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Federal Government invests in rural dental workforce

The Federal Government’s $4 billion dental health reform announcement has put regional healthcare services back in the spotlight.

The Dental Health Reform program includes $225 million to improve access to dental services for people living outside the city centres.

The Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says the commitment recognises that those services are not currently available to many regional Australians, regardless of their financial situation.

“We know that there are a lot of parts of the country where even if you’ve got money in your pocket, you can’t see a dentist because there isn’t a dental chair nearby or there isn’t a dental workforce available to treat you,” she said.

“So there’ll also be an extra investment in dental workforce and dental infrastructure.”

The Alliance’s Gordon Gregory says the $225 million commitment to boost rural dental infrastructure and workforce and will help regional and remote Australians access the large funds allocated to dental care for children and low-income earners.

Mr Gregory says it’s been a long time coming.

“We’ve now got formal recognition, on budget, that oral and dental health is the particular responsibilty of the Commonwealth Government, working together with the states.

“There’s plenty more pushing and shoving to do, particularly to make sure the states do the right thing, but these are great announcements.”

Yesterday’s financial commitment from the Government has health service accessibility back in the spotlight.

And it comes shortly after the Senate Community Affairs Committee handed down 18 recommendations to government to improve the availability of health services in rural and regional Australia.

Endorsed by its Labor, Liberal and Greens members, the committee’s recommendations back initiatives that lobbyists have been demanding for some time.

That includes HECS rebates for allied health students who go into rural practice and a review of the controversial classification system that rates how remote a town or city actually is.

The committee’s chair is West Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, who says the fact that the report’s recommendations were endorsed across party lines means there is now a committed group of senators willing to lobby their colleagues hard to get the government to adopt the recommendations.

In the meantime, Senator Siewert says there are other recommendations that would not cost the government money which could be pursued immediately, and that includes stricter enforcement of the 25 per cent quota for medical student places to go to students from rural areas.

Mr Gregory says the National Rural Health Alliance will also be lobbying for the government to adopt all 18 recommendations.

 Reinvent Your Career would like to thank ABC Rural where this article first appeared.

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