Dental cap hardest felt in the country

IF the Australian Dental Association is so concerned about the employment prospects of dental graduates it should be lobbying the government to cap enrolments at metropolitan universities but leave regional institutions alone.

The association represents a profession with some of the highest-paid graduates and lowest unemployment rates of any group in Australia.

It seems determined to keep it that way, but at the expense of Australians living in regional and rural areas if need be.

If Canberra was to heed the call of the association and cap all dental enrolments, the effects would be hardest felt in hundreds of regional centres and towns, not in the suburbs of our big cities.

In the latter, the net outcome might well be to reduce the number of dentists per head of population, but as with doctors and other medical professionals, the ratio of dentists to the general population is far higher than in regional Australia.

A reduction in the number of dentists in regional areas could be disastrous for some communities.

If equity of access to dental care is also a priority for the association, a far better strategy would be for it to support the expansion of dental programs of the type run by Charles Sturt University (CSU). 

Orange is well serviced by most health professions but it is the exception not the rule.

For most regional towns and communities it is critical that more dentists are attracted and there is little argument that the best way to do that is to train dental students from regional areas.

In the dental association’s call for tighter restrictions on the number of dental students, there are echoes of the Australian Medical Association’s stance in the 1990s to limit the number of medical students to avoid an oversupply of doctors.

The difference now is that CSU is here as an outspoken advocate of tertiary education policies  that are in the best interests of regional Australians.

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