Government accused of ‘oral health neglect’

Analysis shows dental profession is among those most at risk

The Irish Government has been accused of a “dereliction of duty” stemming from “inaction on the dental sector” and that its “neglect of oral health” will have significant consequences for the public.

Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association, said:
“Acting Minister for Health Simon Harris promised adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to dentists and it is gravely disappointing that we have seen nothing since.

“This is a dereliction of duty from the Government; despite the fact that over 700 dentists have registered their need for such equipment, none has been provided which will have huge consequences for Irish people.”

Hourihan said that the “inexplicable” delay meant that dentists had been left to review the viability of their practices as well as their participation in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). “This is devastating for dental practices and for patients around the country, who will now face lengthy delays or have to rely on an already underfunded public dental service in cases where the DTSS is not available.”

A Health Department spokesperson told Ireland’s Dental: “The DTSS provides dental care free-of-charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. These services are provided by independent dental practitioners who have a contract with the HSE.

“The department has no role in the setting of fees charged by independent dentists to their private patients. The Dental Council has a code of practice relating to the display of private fees in dental practices.

“Nevertheless, the minister is concerned to hear of instances of medical card holders being refused access to treatment on the basis of PPE costs. The Dental Council advises that dentists should take a case by case assessment when deciding if additional PPE is warranted. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has advised that regular PPE, which has always been used, is generally sufficient for routine dentistry. The department, in conjunction with the HSE, is examining the provision of PPE across all parts of the health service, including health service contractors.

“A review of the provision of dental care for those eligible for public services will be required in the context of the implementation of the National Oral Health Policy, Smile agus Sláinte, and any issue of fees paid to dentists for treating public patients will be considered in that context.

“In relation to social distancing costs, the Government has put in place a suite of measures to support small, medium and larger businesses that are negatively impacted by COVID-19.”

Published: 17 July, 2020 at 15:18