New P.E.I. dental program needed more time but is ready now, says government

P.E.I. Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is calling out the provincial government for its failure to deliver a promised dental program for low-income Islanders.

Program was promised for July 1 but just launched Friday

The new dental program will improve access to dental care for low-income Islanders, the province says. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

P.E.I. Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is calling out the provincial government for its failure to deliver a promised dental program for low-income Islanders.

The program would provide services for Islanders that fall in the gap between being on social services and not being able to afford private insurance.

Bevan-Baker said the Green Party first asked for the program in 2020, but it was understandably delayed by the pandemic. It came up again for the 2021 budget, and he said he was given a very firm promise it would be in the budget and launch July 1.

Bevan-Baker said he inquired about it in early July and was told it would be ready to go in a few days.

"Here we are, not just a few days later, but a few months later and the program has still not launched," he said.

"They're taking names and they're putting them on a list but as far as I know not one single Islander has received dental treatment through the expanded services that were promised to open on July the first."

'Making grand promises'

Bevan-Baker said he knows of constituents who are currently waiting to be seen under the program but have not been given an appointment time.

Peter Bevan-Baker says he has heard from constituents waiting for dental services. (CBC)

"It's a failure of government," he said. "This government, again, has developed this characteristic of making grand promises and then absolutely dropping the ball."

In a statement emailed to CBC news Friday, Health PEI says the provincial dental care program began accepting applications July 29 after an expansion in the eligibility criteria was approved on July 22. 

For Islanders who have applied and are eligible for the program, the province is sending out eligibility cards beginning Oct. 1. 

"This additional time was taken to ensure as many Islanders as possible could benefit and the result will be a comprehensive provincial dental program, among the most progressive in the country," said the statement. "We're very excited to be working with dental teams across the Island." 

Bevan-Baker listed the replacement for the Hillsborough Hospital, the establishment of mobile mental health units and the introduction of midwifery in the province as previous examples of the government overpromising and under delivering.

With files from Kerry Campbell


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