NORTH PERTH’S Special Needs Dental Clinic is hoping for an extended lease until it can move into a new permanent premises, with Vincent council preparing to turn Haynes Reserve into parkland.
The land is owned by the council and also hosts the Kidz Galore childcare centre. Last year after a concerted campaign by parents the council decided to let the childcare centre stay until 2025 to ease the transition.
The state government’s lease over the Sydney Street dental clinic ends in June 2021 and the council was going to start work on that half of the block as soon as July.
But in January clients asked for parity with Kidz Galore’s 2025 extension to give the clinic time to get into a new full-service site instead of being crammed into a smaller interim clinic at Fremantle Hospital.
Concerned parent Barbara Joan Martin wrote to the council saying it was important to minimise disruption for the clinic’s vulnerable clients.
She wrote the main candidate for an interim site only has room for two surgeries compared to the current clinic’s four. That’ll likely lead to a doubling of appointment waiting times, which are already at 14 months for a recall appointment.
She wrote that the the smaller site will “cause some of the staff (who are a valuable resource) to be dispersed throughout Dental Health Services diluting the skillset for this clientele” and also means fewer student placement spots: “A minute percentage
of dental graduates go on to study special needs dentistry”.
The possible interim site is also in a hospital setting which some patients have a phobia of, and it has lifts that some fear using.
Sam Carrello is the general manager of Dental Health Services WA and told the April 28 council meeting his focus was on not making the clients have to move twice:
“If we can avoid an interim solution — and an interim solution that’s not equivalent to what they have now – I think certainly the clients and consumers will benefit, so I ask for an extension, parity, similar to Kidz Galore if that’s possible.”
Mayor Emma Cole commented that the health department should have told them earlier that the clinic wanted to stay earlier in this lengthy process which had involved community and stakeholder consultation.
“A lot of work went into this and it was very difficult to hear from the Department of Health, after that process had concluded, that there was an issue in terms of their their lease,” she said.
“Whilst we’re dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the community who desperately rely on the service, and I have the greatest empathy, I also do feel that the Department of Health does need to provide us with a plan, that this is something that they should have done a long time ago.
“This has been put at the doorstep of the City of Vincent as something that we must do, but we really do rely on the Department of Health to come to us and tell us what their plan is.”
The request to stay longer only arose in January during a consumer forum as the department met with clinic users to plan the transition, and they heard about Kidz Galore getting an extension.
For now, councillors voted to give the state government a three month lease extension for “further time to secure an alternative site” with another three months offered if the health minister shows them a relocation plan and timeframe.
It’s unlikely the council will grant them a full extension to 2025 since it looks like Kidz Galore will able to move out early by 2023.
By DAVID BELL