The outgoing President of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has today said that dentists have “lost faith in the ability of the Department of Health to listen to the dental profession and bring about real and substantive change for the good of patients”.
The IDA’s AGM was held online today.
Speaking in response to a pre-recorded address to the AGM by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Dr Anne O’Neill said that dentists needed to see action, not merely words after years of neglect in the sector. “Over the past number of years, the Irish Dental Association has repeatedly challenged the Department to discuss the problems within the sector, most recently with the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), which has not happened.
“What we need to see now is action because, up to this point, dentists have lost faith in the ability of the Department of Health to listen to the dental profession and bring about real and substantive change for the good of patients. We must ensure that it is the patient that is prioritised.”
The DTSS is the scheme through which medical card holders can access dental care. Dr. O’Neill said that the DTSS was “widening the gap” between those who can afford private dental care and those who cannot.
The IDA believes the DTSS is outdated and unfit-for-purpose. Fewer than 800 of the country’s 2,500 general practice dentists were actively treating medical card patients last month as record numbers of dentists abandoned the DTSS scheme following unprecedented funding cuts. The IDA believes an entirely new approach is required and not just tweaks to a completely discredited scheme and contract in order to provide adequate care to patients.
Dr O’Neill added that the redeployment of public sector dentists to the ongoing vaccination rollout programme was having a hugely negative effect on patients, particularly children. “These dentists are willing and able to meet the challenge of being vaccinators, but it is important to state that their absence means a lack of early intervention, a lack of early diagnosis and treatment of dental diseases to both children and vulnerable adults, some of which will result in the loss of teeth for life. This has led to significant issues, not least the fact that irreparable damage is being left untreated in our child population.”
Dr O’Neill said: “If we are truly interested in providing a patient-centred system to support oral health, we must keep the needs of the patient in focus when considering any changes to the existing system.”
She concluded by reiterating the Association’s call for it to be given full collective bargaining rights on behalf of its private dentist members, saying that the satisfactory resolution of the matter would be a pre-condition to any discussions of dental reform with the Government.
The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.