Shadow Minister for Health Sean L’Estrange has called on Health Minister Roger Cook to address a shortage in dental health services for young children in the South West.
Mr L’Estrange said children aged between two and five in the region were being referred to Princess Margaret Hospital for surgical treatment of extensive dental decay and oral infections instead of being treated locally.
“There are a limited number of specialist paediatric dentists in WA and I am advised that only one currently works in regional WA,” he said.
“When children suffering from dental decay require treatment under general anaesthesia, a specialist paediatric dentist needs to perform the treatment and it is important these specialists have reliable and regular access to hospital facilities and general anaesthesia services.
“This is not the case in the South West and most children are being referred to PMH to receive the paediatric dental treatments they need.”
Mr L’Estrange said he received information provided by a specialist paediatric dentist that there were empty operating theatres in the South West suitable for surgical treatment of children but were not currently being made available for use.
“The Minister for Health should be working with the Health Department to make regional facilities available for specialist children’s dental care so children can receive treatment in their local community,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook said concerns around dental care in the South West were not new with the former Liberal-National Government failing to address the issue.
“Upon coming into government, we have been working closely with a range of stakeholders to ensure the best patient outcomes can be achieved to complement the services the State Government already provides,” he said.
“WA Country Health Service will continue to review its surgical and paediatric services in the South West and consider options for future delivery of paediatric dental services based on identified need.
“I understand the level of inconvenience associated with these sorts of travel.
“Patient safety needs to be put first and in an emergency, it’s important patients are being correctly referred to the appropriate specialists including Perth-based facilities if that’s where the treatment is available.”