Oral health project hits teething problems

Completion of a $7.93 million "regionalised" Community Oral Health project in the Southern district has been delayed until the beginning of next year.

Last week Southern District Health Board members heard that most of the project had been implemented under budget by March, though the delivery date for three mobile units has now been delayed until January.

Other setbacks include the construction of a two-chair fixed clinic for the Wakatipu area, which was put on hold while the long-term future of the Lakes District Hospital site was determined.

The oral health project began in 2009 with a three-year time frame to develop a single oral health service for residents within the Southland and Otago district health boards, before the board amalgamation in 2010, with capital funding from the Health Ministry.

A review of costs showed the project was 2.6 per cent under budget, because of factors including a deal to locate a hub clinic at the University of Otago, bundling of construction work into packages to achieve better pricing through scale, and unused contingencies in the construction budget. The oral health project to "harmonise" systems for better regionalisation of services has been part of a national strategy that all district health boards have been developing, the report says.

The key objectives have been to construct district health board-owned fixed clinics, buy mobile clinics and equipment to support the new service, and improve oral health for children and adolescents, with an emphasis on early prevention.

The Southland Times