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Wairarapa Dentists booked up after the limitations of lockdown

HELEN HOLT

 

Wairarapa’s dental patients need to book well in advance, as appointment times try to keep up with demand.

A Times-Age survey of dental clinics found no appointments available at several dentists across the region, including Lumino Dentists and Greytown Dental.

Meanwhile, Masterton Dental had appointments available if booked two weeks in advance.

Kevin Wong Dental Surgery in Masterton required bookings one week in advance for registered patients but had a few emergency appointments available each day.

Park Road Dental in Carterton had immediate appointments available. But for high school students – who could receive free treatment – the earliest available afterschool appointments were in July.

A spokesperson said the appointments were sent to their enrolled patients in advance, so the timeslots booked out quickly.

True Dentistry in Carterton had the capacity for new patients and had one emergency appointment available each day. However, this appointment was usually booked out by 8.30am.

True Dentistry dentist Tiff Logan said the sector was rushed off its feet.

“The population has been increasing, and the services haven’t kept up,” she said.

“Also, with covid, we haven’t had the opportunity to employ internationally trained staff.

“Healthcare in all scenarios is lacking staff, including hygienists, and we’re short of doctors.”

Logan said no-shows from college-aged patients caused further delays.

“We endeavour to see our patients when they have a problem.

“When the college kids book the appointments and don’t turn up, it means a regular patient with toothache can’t be seen.

“If the kids rang up to cancel, we could potentially give that appointment to someone else.”

The New Zealand Dental Association’s access to care spokesperson Katie Ayers said most dental practices had been extremely busy throughout the covid-19 pandemic.

“Some regions are definitely more affected – generally smaller towns and more remote areas where it can be hard to attract dentists, such as West Coast, the Tairawhiti Coast, and Southland.

“There are a few factors. During most of the lockdowns, we could only provide urgent or emergency care, so we got quite behind with our check-ups. The Dental Council rules did ease over time, allowing us to provide more routine care so long as we had the correct PPE.

“Prior to covid, we had about as many new dentists arriving from overseas as we had graduating from the University of Otago. This has not been the case since the pandemic started.”

Ayers also said that a small number of dentists were not currently practising due to the vaccine mandate.

 

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