On Jan. 13, the city’s board of health approved spending upwards of $687,700 in one-time provincial funding to purchase a new dental bus to provide oral health to adults and seniors in low-income areas. – The Hamilton Spectator file photo
As poverty levels expand into suburban and rural areas of Hamilton, public health staff acknowledge they need to “rethink” how a new dental health bus will service seniors in the city’s outlying areas.
“Given all the capital requests that have not been approved,” said Jennifer Vickers-Manzin, director of healthy families, “we need to rethink where the dental bus will serve seniors in our community.”
On Jan. 13, the city’s board of health approved spending upwards of $687,700 in one-time provincial funding to purchase a new dental bus to provide oral health to adults and seniors in low-income areas. Vickers-Manzin said the new bus was initially supposed to replace the city’s existing aging bus, but the city may operate two buses instead because the province didn’t provide for all the city’s capital requests.
She said a revised service plan to provide the dental care program will be presented to the board of health in June.
Vickers-Manzin agreed with councillors who represent rural areas that public health officials will have to reorganize where are the most beneficial areas for the dental bus to service seniors.
Last fall, public health officials revealed that the need for oral health among low-income seniors were concentrated in the lower city, the east end and the mountain.
Councillors argued, however, that there are pockets of low-income seniors in Flamborough and Stoney Creek’s rural areas that are in desperate need of dental services.
“There are many (seniors) living in poverty in rural areas,” said Coun. Judi Partridge, who represents Flamborough.
The city’s current dental health bus operates five days a week in a variety of locations across the city, servicing mainly adults and seniors. In 2018, the bus had 1,104 appointments for 490 seniors, while turning away nearly 590 clients.
Coun. Tom Jackson, who introduced the motion to buy the second dental health bus, said there are “many, many of our low-income seniors who don’t have benefit plans or disposable income.”
Public health officials estimate there are up to 10,230 low-income seniors who would benefit from the city’s oral health program.
The province is providing Hamilton with $2.248 million in operating costs for dental services to assist about 4,000 low-income seniors across the city. The province last year announced one-time capital funding of $25 million for dental care to municipalities.