BALLARAT’S public dental waiting list squeeze will reduce with the announcement of the site for a new $8.34 million public clinic and training facility.
Phoenix P12 Community College, previously Sebastopol College, was yesterday announced as the site for the Ballarat Health Services dental care facility, geared towards helping the region’s most needy.
The 20 extra dentist chairs, 10 of which will be used for training by La Trobe University, are expected to ease the public dental waiting list crisis.
At one stage Ballarat was the worst in the state with a waiting time of 56 months for dental care.
It was only four years ago that 5000 adults in Ballarat were stuck in the local public clinic’s queue, with another 34,000 eligible for the service.
In helping to ease this pain, the federal government last year announced the $8.34 million for the facility through the Health and Hospitals Fund.
BHS chief executive officer Andrew Rowe said the dental care facility would allow synergies to be developed between different organisations.
“Not only will it be a great community hub and dental facility, it will also provide education with 10 of the chairs to be used for training by La Trobe University Bendigo,” Mr Rowe said.
“The new custom-designed building will help to meet existing demand as well as cope with increased demand in the future.
“Historically there has been a shortage of dentists in Ballarat — as this facility will be involved with training hopefully it will encourage more dentists to stay in Ballarat.”
Phoenix Community College has hosted a dental van on the Hertford Street campus for three years, which has enormously improved students’ access to dental health.
Assistant principal Phillip Findlay said the new dental facility would meet the demands of the expanding Ballarat south west area which includes Sebastopol and the new suburb of Lucas.
“Education, shopping and now health services are all growing and improving in the area, making it accessible for the growing population. Sebastopol is becoming an even more important geographical part of Ballarat,” he said.
Ballarat MP Catherine King said she hoped the centre would drive down the wait for dental appointments.
“One of the key issues raised constantly with me is the wait for dental services — so this is great news for Ballarat but even more so for Sebastopol, Delacombe and Redan areas,” Ms King said.
BHS dental manager Tracey Wilson said the announcement was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for dentistry.
“It’s not often dental is allocated government funding,” Ms Wilson said.
“It’s the first time we’ve been able to teach dentistry which will be positive for the area, not only from a development point of view, but also recruitment and retention.
“The facility will be available for healthcare card holders, pensioners and children under 12 years of age. Non-eligible people will continue to visit their private dentists.”
Construction of the new facility is expected to begin early in 2013 and open when school commences in 2014.