A state government grant to help the city's hospital catch up and meet the region's increased demand for dental services will assist an additional 700-800 people for the next six months.
South West Healthcare will receive $308,969 of a $27 million state government package aimed at responding to community-based healthcare demand which has increased because of deferred care during the COVID pandemic.
The funds will allow additional staffing hours and vouchers for people on waiting lists to attend private dental clinics and benefit residents across Warrnambool, Portland, Hamilton and Camperdown.
SWH executive director of primary and community services Kerryn Anderson said it was a great outcome.
"This announcement is really great news for our community," she said.
"The funding will allow SWH to tackle waiting times head-on that have been inflated by COVID.
"We are really excited to be able to use this money for additional staffing hours and to provide vouchers for work to be expedited and carried out at private dental clinics, where needed.
"This funding will allow us to get back to helping our community post-COVID and we thank them for being incredibly understanding and patient through such extraordinary and frustrating times.
"Delays to dental care due to COVID shut downs has meant that we now have a big job to do in catching up, but there are a number of dental practitioners who have been unable to work, and who are ready to roll their sleeves up and get started."
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But the announcement has been slammed by member for South West Coast Roma Britnell, who said the funds would not go far.
"Public dental waiting lists in South West Coast have been among the worst in Victoria for years - long before the pandemic," she said.
"The government providing just over $300,000 to South West Healthcare as a 'catch-up' for people who have deferred treatment during COVID-19 could not even be described as a drop in the ocean for what is needed.
"How could $300,000 possibly go close to clearing a waiting list that has already blown out by more than two years?"
She said thousands of residents were on the waiting list.
"Victorian Oral Health Alliance data shows there are almost 4000 people on the waiting list for dental care at South West Healthcare and the numbers just keep growing," she said.
"This is another example of the Andrews Labor Government's disdain for regional Victorians. We deserve better.
"Every time I've raised the issue of public dental waiting lists in the past few years, this government defers to the Commonwealth to increase its funding share."
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