Dublin-based general practitioner Dr Clodagh McAllister was appointed President of the Association at Saturday's AGM.
Clodagh is a practice owner whose clinic is based in Fairview, Dublin. Originating from Co Mayo, she is a graduate of Dublin Dental School where she is a part-time tutor.
One of the first female members of our General Practitioner Group Committee, Clodagh was a member of the negotiating team which dealt with the Department of Social Protection when changes to the Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme were announced in 2017. She has also served on the Association's Management Committee as Honorary Secretary in recent years.
In her address to last Saturday’s AGM, Dr McAllister noted that it was her mother, an active member of the Irish Pharmacy Union, who had first encouraged her to join the IDA. “She knew and saw first-hand the positive impact of professionals working together for the betterment of a sector and those most reliant upon it”.
Dr McAllister said her “commitment to the IDA rests in my firm belief that we have to work together as a strong professional group – principals, associates, older, younger, new and seasoned members - to improve the understanding of and appreciation for dental practice in Ireland as a vital and integral part of a functioning health system. We have to work together to support the wellbeing and conditions of all dental practitioners, and ultimately to ensure, as professionals, that Irish people can expect to have access to world class and appropriate dental care, at all life stages”.
“As somebody who has straddled both roles, I understand the needs of principals and associates, specialists and public service dentists alike. And I feel that my ongoing work with the Dublin Dental Hospital gives me a keen understanding of the particular needs of students at undergraduate level but also the challenges that often have to be faced by newly qualified dentists.”
Dr McAllister outlined her key goals for her Presidency in the year ahead:
“Firstly, I want to continue to support and facilitate the excellent operations of the Irish Dental Association, ensuring our high governance standards are maintained, whilst meeting the needs of you, our members.
I want to work hard to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of members is protected and supported. We all work in a highly pressured area and we have to take care of ourselves. I want to take this opportunity to remind members of the Practitioner Health Matters Programme, an independent and confidential service for doctors, dentists and pharmacists facing mental health or addiction difficulties.
I believe that communication is vitally important and I will be taking an active interest in the IDA’s working group looking at ways to further engage both members and non-members.
I will continue to work on increasing the IDA’s membership, highlighting that we are an organisation with services that are relevant to all dentists, no matter where they are on their career paths.
With the IDA team, I will continue to lobby the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD to enter discussions with the IDA to address the ongoing crisis in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS).
I will work to ensure professional parity for dental practitioners. The Department of Health, for example, offered collective bargaining rights to the Irish Medical Organisation many years ago. However, it has steadfastly refused to offer the same rights to the IDA.
We urgently need a framework in place so that the IDA can enter discussions with the Department without the fear of criminal sanctions. We have already sent a proposed framework to the Minister, similar to that afforded to the IMO, but as yet, there has been no response. This has to change.
Ultimately, our work is about people and ensuring that they can expect good dental health, as part of overall health and wellbeing. In particular a key focus for us is that the most vulnerable groups in society can access full dental services.
Sadly, despite repeated requests from the IDA, we have had no meaningful engagement in Smile agus Sláinte, the national oral health policy document. In his foreword in that document, the then Minister for Health, sets out that “Good oral health is an integral part of our general health and wellbeing, and Smile agus Sláinte provides the guiding principles to transform our current oral healthcare service.”
We fail to understand how this can be achieved if the organisation representing dental practitioners up and down this country is being effectively stonewalled out of discussions.
We encourage the Department of Health to allow the IDA to have proper input into any proposed oral health policies. It is only then that the core vision of the document – to develop a health service that supports us to have our best oral health, from birth to old age – can really be achieved.
I am honoured to be your President for the coming year. I am looking forward to working tirelessly on your behalf. And I am hopeful that we will see positive changes as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and begin to concentrate again on building a caring, people-focused oral healthcare system, but one that is also mindful of the needs, experiences and expertise of those most critical to its delivery – dentists.”