Plan to boost dentistry in the regions

DRAFT FOR DENTISTS: the government is calling for rural oral health professionals to have their say on a new draft to support oral healthcare in the regions and attract dentists to work there. Photo: File
DRAFT FOR DENTISTS: the government is calling for rural oral health professionals to have their say on a new draft to support oral healthcare in the regions and attract dentists to work there. Photo: File

A draft plan to strengthen the oral health workforce in rural South Australia has been released for consultation as part of the state government's $20 million Rural Health Workforce Strategy.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said the draft plan identified a range of strategies to support and sustain the rural oral health sector and is asking for feedback from professionals in the field to improve the draft.

"The plan will both support those currently employed in the regions as well as attracting new oral health workers into the regions, meaning more South Australians will have better access to important oral health services," he said.

Port Lincoln Dental's Dr Mark Hopkins said more public health dentists, more rural internship opportunities and support for regional students within the dentistry degree would help improve access to oral health facilities and attract people to the regions.

"Having a reliable emergency dental after hours service is sometimes a bit challenging, particularly in recent years as they are particularly costly to run."

He said putting a focus on placements and supporting regional students in Adelaide studying dentistry would increase the likelihood of graduates coming back.

"For students completely unfamiliar with rural South Australia, packing up from the city and setting up life is a different situation, that's quite foreign," Dr Hopkins said.

"If people come from the regions, they're already comfortable going back."

Rural Support Service chief clinical advisor Dr Hendrika Meyer said the draft plan aimed to assist in recruiting and retaining oral health staff in regional South Australia and help those new to the field with early career support structures.

"The draft Rural Oral Health Workforce Plan aims to establish networks to support oral health clinicians with ongoing professional development, and better pathways for the management of complex care," she said.

The draft Rural Oral Health Workforce Plan is open for consultation and written submissions until Friday, November 12, and will accept submission from both the public and private sector.

To access the draft plan, visit sahealth.sa.gov.au/ruralhealthworkforce.