Mrs McARTHUR: My question is for the Minister for Health. Minister, the average waiting period for patients to see a dentist in the Barwon region is now 32.4 months. The Labor government has bragged about its new policy of free dental care in all Victorian state schools. Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft of the Australian Dental Association has pointed out that in addition to the average of 32.4 months, when people get off the waiting list they have to wait another 12 months to get back on it again, making some have to wait nearly four years between dental appointments. Given Labor has now been in power for almost five years, what are you doing to reduce the totally unacceptable waiting periods for residents of Geelong needing public dental care who are not of school age? 

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services):  Thank you very much for that question. I can tell you that what the Andrews Labor government is doing to address public dental waitlists is that in this year’s state budget we have made a historic investment. We have made the biggest ever investment in our public dental scheme. We are investing $321.9 million in this year’s state budget to roll out free school dental vans right across Victoria, and we are prioritising South Barwon as one of the first four areas that will get the benefit of the rollout from term 3 of this year. This is going to take pressure off the entire public dental system. We anticipate that when we have fully rolled out the school dental vans, that will visit every government school—both primary and secondary—in this state, we will free up approximately 100 000 additional appointments in the public dental system to enable more adults and to enable more pensioners and others who rely on the public dental system to access appointments. The only two organisations that have been critical of this fantastic initiative, that is going to save families about $400 a year on average and make it convenient for kids to access dental professionals, are one, the Victorian Liberal Party—who are failing to get on the phone to their mates in Canberra and ask them to reverse the 30 per cent cut to public dental funding that we receive from the commonwealth that would help to take pressure off our waiting list—and the second organisation, of course, is the organisation representing private dentists. Well, that is a huge shock that they might be upset that their members might be losing some business as we provide free dental screening and treatment to every child in a government school in Victoria. We know that this initiative is going to be a huge win for Victorian families. It is going to be a huge win for Victorian children. The biggest reason for preventable hospitalisations for kids under 10 at the moment is dental issues. It is a huge win for children, and it is also a huge win for those adults who are on waiting lists. The other point that I would make— 

Ms Crozier interjected. 

Ms MIKAKOS: I have just said, Ms Crozier—you are a bit slow to catch on—that we are going to free up 100 000 appointments for adults and others who rely on the public dental system. The other point to make, of course, is that we prioritise children under 12 and others who are not reflected in that data, so I think it is important that you are aware that priority patients are not in fact reflected in the data you have quoted. 

Mrs McARTHUR: Thank you, Minister, for your question and your answer relating to schoolchildren. I did ask the question relating to adults. Given this could be described as yet another debacle by this government, but since you are totally responsible and cannot off-load it to the Attorney-General, I ask: will you join the shadow minister, Ms Crozier, and me on a visit to Barwon public dental clinic to see firsthand the impact of Labor’s cruel waiting times on those adults desperately in need of dental care? 

Members interjecting. 

The PRESIDENT: Order! I find that is more of an adjournment matter than a question, but I will let the minister answer the invitation. 

Ms MIKAKOS: What I would say is I would invite all local members, if we can all fit in, to join me in one of Dan’s vans when it goes down to South Barwon. You are welcome to join me to check out the brand new Dan’s van that will hit the South Barwon schools later this year, because this will be a huge win for children and families in that local community. The point that I wanted to make to the member is that we prioritise children under 12 and others who are not captured in the waiting list data. That in fact accounts for half of the people who get support through the public dental system every year. In fact if you do actually include those priority patients in the data, the waitlists are far, far less, because those people are not in fact included in the waiting lists. Those are in fact not included in the waiting lists. So what I can say to the member is: join me in supporting Dan’s vans, because those smile squads will be fantastic for the people of Geelong.

18 June 2019