Health Minister fails to offer timetable for urgent dental reform

Health Minister fails to offer timetable for urgent dental reform

(18 May 2012)

The Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association has said the divide between those least able to afford dental care and others is widening because of Government neglect, inaction and a succession of cutbacks.

Fintan Hourihan said no other branch of medicine in Ireland has been subjected to such a haemorrhaging of funding and cuts in state supports over the last three years as the dental sector.

In his address to the annual conference of the IDA in Killarney, Hourihan said good intentions and talk about reviews are not enough. We need action now. And he warned that once again the most vulnerable in society were bearing the brunt of cuts to the Medical Card Scheme, the public health system and the PRSI scheme.

“This is a major public health issue, an issue of national importance, yet the silence from Government, the lack of direction from Government and the failure to honour promises by Government is damning. The Minister spoke to us here in Killarney today but he failed to offer a timetable for change out of the current abyss” Hourihan said.

“Lasting damage is being done to patients’ oral health and these ongoing cuts are disproportionately affecting the less well off and those in need of regular dental care. Dentists are seeing an alarming deterioration in the oral health of increasing numbers of patients. This is reflected in the provision of dentures for teenagers, more extractions of teeth due to the state’s withdrawal of key preventive and restorative treatments as well as a rise in gum disease."

Medical card holders want to know when essential reforms of the Scheme will be enacted. Two million taxpayers want to know why, despite the fact they are now paying increased social insurance charges, are they only entitled to one dental examination a year. The country wants to know why Ireland alone in the developed world has no Chief Dental Officer and has not had one for a decade” Hourihan added.

Meanwhile, Hourihan added that while it would be very easy for dentists to curse the darkness and abandon all hope, this had not been the response Irish dentists had favoured.

“In the past year, dentists have enthusiastically embraced transparency in displaying their fees, opened their dental surgeries to promote mouth cancer awareness and adopted a new complaints resolution scheme to assist patients and promote high standards of care.

The profession will never turn away from its policy of promoting quality, value and friendly dental care.

Nobody should doubt the commitment of the dental profession even when the state and others have turned their backs on dental patients.”