The West

Dentist Ray Owen. Picture: Michael O'Brien/The West Australian

A 2 1/2-year wait for non-urgent dental work at Morley General Dental Clinic is the human impact of a waitlist which has blown out almost 150 per cent under the Barnett Government, the Opposition says.

Shadow health minister Roger Cook highlighted the Morley case as he lashed the Government for failing to add any new beds to public dental clinics across WA since coming to power, compared with 39 added under Labor.

The average waitlist across all WA general dental clinics, which cater for low-incomes earners with health or pension cards, is 25.8 months. The number of West Australians waiting for appointments grew from 10,500 in September 2008 to 25,800 in June.

Gosnells private dentist Ray Owen said the blowout was because the State Government decided last year that low-income earners could no longer have a voucher to attend private clinics if public clinics were too busy.

"They have stopped all of those patients seeing any private dentist and now there is no assistance unless you go to a public clinic," he said.

Health Minister Kim Hames agreed the Morley waitlist was "excessive" but claimed the Commonwealth was responsible for funding public health care outside hospitals.

But Australian Dental Association WA chief executive Stuart Gairns said public dental care had always been a State responsibility.

"The waitlist has crept up in the past few years but, in comparison with other States, it's fairly run of the mill," he said.

A spokeswoman for the North Metropolitan Area Health Service said all urgent patients were seen at general dental clinics on the day.

She said the number of card holders administered by the Commonwealth had grown.

"There has also been an increased awareness among the population that subsidised dental care exists for eligible patients," she said.

"It is this awareness that is driving up the number waiting for non-urgent dental care."

The West Australian

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