Dentists leave a hole

HEALTH minister Lawrence Springborg said he is "absolutely concerned" about the hole left by the resignation of both dentists at Warwick Hospital.

Both dentists have accepted positions elsewhere, with one dentist leaving next week and the other leaving on August 1.

The gap will leave just two oral therapists at the hospital, with a Toowoomba dentist set to commute to Warwick to treat more serious cases.

The Toowoomba dentists would look after dental patients who have toothache, infections or other symptoms requiring urgent care.

Mr Springborg said the issue of retaining dentists in public hospitals was an ongoing problem.

"Rural dentistry is one of our biggest issues in rural hospitals and it has been a problem for years," he said.

"It's not about funding, it's about attracting them and keeping them there.

"You can't put your neck on them and make them stay - it's a free world."

The health minister said there were many reasons dentists moved on, including pursuing a private practice.

He said the government was working on a number of ways to lure and retain doctors in the public sector.

Dentistry students will soon occupy chairs at the Warwick Hospital and Mr Springborg said he believed this would inspire dentists to stay in the public sector.

"We hope that will expose dentistry students and give them experience and passion for working in rural public hospitals," he said.

The dentist shortage is another hit to a system which is already struggling under the weight of lengthy waiting lists.

"Dental waiting lists in public hospitals are pretty long but having said that, Queensland has the greatest level of access to public dentistry in all of Australia," Mr Springborg said.

Darling Downs acting chief executive Dr Peter Bristow said an extensive recruitment program to replace these positions had not delivered any suitable applicants.

"Unfortunately previous advertising has been unsuccessful in securing dental staff however we hope to attract a suitable candidate in the future," he said.

"I regret the interruption to normal service delivery.

"Anyone calling Warwick Hospital with dental enquiries will be triaged and given an appointment according to the urgency of their case."

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