had put pressure on the waiting lists of the larger community dental services and financial pressure on lower-income families who have had to travel long distance by car due to limited public transport option.

WDHS chief executive officer Jim Fletcher said over the years the public dental health service provided to Hamilton and district had been spasmodic because of issues related to the recruitment of a sole public dentist. 

He said this has resulted in the community being without any public dental service, even in an emergency situation.

PDH chief executive officer Christine Giles said moving to this new model would provide opportunities for future-proofing the Portland community from any potential shortage of dentists and dental therapists.

“Even though we don’t have any public dental service gaps here, being a part of this consortium is a positive change that will help our skilled public dental team attract dental students and graduates in years to come,” she said.

cquirk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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