As a long time dentist, I am acutely aware of the importance of good dental care on overall well-being. There are numerous studies that show poor dental health has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as well as the effect the appearance of your teeth has, for better or worse, on your mental health. I also know the financial barriers that exist for many Islanders who desperately need access to necessary dental care.
In 2020, the Official Opposition asked government in its budget submission to provide an additional $2.5M for dental coverage for seniors and low income Islanders. At that time, the King government promised to provide that funding.
In March of this year, we asked for an update on where government was with keeping this promise. In a statement to the media government said the program would be rolled out on July 1, 2021 – making it more than a year since making the promise to increase funding and service for seniors and low income Islanders.
Next week is July 1 and we are hearing crickets from the King government. Islanders promised this care are looking for answers. They are asking if there actually will be a program as promised?
The very successful PEI children’s dental program relies on partnerships between the government, public dental services, and private dental offices. A similar agreement will have to be struck in order to expand dental coverage to seniors and low income Islanders with no dental coverage. As far as I am aware, that has not happened. I am deeply concerned for those who are waiting eagerly for this program to launch next week.
This government has a consistent pattern of failure to deliver on promised programs and services. This has been distressing for Islanders who are counting on the critical care those promises are meant to meet.
One only has to think about the ongoing debacle around mobile mental health, the inability to deliver on the promised midwifery program, the perpetual delay of the new mental health hospital, the delay and fumbling of the roll out of the pre-kindergarten program, the failure to provide a family doctor for the 18k + Islanders who have been waiting years, the lack of planning to retain health professionals, and government abandoning its responsibility to provide primary care and hiring private companies who are not accountable to the public. Add to that a whole host of issues on housing, land, and so much more, the failure of this government to deliver on promises is staggering.
I am calling on the Premier to stop telling Islander stories, to be transparent and clear in the communications coming from his team, and to honour the promises he has made. Tell us exactly what we can expect July 1. Will you finally fulfill the promise to provide dental care to seniors and low income Islanders? Or is this just another story?
Honourable Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA
New Haven-Rocky Point
Leader of the Official Opposition