Clare Batterham has been on the Warwick Hospital Dental Clinic waiting list since 2006.
Clare Batterham has been on the Warwick Hospital Dental Clinic waiting list since 2006. Toni Somes

Long dental delay causes pain

CLARE Batterham waited four years to see a dentist, at times relying on painkillers to ease agonising toothache. But but despite repeated calls to Warwick Hospital’s Dental Clinic she was never allocated an appointment.

Eventually she wrote to her local parliamentarian Lawrence Springborg pleading for assistance, yet even that failed to land her a spot in the chair.

Begrudgingly, tired of the toll the constant pain was taking on her body, she scraped together every spare cent and invested in private health insurance.

Earlier this year her broken tooth was fixed after a series of appointments with a private Toowoomba dentist, but the Yangan woman remains out of pocket financially and out of sorts with our public health system.

“The public dental system has failed me completely,” Mrs Batterham said.

“I have been a taxpayer all my life, yet when it comes down to it, we can’t expect any level of health care in return.”

Official documents from Queensland Health show Mrs Batterham has been on the Warwick Hospital Dental Clinic waiting list since December 1, 2006.

When she contacted the clinic in October last year with toothache she was told it wasn’t an emergency. She then made repeated unsuccessful attempts to secure a regular appointment for treatment.

Frustrated, she finally called the clinic to ask how far down the waiting list she was and in what time period she could expect to see a dentist for a standard check-up.

“They told me I was so far down the waiting list I would probably never get an appointment,” Mrs Batterham said.

The realisation of her painful predicament hit hard.

“I knew I couldn’t keep coping with my tooth, so I scraped together everything I had and got private health cover so I could see a dentist,” she said.

“Even though I couldn’t afford it, I really didn’t have any choice.

“But I am very angry with the system; the government has really let me and others down.

“I know there is no real shortage of dentists, because I got into a private one straight away, why can’t the government work out some arrangement that reduces the waiting list.

“Four years is simply not acceptable.”

Her story was alarmingly similar to that of another Warwick resident.

The 73-year-old farmer has also been waiting for dental treatment at the hospital clinic.

For the past three months he has battled toothache so severe he relies on a constant diet of painkillers to get him through the day.

When he contacted the clinic he too was advised to use the 8am to 8.30am daily time slot period to take advantage of appointments set aside for emergency treatments.

“They told me to ring up and they’d call back by 10am that day if I’d been successful,” he said.

“Well for days I did that; I’d phone in, explain my case and then sit around the house until 10am waiting for them to let me know.

“But they never did.

“And eventually I got tired of ringing in every day and then waiting around when I should have been out working the farm.

“You know I have paid taxes for years and years, ever since I started working, and now I can’t even get a dentist’s appointment when I need one.

“I am not on a pension, I’m not bludging off anyone, but the fact is I can’t afford to go private.”

He has resigned himself to the fact he will have to endure the toothache and continue to rely on painkillers to function.



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