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HomeNewsLow income residents forced to go to ER for dental care

Low income residents forced to go to ER for dental care

More than 550 Kawartha Lakes residents visited a hospital emergency room in 2015 for dental-related problems because they couldn’t afford a trip to the dentist according to the Haliburton Kawartha Pineridge District Health Unit and advocates say that needs to change.

The Ontario Oral Health Alliance is calling on the Ontario government to invest in publicly-funded programs that can cover dental care and treatment for low-income adults and seniors and save money for the health care system.

 “Tax dollars should be used to treat or prevent dental problems, which will save money in the long run and ensure limited hospital resources go to the patients who really need the care,” says Anna Rusak, a member of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance’s Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Chapter.  

Using the most recent data from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the local chapter of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance says that 551 dental-related visits were made by Kawartha Lakes residents to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) in 2015.

A total of 322 dental-related visits were made to Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay in 2015, while 229 Kawartha Lakes residents went to ERs at other hospitals for dental-related problems. “People who visit hospital ERs with dental problems can only get painkillers, prescriptions for antibiotic or referrals to a dentist they couldn’t afford in the first-place,” Rusak notes. 

Residents on social assistance receive limited dental benefits in Ontario. Most other publicly-funded dental assistance programs are limited to children and youth 17 years of age and younger according to the Alliance. This age restriction, according Rusak, means that low-income adults and seniors with serious dental problems suffer in pain because they cannot afford to see a dental professional for proper care.

The average cost of a hospital visit in Ontario is approximately $513, meaning dental-related hospital ER visits by Kawartha Lakes residents in 2015 cost the health care system nearly $283,000. Says Rusak: “These funds would be much better spent on programs that cover oral care for adults and seniors who face dental problems, but cannot afford to see the dentist. It would certainly reduce unnecessary hospital visits and save health care costs in the long run.” 

The local chapter of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance started a petition calling on the Ontario government to immediately expand pubicly-funded dental programs to cover low-income adults and seniors. They collected 325 signatures. Staff at the Dental Clinic at Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes support the petition and say since they opened in 2011 more than 3,200 residents have received care and treatment,

“By enabling our fellow community members to get access to dental services, we help them lead healthier, fuller lives,” says Margot Fitzpatrick, Clinical Program Manager at Community Care CKL. “This also reduces the financial and emotional burden on families, while also reducing the impact on the health care system.”

 

photo credit: akrabat Dentist via photopin (license)

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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