Media Release

16 May 2022

The NZOHA supports industrial action by the Public Sector Oral Health Therapists and Dental Therapists.

Te Ohu Pūniho Ora o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Oral Health Association (NZOHA) is supporting our members in the Community Oral Health Service (COHS) by taking industrial action by members of the Public Service Association calling for better working conditions, more recognition of oral health and better wages.

NZOHA President Anna Holyoake says members of the NZOHA are the backbone of the COHS, and without oral health therapists and dental therapists working hard every day in an already constrained service, tamariki and rangatahi oral health in Aotearoa would be a lot worse off.

“Our members are sick and tired of not having the recognition they deserve for all the hard work they do in trying to get the oral health of our children under control in Aotearoa. DHBs need to hurry and come to the table with a better offer of pay for them”

“New graduate oral health therapists coming into the COHS get pennies, 80 cents more than the minimum wage after completing a professional qualification degree at University. They come out with big student loans and are offered 80 cents more than the minimum wage. Name me another health profession where the pay is so low, I do not think there is one” said Anna.

“The starting wage for a new graduate oral health therapist in the COHS is insulting. Our members do not go to work in the COHS for the money, but to help the children. Unfortunately love for the job does not pay the bills, that is why the COHS is losing clinicians to private practice” says Samuel Carrington, NZOHA Executive member.

“The government needs to come to the table and offer our COHS clinicians the pay they deserve. It is completely unsustainable to continue with the status quo as it will be our children who suffer. And that is unacceptable” said Samuel. 

Media Release

8 May 2022

COHS struggling due to inadequate pay and lack of recognition

Te Ohu Pūniho Ora o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Oral Health Association (NZOHA) is the national association which represents oral health therapists, dental therapists and dental hygienists. The Community Oral Health Service (COHS) has our members working at the coalface within community clinics and see tamariki and rangatahi in our clinics turning up in pain.

“A really obvious reason why the COHS is struggling is inadequate pay and lack of recognition for dental and oral health therapists within the service” says Anna Holyoake, NZOHA President. “There is a huge issue of recruitment and retention within the service nationwide. Oral health therapists are faced with coming out of their three-year University professional programme with a Bachelor’s degree and being offered a job within the DHB which pays them 80 cents more than the minimum wage per hour, or go to private practice and earn well over double that per hour. It is a no brainer where they would go really”.

Working in private practice does not mean the working conditions are better either i. “Unfortunately, oral health care in Aotearoa New Zealand is still one of the only health services where there is still a requirement for a fee, even in emergency dire situations. Anecdotal evidence from our members shows regardless of working in the public or private sector, there is lack of professional recognition of what exactly oral health therapists can do. How would you like to go to work knowing your boss doesn’t know exactly what skillset you have? These are what our members are faced with daily” says Samuel Carrington, NZOHA Executive Member.

“Our association has been warning DHBs for years about the major pay discrepancy between the public and private sectors and this being one of the main reasons why they were finding it hard to retain oral health therapists. The issues we are seeing today with major wait times nationwide have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were around well before then” says Samuel.

“Even within the Allied Health professions, because our members aren’t usually working in hospitals where allied health professionals usually work, there is that disconnect where we are not really seen as allied health.” says Anna.

“The most obvious short-term solution would be to give dental and oral health therapists the pay they are deserved, but we also think dentists should come and work within the community clinics too. Help our members by being at the coalface of this dental epidemic.”.

Media Release

4 March 2022

NZ Oral Health Association Supports DHB Members Striking Today

Te Ohu Pūniho Ora o Aotearoa – The New Zealand Oral Health Association (NZOHA) supports our members who will be joining the nationwide strike of allied, public health, scientific and technical professionals who work in District Health Boards (DHBs) after 15 months of unsuccessful negotiations.

Oral health therapists and dental therapists are the pioneers for treating child and adolescent children in Aotearoa. Their hard work in the Community Oral Health Service throughout Aotearoa has gone unappreciated by the DHBs for far too long. Many oral health therapists are now choosing to work in private practices because they are getting over double the hourly rate the DHBs are paying.

“It is shocking to us as an organisation that our members are undervalued in their pay. Our members have formal qualifications from Universities, and they start in the DHB on less than $25 an hour. The pay inequities need to be eliminated immediately. The DHBs need to recognise the hard mahi dental and oral health therapists play in being a mid-level dental providers and the important dental prevention they provide” says NZOHA President Anna Holyoake.

“Currently we are seeing massive arrears in all areas throughout Aotearoa for basic examinations. The underinvestment in child and adolescent oral health coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic just added to the workload for our members. Dental and oral health therapists are overworked, undervalued and understaffed. We stand with them today in solidary for better working conditions, more resourcing and more recognition as cornerstone allied health professionals.”


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