• PHOTO: CAHS Executive Assistant Beau Ewers with one of the chairs at Coonamble Dental Surgery in need of an on-site dentist.
THE COONAMBLE Dental Surgery remains without a resident dentist and the Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service says that the hole left by the departure of the last dentist is a problem for the whole community.
“The previous dentist left in December for bigger and better things,” said CAHS CEO Phil Naden.
“That left us in a challenging position to recruit a permanent dentist and we’ve been relying on locum dentists since before Christmas.”
According to Mr Naden, CAHS have been pulling out all stops to find a new permanent dentist and the package on offer is very competitive.
“The package comes with a house, vehicle and other incentives,” Mr Naden said.
“We’ve tried every avenue we can think off over the last 6 months to make it as attractive as possible in competition with other areas, but we are challenged with recruiting a full time dentist.”
“Younger dentists tend to choose bigger regional centers with on-site training and direct supervision on the ground but we need a qualified dentist or someone willing to be supervised on a remote basis.”
“We know that living in the bush comes with challenges and we experience the recruitment process for doctors to be similar, but it’s getting much harder to attract highly skilled clinicians to the bush,” Mr Naden said.
“While it is CAHS’ responsibility to recruit a dentist, ensuring that the service continues, oral health is closely linked to chronic disease and if we can’t have treatment locally the matter is a community issue and we need some longer term solutions.
“If we can have a collective view on how to progress this, whether it’s council involvement or other people then we’ll have a better chance of recruiting,” he said.
“We see clients from Gilgandra, Gulargambone, Quambone, Coonabarabran, Walgett and Lightning Ridge so the dentist is a regional hub for a lot of those people.
“If we can’t recruit a full-time dentist it’s going to affect not just Coonamble but those outlying communities.”
Acting General Manager Bruce Quarmy said that while council had not yet received a formal approach for support he expected that councillors would recognise the importance of the situation.
“Council provides accommodation assistance for the dentist. If we were asked to assist with recruitment it would need to be discussed in council but I’m sure council will do what we can to help,” he said.
For the moment, a service is being provided by locum dentists with the next one due to arrive on Tuesday and remain in Coonamble for two weeks.
They are supported by one full-time and one part-time dental assistant.
The children’s dental service continues to work out of Coonamble Dental Surgery every couple of months.