'Doorknob with a string' cited amid dental cuts

Opposition critics say some people will suffer because the spending on an adult dental care program is being cut.

Health Minister lays blame at foot of Liberal government defeated almost a decade ago

New Democratic and Liberal critics say some people will suffer because the Newfoundland and Labrador government is cutting spending on an adult dental care program that even government calls a great success.

NDP critic Gerry Rogers says people will suffer because of cuts to adult dental care. (CBC)

"I am not sure if prosperity looks like a doorknob with a string on it attached to someone’s infected tooth," NDP health critic Gerry Rogers told the legislature Monday while questioning Health Minister Susan Sullivan.

"I do not know about the members over there on that side in the NDP party, but I am going to tell you we take this a whole lot more seriously than suggesting there is a string tied onto a doorknob anywhere," Sullivan responded.

"That is absolutely outrageous."

The adult dental program overspent its budget, largely because more people took advantage of it than had been expected.

The government is now putting a cap of $150 per person on basic dental services, with $750 on denture care.

Rogers asked Sullivan why government pushed ahead with the change without consulting the Newfoundland and Labrador Dental Association, which has said the caps will make it hard for patients in pain to be properly treated.

Sullivan said the program remains appropriately funded, and accused the NDP of trying to capitalize on the cut.

"Since I have come to this department, everything that I have heard from the other side is about sustainability," Sullivan told the legislature.

"I have heard it time and time again from them. Now they are over there saying we need to spend more — we need to spend more. Well, which is it?"

Sullivan said $6.7 million has still been budgeted for the program.

Rogers said she and other MHAs are fielding calls from people "in a panic about their own dental care."

Liberal critic Andrew Parsons also raised the issue — and was told by Sullivan that the former Liberal government was to blame for dental care problems in the province.

The Progressive Conservatives defeated the Liberals to form the government almost 10 years ago, in October 2003.

"Because nothing was done for all of the years that they were in government, there was a much larger uptake than anyone could have anticipated at $21 million," Sullivan told the house.