The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has branded Government inaction on the dental sector as a “dereliction of duty”, saying that the neglect of oral health would have “huge consequences” for Irish people in the months and years ahead.
Speaking today, Mr Fintan Hourihan, CEO of the IDA, said: “Today marks six weeks since acting Minister for Health Simon Harris promised the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to dentists and it is gravely disappointing that we have seen nothing since. This is a dereliction of duty from the Government: despite the fact that over 700 dentists have registered their need for such equipment, none has been provided which will have huge consequences for Irish people.”
Mr. Hourihan said that the inexplicable delay meant that dentists had been left to review the viability of their practices as well as their participation in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), which provides access to limited dental treatment for adult medical card holders.
“Dentists have been left out in the cold by a Government which has merely paid lip service to the provision of PPE and has not engaged regarding emergency adjustments to the medical card scheme or regarding support for dental practices in general, the vast majority of which have suffered significant shortfalls since the emergence of Covid-19. This is devastating for dental practices and for patients around the country, who will now face lengthy delays or have to rely on an already underfunded public dental service in cases where the DTSS is not available.”
Mr. Hourihan said this inaction from the Government would force individual dental practices to reconsider their participation in the DTSS, with many expected to withdraw. “Our members will endeavour to ensure the safe delivery of dental care to medical card patients, but they cannot do so in a manner which imperils the viability of their practices and livelihoods. We believe the Department’s actions could cause many thousands of patients being directed to seek dental care directly from the HSE dental services,” said Mr. Hourihan.
Mr Hourihan said that the bad situation had been compounded for dentists given the perceived risk they face while working. This week, the Central Statistics Office published an analysis of occupations by their potential exposure to diseases and proximity to others when working, which showed that the perceived risk and proximity to infectious diseases such as Covid-19 is greatest amongst members of the dental team amongst a wide group of occupations and professions.