Today we wanted to share an open letter from one of our dentists, Malcolm Balfour, originally from from Scotland but now well settled here in Brisbane. LIke many of us who work with people with chronic dental problems, his point is clear – Australia can do better.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in regard to the recent closure of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. This is something that has disappointed me and I wish to express my opinion on the matter.
I work as a Dentist in a private practice in Caboolture which specialises in treating indigenous patients and goes to great lengths to make this possible, including providing transport for patients. The majority of patients I see require extensive dental treatment to restore them to a pain free mouth, that functions well for eating and allowing them reasonable dental appearance. Indeed it is a shame that many of our patients are attending the practice after years of dental neglect and are suffering extreme dental pain. Throughout the course of their dental treatment the patient is supported, educated and encouraged to change their behavioural habits such that they can maintain a healthy mouth and ultimately drastically improve their general health.
With the closure of the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme our patients are apprehensive about how they will be able to access any sort of dental treatment such that they can rightly have basic oral health.
I understand there may be a replacement scheme rolled out in 2014, however there must be interim funding provided to support people who have no other means of dental treatment. This is surely only morally correct. Furthermore from a financial point of view I believe to not provide interim funding is undoubtedly a false economy. As an example, if a patient attends with dental decay early enough this can easily be fixed with a simple filling which to provide would cost roughly $100. I can assure you that in most cases if this dental decay is left untreated for months, even into a year (as seems to be forced upon many of my patients) the tooth will require far more complex treatment which will cost several times more.
I am originally from Glasgow, Scotland. I enjoyed working within the National Health Service for three years providing general dental treatment. In the UK, any person who is in receipt of support from the Government such as tax credits, unemployment benefit or for health reasons are automatically entitled to free dental treatment provided by the Government in support of their population’s health. The UK is struggling financially as a nation and has had to make some very tough decisions to try and save money. However, I am glad they understand that to remove basic health care from the most vulnerable people is in modern society unacceptable. I am astonished that Australia, being such a dynamic and well balanced country has made the decision to leave some of its people in such a deprived situation.
I hope it will be possible for the Government to provide a means for these vulnerable patients to continue to have access to dental care to support their oral and general health.
Thank you for your time,
Malcolm Balfour BDS
If you would like to show your support for this important issue, please take a moment to sign this online petition.