Senate report includes Alliance proposals to address rural dental health care

04 December 2023
Dental worker with patient

The National Rural Health Alliance (Alliance) is pleased to see that several of our key recommendations on access to dental services in rural Australia have been heard and incorporated in the final report of the Senate Select Committee into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services in Australia.

The report refers to the Alliance’s position on the need to improve access to oral health care in rural Australia. The Alliance’s submission and verbal evidence at hearings before the Senate Select Committee in Launceston in August 2023 stressed that the universal health system is not looking after 30 per cent of the population living outside of urban centres.

The Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) model proposed by the Alliance, has also been acknowledged in the Senate report. The model, if funded appropriately, would support multidisciplinary teams including access to dental and oral health practitioners in rural areas of Australia.

“We recommend the government increase and implement appropriate funding mechanisms to support flexibly funded and delivered public oral health services in rural communities,” said Susi Tegen, Chief Executive of the Alliance.

“It is pleasing to see that many of the Senate recommendations that specifically mention rural and remote oral health, align with our recommendations.

“We require better strategies to support and improve the dental workforce supply and funding for community-based oral health services in rural areas. The Alliance calls on the federal and state governments to commit to the recommendations of the National Oral Health Alliance, of which the Alliance is a member, as well as commit to a National Rural Health Strategy to bring scattered and inconsistent rural health initiatives under one umbrella,” said Ms Tegen.

The Alliance recommendations also included support of training programs and recruitment and retention of dental health professionals, including public health clinics, where oral health is needed.

Rural Australians have access to fewer dental practitioners per capita than their city counterparts and, overall, have poorer oral health than people in major cities. Oral health status generally declines as remoteness increases. Barriers to oral health in rural areas include the lack of water fluoridation, lack of oral health practitioners and oral health preventative measures, geographic isolation, and transport costs. As market fails, rural communities require the assistance of federal and state Government. The Alliance views this disparity as unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately. Click here to access the Alliance’s submission to the Senate inquiry.

Media Enquiries: 

Kathya de Silva, Media and Communications Officer, National Rural Health Alliance, 0470 487 608

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