Irish Dental Association urging Minister for Health to engage despite promises made to meet one year ago.
- Fewer than 620 Dentists are now actively participating in the medical card scheme nationally.
- Shortcomings in publicly funded dental services affect our most vulnerable in society including children waiting on the school screening service.
- Minister for Health is now asking dentists to sign up to a scheme on the “understanding” that reform is coming.
- Irish Dental Association says: “We say to the Minister that hope is not a strategy, not least given how often all promises about the commencement of talks on a new scheme have been broken and no discussions have taken place in sixteen years.
The Irish Dental Association is today (22 February 2023) calling for an immediate meeting with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to discuss publicly funded dental services which are now in a full state of collapse.
Over the last number of years, the Irish Dental Association has consistently called on the Minister, the Department of Health, and the HSE to sit down with it to fix the multiple shortcomings within the various schemes including the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS, or medical card scheme) and the Schools Screening Programme.
Despite the promise of engagement made more than a year ago, the Minister has yet to meet with the Association to discuss reform and solutions. In fact, it is a staggering 16 years since the Department of Health walked away from talks on a new medical card scheme.
Fewer than 620 Dentists are now actively participating in the medical card scheme nationally. Despite major advances in dental treatments and techniques, the state still places significant restrictions on the care that dentists can provide to public patients with only tooth extractions being limitless. This is entirely against the medical ethics of dental practitioners and means that our most vulnerable people in society cannot access the best care.
Last year, the Irish Dental Association supported a voucher scheme for medical card holders where the patient retains their medical autonomy, and the choice of treatment options remains between the patient and dentist without Government intervention.
The Irish Dental Association is also calling on the Department of Health to urgently address the backlog in the School Screening Service which, in some parts of the country, is running up to 10 years. Children who should be seen by a dentist in second, fourth and sixth class are having to wait until fourth year of secondary school for their first visit. This, along with two-year waiting lists for treatments requiring General Anaesthetic, is completely unacceptable and once again hits our most vulnerable in society hardest.
It is imperative that the Department of Health immediately honour the commitment it made one year ago, to meet face-to-face with the Irish Dental Association in order to ensure the best path forward in delivering an adequate, equitable and fair public dental system for all.
Spokesperson for the Irish Dental Association Dr Will Rymer, chair of its General Pracititioner Group, says:
“Dental health and dental health promotion are an integral part of general health and repeated failure of government representatives to engage with all relevant stakeholders during this dental crisis illustrates a level of contempt for vulnerable service users and the dental profession.
“This isn’t about dentists “choosing to leave” the system; rather, it is about dentists having no choice when it comes to providing appropriate patient care.
“It will take more than the modest fee increase implemented last year to salvage the DTSS scheme which was creaking under the strain of 15 years of neglect and disinterest from successive Ministers. Indeed, claims from Minister Donnelly that a further 3,000 patients had been treated under the scheme in November 2022, and that 15,000 extra scale and polishes were completed is but a drop in a very big ocean of clinical need. This equates to an extra three patients per participating dentist, and an additional 15 cleanings. It is simply not enough.
“We fully back publicly funded dental services and have long communicated our willingness to sit down with the Minister and his Department to find a fair and equitable solution for all. But the Minister is now asking dentists to sign up to a scheme on the “understanding” that reform is coming. We say to the Minister that hope is not a strategy, not least given how often all promises about the commencement of talks on a new scheme have been broken and no discussions have taken place in sixteen years.
“We remain ready to sit down with the Minister to develop a model of care that brings about the reform that we so desperately seek so that the dental profession can provide essential care to all patients.”