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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 130

(Question No. 1217)


Senator Patterson asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 March 1994:

  (1) What is the rationale for excluding denture services from the Government's Dental Health Program.

  (2) What alternative forms of assistance are available to the frail and aged who require denture services.

  (3) How will the Government ensure that frail and aged residents of nursing homes and hostels have access to the Government's Dental Health Program.

  (4) What, if any, research work has the Government undertaken into the unmet demand for dental services by residents of nursing homes and hostels, and what were the results of this research.


Senator Crowley —The Minister for Human Services and Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) The objective of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program is to improve the dental health of financially disadvantaged people in Australia. While the Government would like to see a general improvement in access to all dental services for Health Card holders, the available funding had to be targeted necessarily to the area of perceived greatest need and most productive outcome. The Program therefore focuses on restorative and preventive services with the aim, wherever possible, of avoiding unnecessary extractions of teeth.

  (2) States and Territories provide a variety of denture subsidy schemes for low income earners who require denture services. Delivery of such services to the frail and aged varies between jurisdictions, but generally is arranged through a combination of domiciliary dental units, on site dental clinics, visiting dental practitioners and transport assistance for clients to attend a local clinic or a major dental hospital.

  (3) States and Territories are responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program. Delivery of services under the Program to nursing home and hostel residents will be an extension of current arrangements for services under State and Territory Programs. As with denture services and other dental care for residents of nursing homes and hostels, delivery of Commonwealth Program services will vary between jurisdictions, but generally will be delivered through a combination of domiciliary dental units, on site dental clinics, dental practitioners visiting homes and hostels, and transport assistance for clients to attend a local clinic or a major dental hospital.

  (4) The Government has not specifically commissioned research into the demand for dental services by residents of nursing homes or hostels. The National Health and Medical Research Council has, however, provided funding of $10,000 to researchers at the University of New England for a project entitled "Strategies to improve equity in oral health care for the rural aged". The purpose of the research is to investigate access to dental care for aged people living in rural areas, including those residing at home or in nursing homes. The results of this study are not yet available.