Nearly 7000 on waiting list for dental care on North Coast

ABOUT 2500 people were added to the waiting list for public dental care in three months this year and the local health district has not explained why.

Northern NSW Local Health District and Centre for Oral Health Strategy figures show at the end of September, about 6800 were waiting to see a dentist for a general appointment - 1400 children and 5400 adults.

These included patients waiting to see a dentist at clinics in Tweed Heads, Nimbin, Casino, Ballina, Grafton, Maclean and Yamba.

Northern NSW health district Allied Health executive director Vicki Rose said no patient was waiting for more than the recommended time for urgent dental treatment, but other figures showed the waiting list was getting longer.

WAIT TIMES

  • At the end of September about 6800 people in Northern NSW were on the waiting list
  • This included about 1400 children and 5400 adults
  • In June this year about 4300 people were on the wait list
  • In December 2012 about 5300 people were waiting

NSW Health data showed about 4300 people in the district were waiting for dental treatment in June this year.

This was the highest in the state, excluding districts in metropolitan areas of Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

In December 2012, 5300 people were waiting.

In early October APN requested information from the Northern NSW Local Health District on how many people were waiting for general dental appointments in specific areas and the waiting time for general appointments.

It took the district more than a month to respond.

It was then asked why 2500 more patients were put on the waiting list between June and the end of September, but it did not respond.

The district's initial statement failed to provide the waiting time for general dental appointments.

But its response said NSW public health clients were triaged using health department protocols.

"This program aims to ensure that clients requiring dental care are seen in order of their treatment need, while also giving consideration to socio-economic and other risk factors," the statement from Ms Rose read.

But a report from the NSW Dental Association submitted to the Inquiry into Adult Dental Services in Australia stated about 60% of respondents to a survey said the average waiting time was more than six months.

One in five people said they waited a year or more.

Under NSW Health protocols, the recommended maximum waiting time for a general request for care is two years.

Where there is a need for an extraction, dental caries, wisdom teeth impacts or concerns at a child's lost baby teeth, it is a year.

For those in pain, it is a week to a month, and for a child aged up to five it is a month.

The health district figures include dental clinics at Murwillumbah, Mullumbimby, Pottsville and Goonellabah.



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