Dentist Patients being Failed by System: O’Murchú

The health system is failing dental patients who have medical cards”, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has said after it was revealed a Dundalk dental practice texted clients saying they were no longer able to treat them.

The Sinn Féin TD said he had spoken to the dentist who sent the text and it was clear that ‘a major system failure is on the way unless the HSE gets its act together over medical card contracts for dentists’.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “This is a dreadful situation for medical card patients who need treatment from their dentist through the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). I have spoken to the dentist concerned and I have relayed patients’ worries to them.

“I do not agree with the way that medical card patients were told, wholesale and out of the blue, about the situation, and I have conveyed that to the dental practice, but the dentists were carrying out what they believed was due diligence and telling patients in time so they can find another practice.

“I have been assured that no patient will be left with incomplete, already started treatment.

“However, the harsh reality is that medical card dental patients are going to struggle to find another place to take them on, such is the level of the issue with dentists across the board.

“There is a major issue with PPE provision. Dentists believed they would have a supply of PPE from the HSE on an ongoing basis. This has not transpired and they have to buy it on a practice by practice basis.

“There have been difficulties with the contract since negotiations stalled in 2008 and there is no doubt, in the post-Covid-19 landscape, the system is about to collapse.

“It is only a matter of time, weeks probably, before other dentists follow and inform their medical card patients that they are no longer able to look after them. It’s happening already – a number have already indicated they are withdrawing from the DTSS.

“This crisis has been brewing long before Covid-19 but now, with additional PPE costs and reduced patient flow, due to social distancing and cross infection measures, the medical card patients are being treated at a loss.

“This is not sustainable. The HSE has to immediately engage with the Irish Dental Association over the contract for medical card patients and immediately address the PPE issue. If they don’t, this is only the start of a major crisis.

“In the longer term, there needs to be a far more sustainable method of providing public dental care.”

Deputy Ó Murchú last week submitted a parliamentary question about the issue to the Minister for Health.