DUBBO will this week host the last of three public hearings at Charles Sturt University, which hopes to train rural dentists to stay in regional NSW.
On Friday, the third parliamentary inquiry hearing will take place at CSU Dubbo where they will discuss the availability and affordability of dental services in the country.
The inquiry will inform the National Partnership Agreement, effective from July 1 next year, which is a significant component of the government's Dental Care Reform Package.
Head of CSU's School of Dentistry and Health Sciences Professor David Wilson said comments, in a submission from the Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) to a parliamentary inquiry into adult health services in Australia, recognised the potential contribution the program could make to rural health services.
"The CSU dentistry program was created in collaboration with rural dental health experts, and with the help of the wider profession," he said.
"The program is designed to encourage and support rural students take up a career in dentistry, with the hope they will go on to long and successful careers working in rural and regional areas."
The submission urged the government to maintain and support university dental programs for rural students, and said undergraduate dentistry courses delivered from regional campuses, such as the CSU program, were critical to addressing the shortage of dentists willing to work in rural areas.
Professor Wilson said anecdotal evidence suggested that many rural and regional students did not wish to study in Sydney and that students from Sydney were not interested in relocating to work in the country.
"It has already been seen through the (university's) Bachelor of Oral Health program that graduates are choosing rural and regional employment as their first choice, with many graduates being from a rural background.
"Australians living in rural areas deserve the same access to dental health services as people living in the cities," he said.
The Western NSW LHD's submission also highlighted the contributions made by students working in university clinics in Orange, Dubbo, Bathurst, Albury-Wodonga and Wagga Wagga, but said community access was hampered by the lack of Medicare rebates for student-delivered services.
Other terms of reference at Friday's meeting will include the demand and waiting lists for dental services and the mix and coverage of existing dental services.
The public hearing will be held at the CSU Dental and Health Clinic conference room from 11am to 4pm on Friday.
The first cohort of qualified dentists will graduate at the end of this year.