28 November 2019

Auditor General’s report shows Victorian Government still failing public dental patients

The Victorian Auditor General’s Office tabled a report in Parliament today on the follow-up to the 2016 audit of Access to Public Dental Services in Victoria. This follow-up report examined how the public dental sector and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has performed in responding to VAGO’s 11 recommendations from 2016.

The Auditor General delivers a concerning scorecard for this government, with only one of the 11 recommendations completed over the past three years, noting that 'there remains more work to be done' to complete all the recommendations by December 2020. As a result, adult public dental patients continue to face unacceptable delays to access care, with an average waiting time of 20.2 months across Victoria, and with patients in some areas waiting more than three years for basic dental care.

The Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch (ADAVB) applauds the focus on prevention throughout the report, noting that prevention is critical to improving oral health. However, there is still an urgent need to increase funding for adult public dental services to address the significant burden of disease that already exists in the community. According to ADAVB CEO A/Prof Matt Hopcraft, 'There are more than 1.5 million Victorian adults eligible for public dental care, but only 220,000 receive care each year, leading to significant deterioration in oral health for many vulnerable Victorians'.

The ADAVB is also concerned about the lack of transparency in waiting list data for patients to assist them in improving their oral health. 'We have had to rely on Freedom of Information requests to better understand the gaps in the system and advocate for improvements. This information should be more readily available to the public,' said A/Prof Hopcraft.

The ADAVB has just launched a campaign encouraging people to Take Control of their oral health and visit the dentist (findadentist.adavb.org) on a regular basis to help maintain good oral health. Lack of investment from the Victorian Government means that this is almost impossible for patients who rely on public dental services. 'There is an urgent need for the Victorian Government to boost funding now for adult public dental patients and work constructively with the Commonwealth to build a sustainable model for public dental care,' A/Prof Hopcraft added.

As the Auditor General notes, good oral health is important in its own right and is strongly linked to general health and well-being. The ADAVB remains committed to working with the Victorian Government and all stakeholders to improve the oral health of the Victorian community.