The timing of 21 GPs’ planned strike action – starting Friday in support of dentist colleagues – has disappointed their iwi employer Te Runanga O Toa Rangatira.

Ta Matiu Rei, the executive director of Te Runanga O Toa Rangatira (TROTR), said it supported the right to strike of the GPs, who work across the iwi’s five Wellington practices, but not their claim to include the dentists in their collective agreement.

The salaried GPs, who belong to Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) have voted to walk off the job for five one-hour stoppages from 9am on December 7, 10, 13, 18 and 19 December, followed by a full-day strike on 24 December. They are seeking for the two dentists employed by the iwi’s Ora Toa primary health organisation (PHO) to be covered by the same ASMS agreement, citing the precedent that other ASMS agreements, particularly its agreement with DHBs, cover both senior doctors and dentists.

Ora Toa established the dental service in the Porirua suburb of Cannons Creek in 2008 as was one of five Māori health providers to receive Ministry of Health one-off funding in response to putting forward business cases for improving Māori oral health.

Rei said the Ora Toa collective agreement related specifically to medical practitioners and it would not be appropriate for the two different professions with different training, specialty areas and registration bodies to be covered by the same agreement.

He said it was also mindful of its funding model. “We receive first contact primary care funding from government for our medical practices, but very little public money for our adult dental services,” said Rei.

“This issue highlights a lack of public funding for adult dental care, and in particular how it can impact on the delivery of dental services in the community.”

There have been repeated calls over the past year for new models of funding and care for adult dental services kicked off by former Prime Minister Helen Clark  asking whether dental care should be a basic health right. These have prompted a debate about whether dental therapists should play an increased role in adult dental health services or concentrate on improving dental services to children and adolescents.


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