Dental care up to states

By ED SOUTHORN Health reporter

FEDERAL Health Minister Tony Abbott has shot down any hopes Tweed residents had for the return of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program.

Despite calls by South Tweed woman Julia Morton earlier this week to see the program's return, the Health Minister was not budging yesterday.

The dental program, enabling pensioners and low-income earners to receive dental care they could not otherwise afford, was dropped by the Howard government back in 1996

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott warned that the federal government was not looking to return the program.

She said any such program would have to be funded by the state governments if it was to be resurrected.

According Mr Abbott's spokeswoman the states had always been responsible for dental health and the Commonwealth Dental Health Program was only a "one-off" from 1994 to 1996.

She said some states had withdrawn funding for dental services while the federal program was running.

Then when it ended, she said, the states had not bothered to restore the funding.

"The states need to put that money back into dental health," the spokeswoman said.

Labor's Richmond MP Justine Elliot last week said she was disappointed the program had not been reinstated in the recent federal budget.

Ms Elliot said many Tweed residents had missed out on vital dental care since the pro- gram was axed.

Mrs Morton, 83, who paid for her recent dental work by using her credit card, said a lot of elderly people could not afford to go to the dentist, even though they had paid taxes all their lives.

Mrs Elliot said she had collected more than 4000 names on a local petition calling for the federal government to re-intro- duce the program.

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