The State’s dental remedy scheme for 1.5 million medical card sufferers is “in disaster and getting ready to collapse” in response to dentists.
The medical card scheme, which was set as much as provide free dental remedy for these on diminished means, is at present the topic of a assessment undertaken by the Oireachtas well being committee.
On Thursday, the committee was advised the scheme had been hit with cost-cutting to the purpose the place it was now not match for function and dentists had been leaving in giant numbers.
The committee heard the Well being Service Government imposed unilateral cuts to the dental remedy scheme in 2010, throughout the State’s financial crash. Consequently, entry for a lot of sufferers to remedy was restricted and the vast majority of sufferers had been entitled to only one examination a 12 months and a most of two fillings no matter circumstances.
Nevertheless, entry to as many extractions as required was maintained.
Fintan Hourihan, chief govt of the Irish Dental Affiliation, advised the committee the cuts to the medical card scheme “basically altered” it “from a demand-led scheme to a budget-led scheme”.
He stated adults between 16 and 99 years might now not entry the dental care they require to keep up their dental well being. “Solely those that have a major medical situation from a slender prescribed vary are enabled to entry extra remedy gadgets,” he stated.
Itemizing the affected remedies, he stated:
– A biannual scale and polish had been suspended;
– Fillings had been diminished to only two in an emergency scenario; and
– Root canals, dentures, denture repairs and miscellaneous gadgets had been now consigned to emergency circumstances solely.
“It’s our view, and the expressed view of our members – the dentists working the scheme every day – that the State’s dental remedy scheme for roughly 1.5 million eligible medical card sufferers is in disaster and getting ready to collapse,” he advised the committee.
Medical playing cards
“The final 12 months has seen an unprecedented variety of dentists withdraw from the medical card scheme with critical repercussions for sufferers nationwide.”
Whole spending on the scheme fell from over €63 million in 2017 to €40 million in 2020, a 36 per cent drop.
Mr Hourihan stated, “Dentists need to have the ability to present look after all sufferers, however the Authorities is leaving them with little selection however to minimise their involvement or withdraw from the medical card scheme.”
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane stated the numbers of dentists remaining within the scheme ought to be made recognized. He stated a determine of 1,000 dentists had been steered however he had been given to grasp the true determine was a lot lower than that.
He stated the scheme as at present arrange was not designed to advertise good dental well being by encouraging and endeavor preventative measures “however will fortunately take away the tooth”.