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.

Imelda Munster: HSE Personnel Should Decide, Not Computers

Call for local frontline HSE staff to make exceptional circumstances decisions over inhuman computer generated figures

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and Meath East Imelda Munster has criticised the HSE for its uneconomical method of withdrawing medical cards from people who are seriously ill. The HSE uses computer generated figures, without an iota of compassion or common sense.

Deputy Munster said:

‘I have been contacted by many seriously ill constituents recently, who are distraught that their Medical Card has been withdrawn because their income is marginally over the limit allowed. The Primary Care Reimbursement Services (PCRS) system, which operates on computer generated figures, needs to loosen up and bring a bit of human compassion back into its reckoning.”

“They are dealing with people not machines, and all too often the people who contact me about this issue are suffering from serious or life threatening illnesses. The additional anxiety and stress that they have to endure because of this heartless system just compounds their health issues.”

“When they lose their GMS medical card and find that they can’t pay for the prescriptions that they depend on, even within the Drugs Payment Scheme, people have no option other than to endanger their lives by doing without essential medicines and hospital appointments.”

“Amongst others I have been contacted by a man who can’t afford his heart medication and I have seen a number of people with asthma and COPD lung disease who can’t afford to get their inhalers. Another lady who has suffered multiple aneurysms and has high blood pressure has had her card cancelled and is going without important medication.”

“The ridiculous part of this is that it doesn’t even make economic sense. The Department of Health still has to pay for anything in excess of €134 at retail prices under the Drugs Payment Scheme rather than at cost price under the General Medical Services.”

“I have written to the Minister for Health requesting that local frontline HSE staff who are in a position to advise regarding exceptional circumstances be brought back into the decision making process on these cases.”

“By making sick people even sicker this government shows a complete lack of compassion for those who need some breathing space as they navigate acute episodes of care.”

Government’s shambolic medical card policy needs to go – Adams

Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has warned that the government’s policy on medical cards is continuing to cause deep distress to families and vulnerable citizens. The Louth TD said the government needs to state very clearly that those who need medical cards will get them and that those who have had cards removed will have them restored immediately.

Deputy Adams said; “Government policy on medical cards is continuing to cause deep distress to families and vulnerable citizens. Remarks by government spokespersons in recent days have merely added to the confusion and distress.

“The government needs to state very clearly that all those who need medical cards will get them; that there will be no refusals on spurious grounds including income; and that those who have had cards removed will have them restored immediately.

“Every Oireachtas member including the government parties knows families who are being punished by government policies especially on medical cards. The time for blindly supporting government policy regardless of its effect on ordinary people has gone. The people have sent a message to the government and they need to act upon it. They need for example to restore a medical card to Lily Redmond from Drogheda who is living with Down’s Syndrome. Lily has food aversions and attends various specialists and therapists.

“Vast quantities of medical evidence have been submitted on Lily’s behalf. The HSE though, refuse to restore Lily’s card as it says it can find no evidence of financial hardship. These are real people in the real world whose families are facing real hardship because of what this government is putting them through.

“Minister for Health James Reilly needs to go, but, more importantly, the government’s shambolic policy on medical cards needs to go.”