Budget cuts abate future dental clinic projects: CSU

21 May, 2014

Shortly after the government delivered its controversial budget, various media outlets reported that Charles Sturt University (CSU) had been dealt a particularly devastating blow with funding for its dental clinics being cut and their future jeopardised.

Tim West, Dean of CSU recently spoke exclusively to MedicalSearch to assuage some of those allegations, although he says there's no denying budget policy has resulted in missed opportunity.

MedicalSearch: What are the major areas CSU will be impacted by federal budget funding cuts? How will they be affected?

Tim West: The biggest difference to CSU was the fact that we had funding we were trying to secure which has now been confirmed as being removed. This funding was meant to be for training seats at the area of our new Port Macquarie campus.

The people who are the biggest losers of this are the people of the mid North Coast because we would've been offering additional services that would actually have allowed students to be trained in that area and hopefully to stay and become dental practitioners within the area. The immediate need will now not be met, so the long-term health need for the area will also not be met.

MS: Was this project to be similar to the Bathurst clinic set up in 2011?

There are two areas that the Bathurst campus has: the wellness clinic and the dental clinic. The dental clinic is already well established; the wellness clinic is something we're still seeking project partners for.

What opportunities would it have provided for CSU dental students and the Central Coast?

TW: In Port Macquarie, the plan was to work with the mid North Coast local health district to add seats to the capital plan that was going to allow us to have some capacity for studentships up there, and accommodation as well. That now isn't going to happen, and we now need to work with mid North Coast local health district. Some CSU staff are presently up there holding discussions about what our other options are.

Initial reports that we no longer have funding for our Bathurst clinic are wrong and unfounded. We have funding for it and it's not affected at all.

We've got clinics in Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Albury – and all those dental clinics are operational and are flourishing. The operation of these clinics is not without challenge due to the continually changing landscape of health care delivery. However those are facilities which we are enormously proud of, and places where we can provide dental health therapy, and oral health care to regional communities.

The plan was to add Port Macquarie to that list. I've spent a good year trying to tie down that funding because it was funding that was to be passed from the federal government to the state government. We were working intensively with the mid North Coast to secure that funding for the capital build.

MS: What other areas of CSU will be impacted by dental funding cuts?

It's early days yet, however there are issues about the higher education student fee increase. Notwithstanding we have an excellent post-graduate employment record, so even if the fees were to be greater, I still think that living in rural Australia actually gives very good value for money for students in terms of their overall living cost.

I would hope students will understand that anything to do with their education is money worth spending.