Councils should help old folk with dental care

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 1:20am

While Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long, legislative representative for the health services constituency, believes the government should provide better dental care for the elderly by setting up clinics for this purpose in all 18 districts ("Government must ensure elderly get affordable dental care", May 28), it is obvious that the community in general has squandered a glorious opportunity to provide this service through the Signature Project Scheme.

Each of the 18 districts has been allocated HK$100 million to fund the selected projects.

Unfortunately the scheme did not allow sufficient time for public consultation so many of the projects put forward by the councils have raised little enthusiasm in their communities as residents feel that they have been deprived of the opportunity to propose projects that could really make a difference.

Every district in Hong Kong has a quota of elderly residents living in straitened circumstances. Many of them are denied one of the greatest pleasures in life, sitting down to a delicious meal, because of oral decay. Not only can they no longer enjoy their favourite food, these old people are deprived of certain nutrients.

Moreover, gum disease, poor oral hygiene and cavities lead to swallowing and feeding problems and general ill health. Conditions like pneumonia often result; lack of energy and general malaise are inevitable.

It is most disappointing that the district councils did not unite in providing a service throughout Hong Kong that would have greatly improved the quality of life of so many people of both local and minority origins. If the communities had set up the clinics and provided the equipment, then the government would have had no option but to fund the annual recurring costs.

Good dental hygiene is in fact a potentially cost-saving intervention so the expense of running these clinics would be recouped through savings on other health services.

There is nothing more inevitable than the fact that we will all grow old. Many old people no longer have the energy to enjoy sports and rigorous activities.

Visiting shopping malls and other crowded places is no longer pleasurable. Surely, as a community, we must ensure that the ability to enjoy good food is a given right of everyone in their twilight years.

Any district that has not yet allocated its HK$100 million should give serious consideration to providing this service. Those councils building community centres should include a dental clinic in the plans.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai