Irish Dental Association (IDA) chief executive Fintan Hourihan has said he is “gravely disappointed” with the Minister for Health regarding measures to improve access to dental care, despite indications to the contrary by Government in the Budget.
Although a €45 million budget was announced to increase access and affordability to medical and dental care, including expanding free dental care, “we have yet to see how the Department plans to roll this out, nor have our members been consulted on a proposal to effectively do same”, Mr Hourihan said.
There are now only 750 dentists treating medical card patients, which is less than half the number of Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) contracts held by dentists up to two years ago.
This equates to one dentist per 2,000 medical card patients, according to the IDA.
In an interview with BreakingNews.ie in June, Mr Hourihan said number of private dentists leaving the scheme has left the HSE “overrun”, while he warned the situation will only get worse without urgent action.
Speaking today, he said: “To put it in context, that is one dentist per 2,000 medical card patients. It means that there are now parts of the country where there is just one dentist covering an entire county or region.
“In addition, we continue to have serious concerns regarding access to dental care for children due to the significant deterioration in the level of service provided through the public dental service. There are now an estimated 100,000 children on waiting lists for a public dental appointment, and a six-year waiting list for orthodontic treatment.”
Mr Hourihan said it is becoming “increasingly difficult” to see how the medical card scheme can survive.
This means “more and more of our most vulnerable patients will lose out on important access to dental care”.
Mr Hourihan concluded: “An entirely new scheme is required, and, while deeply frustrated, we continue to call on the Government to engage with the Irish Dental Association on an alternative proposal for a more sustainable solution that ensures access to care for those who need it most.”