Andrea Horwath visits Bright Smiles Community Dental Hygiene in Chatham. April 4, 2018. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Horwath Visits Chatham To Discuss Access To Dental, Health Care

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath made a stop in Chatham to discuss how her platform will make dental and health care more accessible to local residents.

Horwath toured Bright Smiles Community Dental Hygiene in Chatham on Wednesday and discussed the need for the NDP’s Dental Care for Everyone plan.

Christine Fairbairn, owner and dental hygienist at Bright Smiles Community Dental Hygiene, says she gets phone calls and emails every day from people in Chatham-Kent living in pain and looking to her clinic as a last resort because they can’t afford a traditional dentist.

“There is a huge gap in our health care system. Dental isn’t addressed, so everybody’s on their own to provide their own care,” explains Fairbairn. “If they have employee benefits, a lot of people struggle with the co-pay… so say they’re responsible even for just a fraction for their bill, that is a strain on a lot of people [who] are working paycheck to paycheck.”

Fairbairn says she runs a charity called “Give Where You Live” and hosts a free dental hygiene day at the clinic every other month. She says she works with the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit to host those days and typically sees 16 clients at no-cost each clinic.

She says Justin Hayes is a patient who she holds near and dear to her heart.

“After I saw him, he explained the situation his wife was in with her oral care, so I saw her as well, and I get to see their kids through the Healthy Smiles program every six months,” explains Fairbairn. “It’s nice to see him smiling. He says his gums aren’t hurting like they used to and when he chews it doesn’t hurt.”

Horwath took the opportunity to speak with Justin and hear about how he can’t afford to help his daughter, who needs five cavities filled.

She also took the opportunity to discuss the NDP’s Dental Care for Everyone plan, which would publicly fund dental coverage for millions of Ontarians on social assistance and seniors who don’t have retirement benefits. According to Howath, every employer and working person will have premiums, but they will be very low.

“Unfortunately people are ending up in emergency rooms when they could be having their concerns dealt with earlier on,” she says. “We’re paying the highest price really for care because we’re not helping people to stay well in the first place.”

The NDP leader says as part of her proposed dental plan, the party would help expand access by putting dental suites into community health centres. In remote and rural communities, she says there will be mobile dental buses.

Howarth has also tabled a universal pharmacare plan, which would provide drug coverage for everyone in Ontario regardless of age income or job status.

“As opposed to having a situation now where you can only get your drugs filled if you have a plan or pay out of your pocket, this will be the opposite,” explains Horwarth. “Everybody in Ontario will be able to go and get their prescription drugs filled. It doesn’t matter how old you are — from day one until the end, you will have access to prescription drugs.”

Horwath says the NDP will start with about 70% of the most common prescriptions and make sure that all of those prescriptions are available on day one of the plan. She says there are about 1.4-million people in Ontario that don’t get their prescriptions filled because they can’t afford it.

“It’s an issue that helps maintain quality of life for people, as well as take huge stress levels off the shoulders of parents particularly when they can’t take care of their kids because they can’t afford it,” she says. “It’s a humanity issue. Why should people be walking around with pain in their mouth and why should people be unable to take the prescriptions they need to stay well?”