Dr Karin Alexander, National President of the Australian Dental Association (ADA) has been in the media quite a bit this week. In previous years, around 93% of Australian dental graduates have found full-time employment, but that the number dropped to 83% at the end of 2012.
So why has this happened?
In 2006, there was data that suggested there would be a shortage of dentists in Australia by 2010. The government allowed more dental schools to open up, and put dentistry on the Skilled Occupation List, thereby increasing the number of overseas trained dentists coming to practise in Australia. In 2006, there were around 50 overseas trained dentists who sat exams to become registered and practise in Australia, and this number grew to around 250 in 2012. Subsequently, there has been a dip in the number of full time positions in the ADA’s national dental news bulletin, and an increase in the part-time jobs advertised.
How does the Australian Dental Association think this problem could be solved?
The ADA would like the government to put a cap on the number of dental students/graduates in Australia (cap at 460 instead of current 580) and take dentistry off the Skilled Occupation List until a detailed and unbiased workforce survey is completed. The ADA is also calling on the government to invest in infrastructure in rural areas. That is, setting up dental rooms in public health facilities so that dentists can visit rural areas to provide services. Dr Alexander says that setting up private dental practices in rural areas can be cost-prohibitive as there is not the population to sustain such practices. She has also suggested that a model for funding the relocation of dentists to non-metropolitan areas may be in the pipeline.
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