Quebec to offer free dental services to vulnerable people in 5 pilot projects

Quebec's health ministry is setting up five pilot projects to offer front-line dental services for people on low incomes or living in remote areas. The clinics could provide services to some 22,000 people.

2nd phase of pilot project is possible, with services provided to 600,000 Quebecers

The Quebec government is setting up five pilot projects to offer front-line dental services for people on low incomes or living in remote areas. The clinics could provide services to some 22,000 people. (CBC)

The Quebec government is setting up five pilot projects to offer front-line dental services for people on low incomes or living in remote areas.

At a news conference Monday, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced two clinics will be set up in Montreal, and one each in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts in the Gaspé, in Val-des-Sources in the Eastern Townships, and the city of Gatineau in Outaouais.

The Montreal clinics are the Dentaville clinic at Notre-Dame Hospital and McGill University's Jim Lund Dental Clinic. 

The five clinics, which could provide services to some 22,000 people, have an initial budget of $3 million for the first year. 

"We want to find a way to do this where clients' monetary issues are not an issue," explained Dubé.

"Unfortunately, with the system as we know it, there are a lot of people who go without oral care and shouldn't." 

Health Minister Christian Dubé, centre, made the announcement alongside the mayor of Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Simon Deschênes, left, and Chantal Duguay, CEO of the CISSS de la Gaspésie, right. (Marguerite Morin/Radio-Canada)

These pilot projects represent a first phase to reduce dental health inequalities, the province's Health Ministry said in a news release. If successful, a second phase is possible, and it could extend services to approximately 600,000 people — 7 per cent of the Quebec population.

When asked if this investment is a commitment by the Quebec government to expand public dental care coverage, Dubé explained that it was more a matter of solving local problems.

"We want to act in the regions with local issues. That's our approach," he said. Here [in Gaspésie] it is an issue of attracting dentists. It is not particularly an issue of remuneration."

Currently in Quebec, public dental services are offered to children aged 9 and under, residents in CHSLDs and beneficiaries of a social assistance program.

No dentists in Haute-Gaspésie 

The Haute-Gaspésie region lost its only dentist this summer, leaving 11,000 residents of the regional municipal county (MRC) without dental care services. 

The clinic of the dentist of who left was acquired by the local health authority  — the CISSS de la Gaspésie. It will be used to provide the front-line dental services in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. The province wants to hire two dentists, two hygienists, two assistants, a secretary and a part-time coordinator.

The clinic will welcome the entire population of Haute-Gaspésie, according to Nathalie Guibault, director of professional care at the CISSS de la Gaspésie.

"What is important is that people can have services within their means," she said.

No dates for the opening of any of the five clinics have been announced. 

Chantal Duguay, the president and CEO of the CISSS de la Gaspésie, said while waiting for the opening of the dental clinic in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, she promises that the residents of the region will have quick access to oral care services.

"Until we have a dentist on site, we have a transitional measure which is to set up a team of traveling dentists to come to Haute-Gaspésie," she said. 

'A step forward'

The Quebec Order of Dentists (ODQ) sees the pilot projects as a first step toward recognizing the importance of oral health care. 

"This announcement responds in part to a long-standing request by the Order to integrate a portion of dental medicine activities, including preventive care, into the public health system, which will allow for the implementation of more service corridors," said ODQ president Dr. Guy Lafrance in a release.

He sees this investment as "a step forward", but maintains that "there is still a long way to go to give access" to these services to a greater number of Quebecers.

With files from La Presse canadienne, Radio-Canada


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