The Irish Dental Association has warned that there is “no prospect” of free dental care for children under six being available from private dentists from next September as the Government has claimed.
Speaking today the Chief Executive of the IDA, Fintan Hourihan, said that the Association’s Board and Council had met over the weekend to consider the issue following a series of regional meetings attended by over 250 dentists across the country.
Mr. Hourihan said; “our members were consistent across the country…they do not support the plans by the Government to change the current HSE based dental service for children to a private dentist based system and they do not support the Government’s plans to introduce free dental care for children under the age of six through private practices from September. This is not a dispute over costs as there has been no discussion about costs what-so-ever. It is a difference of opinion about what is the best model for children’s dental health and we disagree with the Government on the way they wish to proceed.”
Mr. Hourihan said that the key issue of concern for dentists was that the proposals would weaken the current approach to child dental health by removing the current system of proactive school-based engagement by public dentists with all children and replacing it with a reactive system where the responsibility is put on children or their families to present to a private dentist which suggests that attendance with the dentist would fall dramatically.
Dentists see this as an attempt to shift political responsibility for children’s dental health from the public service into the community but without any regard to the impact on the health outcomes for children. Mr. Hourihan the IDA has written to the Minister outlining its objections to this proposal and was hopeful that the Department of Health will change its thinking on this matter.
Separately, Mr. Hourihan said that the IDA was unhappy that existing fee levels for dental services for medical card patients are to remain in place in 2020; “we have made a detailed submission to the Department on the need to increase fees to take account of the rising costs facing our members. We are disappointed that the Department has not engaged with us on this issue as the current service is woefully underfunded.”