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News / May 26, 2010

Harney stands firm on DTSS cuts

by Guy Hiscott

Speaking in the Dáil earlier this month, Mary Harney, Minister for Health and Children, confirmed her commitment to limiting the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS).

Mary Harney said: ‘The Government’s decision to limit the funding available to the Dental Treatment Services Scheme was made in view of the current position of the public finances and the 60% increase in expenditure in the DTSS over the past five years.

‘The Health Service Executive (HSE) has introduced measures to contain DTSS expenditure at the 2008 level of approximately €63 million.

‘Under the new measures, some treatments which had previously been available in the Scheme, for example dental cleaning and polishing, have been suspended. Other treatments, such as oral examinations and fillings, will continue to be provided but will be limited in number or frequency. More complex, non-routine treatments, such as protracted periodontal treatments, will be available only in the case of clinical emergencies.

‘These measures were introduced following consultation with my Department. The HSE will monitor the ongoing effect of these changes from a clinical and budgetary perspective. The dental and oral health services currently provided through the HSE Public Dental Service will not be affected by these changes to the DTSS.’

Her statement was in response to three questions posed to the Minister.

The first, from Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, asked the Minister if she would instruct the Health Service Executive to withdraw its recent circular 008/10, of 26 April 2010, to dentists that cuts dental services for medical card patients.

In addition, Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children how she expects to achieve savings of €40 million in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme for medical card patients, and for clarification as to the services that will be withdrawn or reduced for medical card holders.

Lastly, Deputy Martin Ferris asked Mary Harney to reveal the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the cuts to dental services for medical card patients.