Dental service in Laois and Offaly in 'complete chaos' claim dentists

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Dental chaos in Laois and Offaly claims association

Dental treatment in Laois and Offaly for medical card holders is in “complete chaos”, with the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said warning that the unprecedented number of dentists withdrawing from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) is having serious repercussions for patients.

The association says that between 2017 and 2020, State spending on dental care for medical card patients in the Laois / Offaly local health office area decreased by 39%, from €2,314,476.54 to €1,413,827.58.

Concurrently, according to HSE figures, the number of DTSS contracts held by dentists in Laois and Offaly fell by 35%, from 40 to 26 between March 2017 and January 2021.

The DTSS provides access to limited dental treatment for adult medical cardholders. The IDA believes members should individually consider courses of action that are open to them.

Speaking today, Mr Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said that the fall in funding and participating dentists in Laois and Offaly was hugely damaging for patients and reflected a nationwide trend.

“In 2020, almost one quarter of participating dentists nationwide left the scheme which is utterly unfit for purpose. Dentists simply cannot afford to participate.”

He said that the nature of the medical card crisis in dentistry was unprecedented in scale and dentists were disillusioned with the Government’s lack of action on the matter.

“We have sought to engage with the Department of Health to modify this scheme over many years to no avail.  Increasingly, our members believe that the refusal to acknowledge this reality and the general approach of the Department of Health suggests a level of disrespect, if not contempt, for medical card patients in the counties and the dentists contracted to care for them. It also shows scant regard or understanding of the impact of this crisis on vulnerable patients who are unable to afford access to vital dental care.”

Mr Hourihan said that significant extra costs being incurred by general dental practices during the Covid-19 pandemic are making the existing DTSS contracted service completely unviable.

"Dentists want to be able to provide care for medical card patients, but the Government is leaving them with little choice but to minimise their involvement or withdraw.

The association also claimed that because of the drop-off in funding and dentists’ participation, he said that medical card patients were now faced with:

  • Delays while seeking treatment; 
  • Increased travel times while seeking that treatment; and
  • Possible reliance on the already underfunded public dental service to provide care in areas where DTSS contracts are not in place.

The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.