Dental hygiene plan hits snag

Thousands of Haifa school children are being denied subsidized dental care because of a dispute over the NIS 30 fee for the program.

teeth 88 (photo credit:)
teeth 88
(photo credit: )
Thousands of Haifa school children are being denied subsidized dental care because of a dispute over the NIS 30 fee for the program, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. The local parents' association and municipal education officials are blaming each other for the impasse over instituting the special Dental Health Project in all the city's schools from first to ninth grades. According to the report, the program would enable about 16,000 children to have their teeth checked and to obtain necessary and otherwise costly dental treatments, including fillings and extractions. The program, which is particularly aimed at the many impoverished families who cannot afford regular dental care, is to be funded jointly by the city, the Health Ministry and parents, with the latter paying just NIS 30 per child per year. The program already operates in some 70 local authorities around Israel. But municipal officials and the local parents' organization are blaming each other for holding up the plan in Haifa, with the city saying the parents' organization has refused to authorize the NIS 30 fee, and the parents' organization saying it will not do so as long as the city continues to make unilateral decisions on the issue. A parents' organization spokeswoman said that although the organization had asked for more information on the project and had asked to be made party to any decisions, the city had not cooperated and had not answered its requests. A municipal spokesman said the city regarded the project as so important that it was introducing the first stage even without parents' help. In this stage, all schoolchildren will receive a free check-up and a lesson in oral hygiene, and will be given a free toothbrush and toothpaste. In the impoverished Hadar neighborhood, about 2,000 children will also be introduced to the second stage of the project, which will include any necessary treatments. Donors will subsidize this part of the project. The report said that irrespective of whether parents and municipal officials come to an agreement in Haifa, the Health Ministry has announced that it is preparing a plan to include free dental care for children under 18, as well as for the elderly in the basket of services provided by the medical funds. The ministry's plan, however, has yet to be approved by the Finance Ministry.