As the main political parties launch their manifestos, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) will warn at a seminar this weekend in Dublin that the next Government needs to learn the lesson that producing unworkable dental reforms which have not been discussed with dentists is not an approach which will produce better oral health for children and other vulnerable groups.
Smile agus Slaintecare, the oral health policy announced last year, proposed a radical shift in the treatment of children from the public dental service to private general dental practitioners (GDPs).
Under the proposals:
- GDPs would, for the first time, hold a contract with the State to treat children;
- Services provided by dentists in the public service who specialise in treating children would be wound down;
- The targeted, risk-based approach whereby all schoolchildren are screened would be replaced by a new model in general practice for those who choose to show up; and
- Dentists in general practice would be obliged to provide emergency cover to children for the first time and to assume responsibility for their care until such time as they are seen by specialists, where lengthy waiting lists of 2-4 years now exist.
Speaking today ahead of the IDA’s Practice Management Seminar 2020 (which takes place on Saturday, January 25th in Dublin), Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said: “The model advocated in the oral health policy seeks to compel private, independent dentists to take on care and treatment of cohorts of children they currently do not see, instead of investing in the service which has been designed to screen children. This approach has been prepared without any consultation with our members.
“Its insistence on pushing through free treatment for under-6s is not properly thought through, proposing an onerous burden on independent dentists, who neither have the capacity nor appetite for taking on new cohorts of patients, requiring far greater time than is available in general practice to provide them with the care and treatment being proposed.
“Ultimately, this will have a negative effect on all patients being seen in general dental practices who deserve far better from the health system. We call on the next Government to reset relations with the dental profession and to commit to discussing badly-needed change with those who are expected to deliver such change.
“Politicians are trying to cut corners. Independent dentists provide an excellent service to private patients around the country without any State support, and they will not agree to changes which don’t serve the best interest of patients or which threaten the viability of dental practices,” said Mr Hourihan.