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Local woman 'appalled' at lack of options for seniors' dental care

'We should be embarrassed. This is the Sunshine City,' said local senior, who tried to access subsidized dental care for an abscessed tooth, but found no local options
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A local senior is frustrated with a lack of local options for those seeking care under the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP).

Cathy Hammond was left in “excruciating pain” from an abscessed tooth in late August when she tried to access care through OSDCP, but she learned there are no local options for the program in Orillia.

“My face was so swollen up. I've never had anything like that before,” Hammond, 69, told OrilliaMatters.

Regionally, OSDCP is administered by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, providing low-income seniors who qualify with an array of free or subsidized dental services. There are clinics in Gravenhurst and Barrie, but none in Orillia.

When she called to try to set up an appointment, Hammond questioned why there were no dentists available in Orillia to treat her.

“She said there’s no dentists in Orillia, and I said, ‘Well, why aren't you getting more?’ I asked the hard questions,” she said. “There was no real good answer to it, and I was kind of appalled. I think, as a taxpayer, I deserve so much better.”

As she has no vehicle, Hammond wound up paying around $400 out-of-pocket to a local dentist for treatment.

“I don’t have a vehicle. I am a poor senior,” she said. “I sold a painting so I had money, and I had to pay (a local dentist).”

Hammond noted she has lived in various places across Canada, and she said she finds healthcare in Ontario to be subpar.

“In northern Manitoba dentists used to just fly in, but that was years ago,” she said. “I just find Ontario very appalling.”

Moving forward, Hammond would like to see local opportunities for seniors to access OSDCP.

“It's unfortunate that there's just not one dentist in Orillia,” she said. “You can see all sorts of sad stories about seniors that can't even find a decent place to live, or get health care or anything, and we should be embarrassed. This is the Sunshine City.”

Simone Guenette, manager of the health unit’s oral health program, said OSDCP is administered solely by the health unit’s two clinics in Gravenhurst and Barrie.

“SMDHU is not planning to develop a dental clinic in Orillia at this time,” Guenette said.

However, Guenette mentioned the health unit will help seniors arrange transportation, if needed.

“SMDHU guides and helps clients through navigation, including aiding in finding transportation, such as coordination with organizations such as Helping Hands,” she said.

Due to provincial rules, private dental offices are unable to administer the program, Guenette added.

“As per the Ministry of Health guidance … private dental offices are not able to be included in the delivery of the services, as this delivery of this program lies solely with Public Health Unit clinics,” she said.

More may be read about OSDCP here.

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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