Ten Thoughts from this year’s IDA Seminar for HSE Dental Surgeons

Ten Thoughts from this year’s IDA Seminar for HSE Dental Surgeons

(28 Oct 2022)

It was great to see dentists and team members working in the HSE meet in person again for the first time in three years. Morale and burnout are real issues for our members right now but there was little doubt that everyone who attended said it was so important to meet colleagues, share experiences and sound advice in this time of great stress within the service.

The scale of the decline in staff numbers within the HSE dental service can only be appreciated when looked at over a longer timescale. Understaffing and a lack of resources in the public dental service is being blamed for the delays with the numbers of practising public-only dentists having dropped by almost one quarter (23%) in the past 15 years, decreasing from 330 in 2006 to 254 in 2022. This means the HSE will need to hire 76 dentists immediately to the bring the service back to the levels it was at 15 years ago. The discussion in the Dail last Thursday featured an acknowledgement by the Minister for Health that the IDA is correct to identify the need for a significant increase in staff. He responded with a detailed reply to Deputy Duncan Smith which we are analysing in detail right now.

All politics is local. That is why we need more dentists to join our campaign efforts by contacting their local politicians and speak to their local media. We offer training to our representatives so if you’re interested, then contacted us today. It was great to have two local TDs, Deputy Carol Nolan and Deputy Sean Fleming, accept our invitation to join us in Portlaoise where we had a chance to explain the nature of the current crisis and what needs to be done.

The impact of the collapse in the DTSS on the HSE dental service was very evident when chatting with dentists who attended. that the number of private dentists with DTSS contracts in Laois/Offaly has fallen from 36 in January 2015 to 11 last August (2022). Clearly, this makes access to dental care for adults extremely difficult and in turn this puts extra pressure on the HSE dental services which are supposed to provide care for children, special care patients, refugees and other vulnerable groups.

The considerable difficulty many dentists experienced in securing time off and any form of funding to attend this year’s IDA seminar underscored the need to have a collective agreement with the HSE which explicitly covers protected time and appropriate CPD funding. Talks are underway with the HSE and this is a priority for the Association and its representatives for the coming year.

Our new Group President, Dr Joanna Sikorska, made a really strong impression with her inaugural speech to the Group AGM and delegates were all struck by her positive determination and commitment to halt the decline in the public dental service in the year ahead.

The presentation by the Chief Dental Officer, Dr Dympna Kavanagh, suggests that significant changes in the model of dental care are envisaged within the Department of Health. Dentists were unsurprisingly sceptical and it is critical that discussions begin with the Association sooner rather than later. No reform will be possible without the involvement of the Association and the support of its members.

The wide breadth and depth of the representation provided by the Association and its members was clearly evident with the presentation by Roisin Farrelly. This year saw the first ever online ballot of members on the proposals which emerged from the Workplace Relations Commission on revisions to the Building Momentum pay agreement. The Association was involved in many long and late meetings at the WRC on behalf of its public service members and secured specific commitments on behalf of IDA members.
Congratulations are due to all who were involved in organising a superb programme of speakers, all of whom received extremely positive feedback from attendees. Take a bow Joanna, Elaine and Aoife.

This was the final IDA Seminar for HSE dental surgeons in the first century of the Association’s history. The IDA will be one hundred years old next January. Its an opportune time to discuss how we arrange key events such as our Seminar for HSE dental surgeons. Have you any thoughts or suggestions for changes we should consider?