The Irish Dental Association (IDA) will this weekend insist that it be given full collective bargaining rights on behalf of its private dentist members, saying that the satisfactory resolution of the matter would be a pre-condition to any discussions of dental reform with the Government.
The IDA’s AGM will take place this Saturday (May 8th).
For many years the Department of Health has refused to engage in full collective bargaining, i.e. negotiation rather than consultation with the Irish Dental Association.
The IDA will also call on Minster for Health Stephen Donnelly to urgently address the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) crisis, which offers dental care for medical card holders and which the IDA believes is outdated and unfit-for-purpose.
Fewer than 800 of the country’s 2,500 general practice dentists were actively treating medical card patients last month as record numbers of dentists abandoned the DTSS scheme. The IDA will warn that an entirely new approach is required and not just tweaks to a completely discredited scheme and contract.
Speaking today, Mr Fintan Hourihan, CEO of the IDA, said: “It is unacceptable that the Department of Health has steadfastly refused over a number of years to offer full collective bargaining rights to the IDA, as it has done for other representative bodies such as the Irish Medical Organisation.
“There is no impediment whatsoever to our participation in collective bargaining with the Department of Health, with which we stand ready to negotiate. Our members deserve to be represented fully by their union and clearly no progress is likely to be achieved without the involvement and endorsement of the IDA for any dental reforms.
“At present, the State’s scheme for medical card holders is in a death spiral which highlights the urgent need for these negotiating rights. The bargaining rights issue is too important to delay any longer, which is why we are making its successful resolution a pre-condition for further discussion on dental reform.”
Mr Hourihan added that a key issue that would be highlighted at the AGM was that of the outdated medical card scheme for dentistry. “We have seen State funding for the medical card scheme drop off a cliff in recent years, leading to an evitable collapse in participating dentist numbers. Ultimately, it is vulnerable patients around the country that will suffer because of Government inaction on this issue, so we will stress that an entirely new approach needs to be considered as a matter of urgency.”
The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.