A delegation from the Irish Dental Association met with Alex White, the new Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care on the 5th February. The Minister is a Labour TD from the constituency of Dublin South.
The IDA delegation consisted of:
- Dr Sean Malone, President Elect of the IDA and general practitioner in Sandycove, Co Dublin,
- Dr Peter Gannon, Chair of the GP Group and general practitioner inGalway,
- Dr Ray McCarthy, Honorary Treasurer of the IDA and general practitioner in Dublin 2,
- Dr Ryan Hennessy, general practitioner in Cahir, Co. Tipperary,
- Clare Dowling, Employment and Communications Officer, and
- Fintan Hourihan Chief Executive Officer.
The delegation provided the Minister with a detailed briefing on the state of oral health at present in the country. We emphasised the following areas:
The current state of the State Schemes and the crisis in oral health
We highlighted the effects on patients’ oral health of the withdrawal of preventive and restorative elements of the scheme and emphasised the clinical importance and financial benefit for the state in maintaining good oral health.
We explained we had withdrawn our support for the DTSS in January 2012 and outlined our principles for a new Scheme.
The Minister believes the IDA is a crucial player in modelling a new scheme.
The role of dentists in health promotion and prevention
We explained the links between oral health and general health and the potential role dentists can play in health promotion and prevention.
The Minister appeared to be genuinely interested in this topic and asked lots of questions.
The HSE Dental Services
We explained the effect the Moratorium on Recruitment on the HSE dental services. We explained that since March the number of dentists has decreased by nearly 17%. This has led to a closure of clinics and to a reduction in the number of classes being screened. We also highlighted the perennial problems facing patients with special needs who require treatment under general anaesthetic and who face waiting lists of up to 2 or 3 years and patients who are on long waiting lists for orthodontic screening and treatment.
We explained the importance of a preventive approach for children.
The Minister appeared to be very concerned with the situation in the HSE.
The new Dental Bill
The Minister is very interested in engaging with the IDA on the new Dental Bill. He advised us the consultation papers for the new Bill are being drafted at present and he would like to meet with the IDA again as part of the consultation process and to receive our views on the content of the Bill.
Oral Health Policy and Chief Dental Officer
The Minister was very aware of the issue of the vacant Chief Dental Officer post in the Department of Health. He said he did not need to be persuaded of the value of the post and he would like to see the post filled as soon as possible.
The Minister stated that he highly values the work of dentists and believes oral health goes to the heart of any public health policy and would like to talk to the IDA again.