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On Day 1, only about 15% of B.C. dentists have signed on to new federal plan


As of May 1, the new federally-run Canadian Dental Care Plan provides coverage for nearly two million low-income seniors.

Joining the program is optional for dentists.

Dr. Robert Toews at Foundation Dental in New Westminster didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“As soon as I heard the program was going to happen, I realized we are going to help a lot of people in the community who don’t get access to care on a regular basis, and that's inspiring,” said Toews, who saw his first patient who was covered under the new plan on Wednesday.

Dr. Jordan Galpin at Burrard Dental Clinic in Vancouver also signed on right away.

“When you have a patient come in and you know they need certain work, and the biggest limiting factor is they can’t afford it, it’s frustrating for the patient and frustrating for the clinician,” said Galpin. ”So I’m excited that when we see cases that need to be done, we can offer that, and price is no longer a major limiting factor.”

But those two clinics are in the minority. According to the BC Dental Association, only about 15 per cent of providers in the province have signed onto the new program.

“Unless the program demonstrates that it’s not going to cost more to the private practice to execute, dentists will not want to sign up,” said Wendy Gaudet, the director of City Care Dental in Surrey.

Concerns about cost aren’t the only thing keeping 85 per cent of BC dentists on the sidelines. Gaudet says the new program appears to be modelled after a similar plan for indigenous people that dentists found difficult to navigate.

“They’re taking a program that didn’t work well for First Nations and they want to execute this and somehow help 9 million Canadians, and I think it’s going to be the classic over-promise under-deliver. This program is not going to provide the care people think they are going to get,” said Gaudet, who added she wants to see how it works for the 15 per cent of B.C. dentists who have signed on before making a decision.

”Before I sign up as a private practice, we want to wait and see,” Gaudet said.

Galpin says the program, which is being operated by Sun Life, appears to work fine.

“We have had some patients come in today, and it works just like any other Sun Life plan. So we had a patient come in for a new patient exam, scaling, we had to cement a crown, and Sun Life processed it immediately,” he said.

Right now, only seniors 70 and older can make appointments, and the program is means-tested.

Toews is worried if more dentists don’t sign up as new age categories are added, British Columbians who finally have coverage won’t be able to find a provider.

“Over time, if we are one of the only ones, then we won’t be able to provide a whole community with access, and it takes all the community to do that.” Top Stories

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