Terri Bradley from West Tweed has been unable to eat fresh vegetables and seeds while she languishes on the waiting list for new dentures at the Tweed Hospital Dental Clinic since 2015.
Terri Bradley from West Tweed has been unable to eat fresh vegetables and seeds while she languishes on the waiting list for new dentures at the Tweed Hospital Dental Clinic since 2015. Scott Powick

Waiting list a big toothache for pensioner

A TWEED pensioner has been unable to eat hard food such as nuts and fresh vegetables for more than two years as she languishes on the public waiting list for new dentures.

Terri Bradley, 75, was added to the waiting list to get new partial dentures at the Tweed Hospital in late 2015 after being unable to afford the several thousand dollars quoted to go through the private system.

Still waiting and told it will be at least another year before she's seen, Ms Bradley has had enough and is calling for action on wait times for dental care at Tweed Hospital.

The Tweed Heads West resident believed upgrades to the hospital's dental clinic, which included 12 new training beds, should have improved service times.

"I thought this was going to make a big difference, but it's gotten worse," Ms Bradley said.

For about three years, she has been unable to eat nuts, seeds or "anything healthy that is a bit crunchy or hard", which she previously tried to eat to help manage other health problems.

When she phoned recently for an update on her place in the queue, she was told the clinic was still seeing patients on the waiting list since 2014.

"This is just not good enough," Ms Bradley said.

"Once again the elderly are being forgotten."

Opposition spokesman on health Walt Secord said the Berejiklian Government had "dropped the ball".

With average waiting times across the state of more than 14 months, MrSecord - who last week met with the Australian Dental Association's NSW branch - has called for a targeted north coast dental program to address the long waiting lists.

"It is shameful that elderly pensioners are suffering with toothaches, bloody gums and general dental pain," Mr Secord said.

Mr Secord said waiting times for general dental treatment in NSW increased 46 per cent from December 2014 to December 2016, up from 9.73 months to 14.24 months.

But Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones said the waiting list had decreased since the Tweed Hospital's Dental Clinic was given a $2.4million upgrade in 2014.

He said this boosted the number of dental chairs from four to 10, while a new dental student facility was also constructed.

Mr Jones said there were 1742 patients on the dental waiting list, which did not include those needing urgent care as they were seen immediately.

He said patients seeking public oral health care were triaged and prioritised for appointments according to their "treatment needs, symptoms, associated risk factors and other indicators".

He said a dental prosthetist had recently been appointed to the clinic to help meet the region's demand.

NSW Health committed $229million to dental care across the state this financial year, with demand for public dental services increasing by 37 per cent from 2011-12 to 2016-17.

To be eligible for oral health services at the Tweed Hospital, you must be aged 18 years or older, have a Medicare card, live in the local area and have a valid national concession card.

Phone 1300651625 to access NNSWLHD oral health service.



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