IDA and DoH told to rebuild relationship
Standoff between IDA and government leaves Parliament confused
Politicians have called on officials at Ireland’s Department of Health and representatives of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) to clarify their relationship after the country’s Chief Dental Officer rebutted claims by the IDA that it had not been consulted during the development of the new oral health policy.
Fintan Hourihan, the IDA’s Chief Executive, told a meeting of the Parliament’s Joint Health Committee earlier this year: “The association was not invited to participate and nor was it consulted in a manner any way consistent with the terms of the agreed information and consultation agreement for the HSE [Health Service Executive] and its staff in preparation of the new oral health policy. We only saw its contents for the first time on the date of its publication [in April].”
However, at a subsequent meeting of the committee over the summer, Dr Dympna Kavanagh, Ireland’s CDO, said: “We had briefings and engagements with the association. On the policy specifically, we met the association in 2018 and 2019, where we gave it a comprehensive briefing of the policy and an overview of the ethos. We then met it again [this year] before the policy was launched.”
The standoff has left politicians confused. “There is an element of clarification or relationship building required,” said John Brassil, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on primary care and community health. “What is being fed into the political system by the Irish Dental Association is that it is not overly impressed with the consultation process on this strategy. [The IDA] is telling us that it was not properly consulted. Whether that is factual, I do not know but it is out there in the ether.”
Sinn Féin’s health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly added: “I struggle to understand how we can have two people in for two different sessions who can have such completely divergent views of the same process. In the absence of a time machine, it cannot be fixed, but it is important that the relationship is re-established.”
Professor Brian O’Connell, Vice Chair of the policy’s academic reference group, commented: “Over the years the association and many other associations have produced much of their own documentation, policy suggestions and recommendations. We considered all of them and one will find a great deal of crossover between the consistent recommendations of bodies such as the Irish Dental Association and what is in the policy. I speak to dentists every day. Their concerns are largely about the implementation of the policy rather than the policy itself. They ask whether there will be enough funding for it, whether the entire policy will be implemented and so on.”
Read our feature: Smiles all round?