Home' News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin February 2015 Contents 27
Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme is funded by the
Australian Government and administered by Rural Health Workforce Australia.
To see if you're eligible:
Freecall: 1800 475 433
Government grants are available for registered general dentists
who want to work in private practice in a location more regional,
rural or remote than their current location.
Look what's on offer:
• Relocation grants of $15,000 to $120,000
• Infrastructure grants up to $250,000
The 2015 funding rounds are:
• 23 February--27 March
• 7 September--9 October
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK.
Open to opportunities
in rural Australia?
with those who should have some idea, we find it hard to
imagine it would cost less than $35,000 to $40,000 per year on
average with around 60-80 students per year, the dental hospital
contribution being much larger in the final three years.
Currently, the Adelaide University administration has reduced
its administration fee for overseas fee paying students (around
A$50,000 per year) to 50%. However, even the $25,000 remaining
will not go far towards covering the real costs of training these
students. This is why so many dental school budgets are always in
the red. One of our largest schools is reported to be $12 million in
debt, making it very difficult to gain the administration's approval
to advertise for replacements for the increasing numbers of dental
academic staff resigning.
And how many of our brightest students in their right mind would
want to take up an academic post? The constantly 'in debit'
budgets require ever longer teaching hours for clinical staff in
particular. I am aware of some staff at the Adelaide School with
31 hours of 'face-to-face' teaching, leaving lecture preparation and
marking of assignments as a home time necessity. It is extremely
difficult for most staff to engage in much needed research. The
pay at the junior staff levels is extremely low compared with even
government dental salaries. It is an extremely stressful job with few
rewards. It is also increasingly difficult to bring in overseas trained
academic staff as AHPRA will not recognise their qualifications to
undertake clinical teaching.
What is being done to remedy the situation and what needs to
be done? Most schools are looking for lower cost approaches to
teaching, with students required to spend more time in simulation
laboratories than in treating actual patients. IT applications to
lectures and tutorials help a little. For many, clinical years have
extended to 42-45 weeks, ensuring a more cost effective use of
dental chairs and a greater student contribution to reducing public
dentistry waiting lists.
In SA this is still considered an inadequate compensation for
the costs incurred to ever shrinking state health budgets. Extra
opportunities to hone clinical skills are currently available for
graduating students, though these courses do not alleviate the
current problems. Some schools have adopted a full fee paying
approach to BDS level courses, thus making them accessible mainly
for only wealthy applicants.
If deregulation of university fees comes into effect, it is expected
very large fee hikes will be introduced particularly for dentistry. This
would be a major step backwards in dental professional education.
Of course there is little point in asking for a special deal for
dentistry education. Why should dental students receive more than
other equivalent course students? However, clearly the funding for
the current approach to dental education is inadequate and has
contributed to the current stresses and crises. I believe there is an
urgent need for widespread discussion within the profession as to
different approaches to our educational programs, to ensure the
quality of dental education is not further diminished and that it is
a viable option to all bright students seeking to enter it.
A number of options need urgent consideration. Clearly, if
we want to ensure a ready supply of teaching cases at an
undergraduate level, we have to ensure the state health
departments receive compensation in term of 50 weeks a year
student presence during the clinical years and a reasonable
assurance of service outputs. This would introduce the concept
that dental students must accept the need to make an extra
payment to the health departments in terms of out-of-course time
clinical treatment of public patients, in addition to their yearly
university fee payments. This would be a much better option than
a huge hike in fees, and at the same time provide the clinical
experience necessary to move directly into commercial practice.
A totally different approach, which has been widely discussed, is
to have a four year course with a pre-registration requirement to
undertake one or two intern years in public health dental clinics, as
well as in accredited private teaching practices, to fine tune their
very basic clinical skills. The current voluntary intern year project
will provide good evidence on how effective and beneficial an
intern year might be.
When universities find they receive greatly reduced numbers of
local student applications to enter dentistry, they will be forced to
top up student numbers with increased numbers of overseas fee
paying students. However, they need to realise this would work
in terms of public dental hospital support through the provision
of teaching case patients only if universities ensure a sufficient
proportion of overseas students' fees are paid to dental school
budgets to ensure their costs are totally neutral to both university
and DOH costs in training them. While this would result in less
income to universities from their fees, it would compensate for
reduced local student applications, so long as the immigration
officials do not permit such overseas students to remain and
practise in Australia.
Clearly, urgent discussion is essential. This is a personal
perspective and I would welcome any corrections to inadvertent
misinformation or alternative views. However, I am sure we will
all agree there is a major crisis present which can only get worse.
Hopefully, this article might promote further discussion via the
News Bulletin, both to clarify the present situation and present
and discuss other possible solutions.
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