Dentists: Government’s failure to engage on dentistry cannot be tolerated

Dentists: Government’s failure to engage on dentistry cannot be tolerated

(06 Jan 2021)

The President of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has criticised the Government’s ongoing delay in engaging with the dental sector over a range of longstanding issues, warning this inaction “will have hugely negative consequences for patients”.

Speaking today, Dr Anne O’Neill, President of the IDA, said: “Dentists have done extraordinary work since the onset of the pandemic last March, yet despite this the obvious cracks in the oral health system are not being addressed. The Government appears to be content to sideline the dental profession in the midst of the biggest health crisis this country has faced. Time and again, dentists have asked for action on hugely important issues from the Government, and every time they have failed to get results. This Government’s repeated failure to meaningfully engage and deliver on promises cannot be tolerated.”

Dr O’Neill said that there were several issues of concern. “Covid-19 has placed a huge amount of difficulty, stress and extra costs on private dentists and their staff, who have received no State support whatsoever. For example, PPE promised by former health minister Simon Harris seven months ago, in June last year, has still not arrived, despite 700 private dentists registering their interest with the HSE for this equipment.

“This is especially disappointing given an abundance of this equipment is being delivered to GPs and nursing homes, for example. It is disrespectful and unreasonable for the Government to name dentistry as an essential service, while expecting dentists to also uphold excellent standards of care amidst a huge recent increase in cases without any support whatsoever.”

Dr O’Neill said that it was also highly disappointing that dentists had still not been given any indication as to how soon the dental team will be vaccinated as a priority group for Covid-19, with no plans currently in place to do so. “Despite assurances made by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, there has been no timetable published for the vaccination of dentists despite our designation as priority healthcare staff. The Association is meeting with the HSE later today but unfortunately dentists are concerned that, with their experience of PPE being promised but not delivered, they will be left at the back of the queue when it comes to being vaccinated.”

She added that these issues were exacerbated by the crisis in the medical card scheme, which has seen a fall of 20% in participating dentists since this time last year. “The Irish Dental Association has made numerous representations to the Government regarding the urgent need to transform this outdated scheme but unsurprisingly, yet again we have had no meaningful engagement.”

Overall, Dr O’Neill said that the numerous issues facing the dental sector will have a hugely negative effect on patients. “Dentists cannot be expected to carry on as normal with no support from the Government when they are under such grave strain. Enough is enough – we need to see action otherwise the health of patients will suffer and the provision of dentistry as we know it in Ireland will be in perilous danger.”