Last week’s increase in fees and expansion of treatments under the DTSS (medical card scheme) will do little to address the fundamental issues that have forced dentists to withdraw from the scheme en masse, says Dr Will Rymer, chair of the Association’s General Practitioner Committee.
The Department of Health wrote to the Association last Thursday following recent consultations on fees where the Association had advised that any extra investment should be directed at bridging the gap between current DTSS fees and costs incurred in providing such care as indicated by private fee levels for the same treatments. The Minister decided otherwise and part of the funding has been directed at meeting the cost of widening the scope of treatment of the scheme and offering fee levels still well below operating costs and comparable private fee levels.
It should be noted that there are a number of queries which have arisen as regards the precise terms to apply and we will be seeking clarification from the Department of Health accordingly as a matter of urgency.
In announcing the changes, the Department said that Minister had “noted the views expressed by the IDA and, having considered the issues in the round, has decided that certain fee and service changes as detailed in the attached schedule will now be introduced. The HSE has been requested to make arrangements to commence these with effect from 1 May 2022.
The letter goes on to state: “as has been stated, the Minister is committed to a substantive review of the Scheme, with preliminary work already begun in the Department and in the HSE on that project.”
Responding to the announcment, Dr Will Rymer, Chair of the Association’s GP Committee says that “ultimately, a new model has to move away from a system which allows restrictions to be placed by the state on treatments which can be provided to patients; even with the changes announced today, these restrictions on treatments are outdated and unacceptable. The current scheme is outdated and unfit for purpose. By increasing the number of treatments available as per the Minister’s proposal, the government is unknowingly heaping further burden on an ever decreasing pool of exhausted practitioners and will only serve to further congest dental practices that remain within the scheme. Modernisation, not modification, of the dental scheme for medical card patients is what is required to ensure 1.5m adults are adequately treated for their oral healthcare needs.
IDA Chief Executive, Mr. Fintan Hourihan says “a new scheme will only succeed if it attracts sufficient numbers of dentists as a professionally appropriate and economically viable alternative, and, most importantly, it has the confidence of the patients it is designed to serve. We urgently need a new scheme for a modern Ireland that is properly funded and allows dentists the clinical autonomy to treat medical card patients as they would private patients. The Irish Dental Association calls on the Department of Health to commence talks to replace the DTSS scheme as a matter of priority.”