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States fail their dental patients despite record funding.

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Media Release

Senator the Hon Kay Patterson Minister for Health and Ageing

16 July 2003

States Fail Their Dental Patients Despite Record Funding

The States and Territories have failed to direct record hospital funding to the vital area of public dental health care, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

Public dental patients had been let down by the States' and Territories' failure to give the proper priority to dental treatment for patients.

Senator Patterson said: "Provision of dental care at State dental services is clearly a State responsibility.

"The Federal Government has provided record funding to the States and Territories. They had a 28% real increase in their hospital funding over the past five years and we are offering them an extra $10 billion in the new hospital funding agreement.

"While we have provided record resources, some of the States have been short-changing their dental patients."

The Auditor-General in Victoria said in a recent report that the Bracks Labor government had failed to deliver adequate access to dental services.

The Victorian Council of Social Service estimated that the Bracks Labor government had delivered a "real and effective cut" of 1.26% in the 2003 budget.

Senator Patterson said: "We are offering the States a 17% real increase in funding over five years and the Bracks Labor government is cutting dental funding by 1.26% this year.

"The States have clearly dropped the ball on their responsibilities to treat public dental patients. Despite record funding from the Federal Government, they have treated their dental patients as second-class citizens."

Senator Patterson rejected claims by the Federal Labor Party that the Commonwealth delivered direct dental health programs.

The Keating government introduced a temporary, one-off dental program in 1994. It spent $254 million and reached its target of treating 1.5 million people.

Senator Patterson said the Howard Government had committed long-term, record funding to the State hospitals to ensure they were properly resourced to ensure they could meet their commitments, including delivery of dental services.

"We have also assisted the States by taking the pressure of public hospitals with the 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate. To put it in context, we allowed the States to keep a $2.5 billion windfall gain from the huge growth in private health insurance members. That is 10 times more than the $254 million that the Keating government gave the States for dental care," she said.

Senator Patterson said that the Government's 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate is helping provide 20 million dental services a year with an annual payout of $1 billion to fund members.

For more information contact Randal Markey, Media Adviser, (02) 62777220