New data released under Freedom of information shows Victoria’s public dental system is plagued with excessive wait times and a failure to keep up with demand.
At the end of May 2018 there were over 152,000 Victorians waiting for treatment and sometimes those patients are waiting for years.
For the 12 months ending May 2018, average community dental waiting times are:
• 20.5 months for general dental, with Sunbury Community Health at 36 months and Merri Health in Brunswick at over 32 months;
• 17.1 months for standard denture care, at one clinic in Maryborough there is a staggering 39-month wait and 35.5 months at Echuca; and
• 10 weeks for priority denture care, with patients in Ballarat waiting 20 weeks and Bass Coast Health 13 weeks
Maryborough, Echuca and East Grampians have the longest wait times in regional Victoria. Patients in Maryborough wait 26 months for dental and 38 months for denture care. Echuca at 26 months for dental and 35 months for dentures, while in East Grampians patients wait 30 months for dental and 23 months for dentures.
While those in Melbourne’s north wait the longest in metropolitan Melbourne. Merri Health have a wait time of 32 months for dental and 25 months for dentures, while Your Community Health (covering Reservoir, Northcote and Preston) have a 22 months for dental and 34 months for dentures.
Victorians are waiting in pain, and dental conditions are one of the top causes of avoidable hospital admissions.
In May this year Jill Hennessy announced some additional dental funding to ‘blitz’ waiting lists before the end of the financial year saying “waiting lists have ballooned out to more than 19 months for general care and 17 months for denture care.” However, the opposite has occurred with wait times increasing further to 19.5 months for general dental care and 17.9 months for denture care at the end of June.
This is in contrast to four years ago when Victorians waited an average of 11 months for general dental, and, compared to mid-2015 when data was first published for dentures, denture wait times were 10 months.
Further, the Labor Government has failed to publish detailed waiting list data, instead requiring it to be ordered under FoI and has also failed to deliver the Oral Health Action Plan promised by December 2017.
Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Health, Mary Wooldridge:
“Under Daniel Andrews’ more Victorians are waiting longer for vital dental services.”
“As we start Dental Health Week, Daniel Andrews needs to stop blaming everyone else and instead step up and take responsibility for the dental health of Victorians.”
“The first step would be to increase transparency and publish waiting list numbers and times by clinic so the full extent of the dental challenges are available for all to assess.”