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News / February 22, 2021

Medical card ‘chaos’ – profession voices fears over future of dentistry in Ireland

by Gaby Bissett

Dental treatment for medical card holders in Ireland is in 'complete chaos' as dentists continue to withdraw from the scheme

Dental treatment for medical card holders in Ireland is in ‘complete chaos’ as dentists continue to withdraw from the scheme. 

This is according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA), which voiced fears over its impact on patient care across the country.

Data reveals that state spending on medical card dental care dropped by 30% between 2017 and 2020. This marks a reduction from €5.5 million to €3.8 million.

Unfit for purpose

On top of this, the number of DTSS contracts have dropped by 31% between 2015 to 2020 (1,847 to 1,279).

Fintan Hourihan is chief executive of the IDA. He said: ‘This is an unprecedented crisis in dentistry.

‘In 2020, almost one quarter of participating dentists nationwide left this scheme which is utterly unfit for purpose. Dentists simply cannot afford to participate, leading to complete chaos.’

Scant regard

He said the government’s lack of action signals ‘a level of disrespect’ for medical card patients and contracted dentists.

‘We have sought to engage with the Department of Health to modify this scheme over many years to no avail,’ he added.

‘Increasingly, our members believe that the refusal to acknowledge this reality. The general approach of the Department of Health suggests a level of disrespect, if not contempt, for medical card patients 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.’

The association argues that the reduction in funding means medical card patients are now faced with:

  • Treatment delays
  • Increased travel times while seeking treatment
  • Potential to rely on the public dental service where DTSS contracts are not available.