CLINIC PUTS BITE ON NORAH
By DAWN COHEN
NORAH Goreing is worried she won't live to see her new set of dentures.
The 77-year-old's worn-down dentures are so sharp they shred her mouth instead of her food when she chews. But she's been told it may take five years before she gets new teeth.
"It hurts to eat," the Ballina woman said. "My mouth often fills with blood, and the blisters get very bad. It has been like this for two years."
At an appointment in February last year the Ballina Dental Clinic said she must wait five years for new dentures.
"I hope I live long enough to enjoy a meal without the worry of pain," she said.
In July last year Ms Goreing's daughter, Melina, approached general practitioner Dr Janet Coleman for a letter of urgency.
But it was only in February this year the clinic gave Ms Goreing another assessment.
"The dentist said 'What good do you think this letter will do?," Melina Goreing claimed. "He said it would not reduce the waiting time.
"I am so upset seeing my mother suffer like this when there is nothing I can do."
North Coast Area Health Service spokesperson, Robin Osborne, told The Northern Star, Ms Goreing would have her teeth by the end of the year.
"It will be very early next year at the latest," he promised. We have never had a waiting list longer than two years, so it's hard to understand how she could have been told five years."
Dental clinics have been plagued by long waiting lists since the Howard Government scrapped Paul Keating's initiative of a $250 million annual subsidy of free dental care for Health Care Card carriers in the 1996/1997 budget.
NSW Ballina MP Don Page agreed the waits were appalling.
"While the federal subsidies have been withdrawn it is important to remember dental health is a State responsibility," he said.
A NSW Upper House Social Issues Standing Committee inquiry into dental health begins at the end of the month. With only 10 public dentists between Tweed Heads and Grafton, rural communities are the worst hit by the lack of dental services, said Australian Democrat MP, Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who instigated the inquiry.
"If you have an abscess on your bum you can get treatment. But if it's on your gum you can't."
Members of the public can can provide the inquiry with information. Call 9230 3370 for details.