Dental waiting list falls, but room to improve

SOUTH West Healthcare’s public dental waiting list has been cut by just over four months, but still sits above the state average, state government figures show. 

Figures released last week show the average wait for non-urgent treatment at Warrnambool’s public dental clinic dropped from 17.2 months in quarter two (October to December) of the 2012/13 financial year, to 13.1 months during the same period this financial year. 

But despite the drop, the average time for non-urgent dental work is still above Victoria’s average of 11.7 months. South West Healthcare’s director of primary and community services Craig Fraser said South West Healthcare had increased its public dental services over the past 12 months, which meant more people were being seen. 

“There has been a reduction in our waiting time, but not as much as the state average which has reduced significantly,” Mr Fraser said. 

“Over the last 12 months, we’ve increased our public dental offering, with an extra one-and-a-half dentists in Warrnambool. We’ve assumed control of the Western District Health Service clinic in Hamilton and we’ve opened a new clinic in Camperdown. Those new services mean we have more eligible people accessing our services, which is great, and that is being reflected in the figures.” 

Mr Fraser said he expected it would take a full year before the impact of the new services was seen in the waiting list figures. 

“We are taking between 75-100 people off our waiting list each month,” he said. 

“The Hamilton clinic was running 2.2 chairs five days a week previously and now it is running five days a week, and the new Camperdown clinic is running two chairs five days a week and from July 1 we will take control of Portland District Health’s dental clinic. It’s exciting from a regional perspective that we can increase these services and attract public dentists to the area, but it’s not being reflected in the figures just yet.” 

Mr Fraser said there was no waiting list for emergency dental work and people needing urgent  treatment generally had an appointment within 24 hours. 

Statewide, public dental services treated 251,444 patients in the three months to the end of December. The average waiting time for general non-urgent dental work was 11.7 months, down on the 15.5 months in the same quarter in 2011. 

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