Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mobile Dental Care Service in Residential Aged Care Facilities - By Sandra Avila

In February this year, Matt Lee, (Project Officer - Mobile Dental Clinic, ACT Health, Dental Health Program) reported their dental health services are primarily for children and people with some type of concession and it is delivered by ACT Health. Matt mentioned that there are several dental clinics in the ACT which are located at Phillip Community Health Centre, Belconnen Community Health Centre, City Community Health Centre and Gungahlin Community Health Centre. When people have a dental emergency, they may have the appointment wherever they can see a dentist and the hospital takes emergencies during after-hours.

ACT MOBILE DENTAL CLINIC Image Credit : ACT Health
The mobile dental clinic was a commitment from the 2012 ACT Election and the government will invest $1.6 million over four years to establish and run the service. Funding for this project was given in August 2013. The mobile dental clinic was created to initially serve residential aged care facilities, special schools and to the young parents at the Canberra College Cares program. However, at the moment aged care facilities are their priority area.

Matt mentioned that one of the most challenging parts of this project was the procurement process and to prepare a detail submission on the requirements of the mobile clinic as there is not a lot of research in this area. A company in Queensland was selected to build the mobile dental clinic.

The mobile dental clinic was specifically designed for the ageing population including wheel chair accessible, water heaters and air conditioners. The main goal was to make the clinic functional for patients. They also have a reception and a sterilising area. A lot of electricity is required to run the clinic effectively therefore they installed generators and solar powers to ensure the track is environmentally friendly and uses energy from a responsible source. There were also a lot of inspections to ensure the clinic was operational and able to provide high quality dental services.

Matt also said that when they were in the designing stage they worked closely with a Local Health District in NSW as they started using a mobile dental clinic approximately two years ago. This was a very valuable process as the mobile dental clinic in the ACT was able to incorporate in the design the aspects that worked well for NSW and to avoid making the mistakes that they made in their design.

They started to trial this service at Salvation Army Mountain View Aged Care Plus Centre and they were there for about three weeks attending patients. At the moment they are determining how to deliver the service. Initially they wanted to see everyone within 12 months and go back for a check-up. Unfortunately this is not realistic so now they have implemented a triage process. They are still planning whether to stay at a residential aged care facility until they see everybody but this means that they would take a very long time to visit all the aged care facilities in the ACT.

There is little research about aged care and dental services and most of the research available is anecdotal. It can also be challenging to treat patients with severe dementia who cannot handle dental treatments.

Matt also commented that they have two dentists and two nurses and they rotate during the week and they also train junior dentists. They see all the people living at residential aged care facilities including self-funding retirees. However, they do not provide services for the residents of independent living units.  Before going to a residential aged care facility they send an information package to all the residents which include a letter explaining the process, preconsent forms for treatment and for dental screening and responsibility forms for those who have guardians.

Matt mentioned that they have received positive feedback from patients and there has not being many issues with the vibration of the track. They are in the process of setting up an evaluation system. At the moment they are able to report on how many patients they have seen and what treatments were provided. Fees may change later and this is something that is being reviewed.

Treatment in the ACT Mobile Dental Van :Image Credit: ACT Health 
They have contacted all the residential aged care facilities in the ACT and the majority of them have confirmed that they need dental services. It is expected to spend about two years getting around all the residential aged care facilities in the ACT.

They have been documenting the benefits of their service and collecting anecdotal stories. 

Matt showed to members of the group some photos of the mobile dental clinic.
At the moment they are unable to visit older people with mobility issues living at home as they are only visiting residential aged care facilities.

In the future they would like to go with the mobile dental clinic to public events such as the Floriade to educate people on oral health.

Members of the group were delighted to see this service being implemented in residential aged care facilitates in the ACT and congratulated Matt for all his work on the mobile dental clinic.

A video of the Health Minster talking about the Dental Van can be seen here.
The ACT Government Press Release can be seen here


Launching the ACT Mobile Dental Van. Image Credit: ACT Health


Author: Sandra Avila Secretariat Aged Care Consumer Reference Group

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