25 Jun 2014

Dental system 'worse' for children

11:56 am on 25 June 2014

Replacement of school dental clinics with community hubs is proving a new barrier for children's dental care, a health workers' union says.

The Ministry of Health has closed hundreds of school dental clinics around the country, replacing them with mobile clinics and hub clinics.

Dentist treating patient.

Photo: AFP

National Union of Public Employees secretary Janice Gemmel told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the plan was to create better access to dental care for children but community clinics are open only during working hours and that is creating barriers.

"Often people can't get off work to take their children. Clearly that must be a concern for getting through and more importantly, do the children even get picked up."

Robin Whyman, the ministry's dental officer of health when the new model was designed, said opening hours are challenge that needs to be overcome.

"These clinics were always built with the expectation that we could look to be flexible, with ideas of longer working hours, and some DHBs are trialling that. "There have been some trials operating in evenings and Saturdays.

"So those things I think will evolve into the system as people begin to understand how we need to operate the system."

Mr Whyman said it was important parents attended their children's treatment at the hubs where more serious dental work is done.