The Newman government and Health Minister Lawrence Springborg will axe millions of dollars in funding for the essential James Cook University (JCU) Dental School in Cairns in a move which will not only affect dental care for the region but trigger a drought of future dentists.

In Cairns today, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Health Minister Lawrence Springborg’s Director-General had recently informed the university that State Government funding for the dental school would cease by the end of the year.

Ms Palaszczuk said information obtained by the Opposition show the Health Minister decided to end the funding of $45 million committed by the Labor Government four years ago.

“In the 2010 State Budget the former Labor government committed this $45 million over four years to the dental school specifically to provide clinical teaching facilities,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“That was to provide teaching facilities so Queensland and James Cook University could maintain its reputation as a world leader in training our future dentists.

“Now, with a stroke of his pen, the Health Minister has decided this funding will end this year and that’s because he doesn’t care about training our future health professionals and he doesn’t care about providing services like dental care to public patients.

“This is a critical 80-seat training facility for the nation. For the past six years it has been pivotal in providing public oral health care for the state’s far north.

“It is one of just three dental schools in the country located outside of a capital city.

“But rather than continue to support such an important facility, Lawrence Springborg and Campbell Newman want everyone to turn up to their dentist with their chequebook or credit card.”

Shadow Treasurer and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said Far North Queenslanders were paying the price for the LNP’s slash and burn approach to frontline health services.

“This decision to end funding to the school leaves little option but for JCU to go it alone to fund what had previously been an important partnership in delivering public dental care,” Mr Pitt said.

“It may mean future generations of dental professionals will now have fewer and fewer options to study.

“This is particularly pertinent to the education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as future health professionals.

“This dental school is committed to not only educating locals but in training students in the unique needs and challenges of the Far North.

“This funding cut is the latest in an ongoing series of cuts to health services by Campbell Newman who – in his ‘Contract with Queensland’ – promised to ‘revitalise frontline services’.

“This is a disgraceful decision and any of the tens of thousands in the region who have used this service and anyone who has trained at this school will recognise that.”