The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is calling the government’s response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety “lukewarm, half-hearted, and disappointing.”
“The government’s response to the recommendation will do nothing to change the oral health of older Australians,” said ADA president Dr. Mark Hutton.
The ADA said that the Royal Commission’s final report was unequivocal about the endemic neglect of the oral health of those in residential care. The report also supported most of the ADA’s proposals, including:
- Implementing the ADA’s solution for improved access to dental care for seniors by adopting the Seniors Dental Benefits Schedule (SDBS)
- Increasing the oral health skills of care staff through mandatory minimum qualifications
- Increasing the time that care staff devotes to residents with a mandated higher ratio of care staff to care recipients
- Improving the access of care recipients, their families, and staff to professional oral health assessment and care, advice, and referrals, training, and support
The government’s response fell significantly short of the expectations of the commissioners and the community, the ADA said.
“The failure to adopt the SDBS, saying funding adult dental care with the role of states and territories with National Partnership Agreement support, demonstrates a lack of understanding of what is needed,” said Hutton.
“Given both the unaffordability of private health insurance for increasing numbers of older Australians and the chronic underfunding of the public dental system with its disgracefully long waiting lists, setting up such a scheme is critical to improve and maintain the oral and general health of millions of older Aussies including those accessing aged care services,” said Hutton.
“While the government has accepted some of the commissioners’ and our recommendations including ringfencing funds to educate and train existing staff, even that doesn’t go far enough as it fails to stipulate training specifically in oral healthcare,” said Hutton.
“And most recommendations they’ve accepted are subject to further consultation with the states or further review, with outcomes that can’t be predicted,” Hutton said.
“The ADA calls on the Morrison Government to acknowledge the impact poor oral health has on general health and well-being of the community and to work with them to develop permanent solutions to the many issues raised in the commission report before the oral health of the nation’s older citizens deteriorates further,” Hutton said.
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