Medical card holders face ‘delays while seeking treatment’ for dental care

Medical card holders face ‘delays while seeking treatment’ for dental care



a woman brushing her teeth with a toothbrush in her mouth


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Medical card holders could be left scrambling for dental treatment as 106 dentists have now left a HSE scheme, the Irish Daily Mail can reveal.

The Department of Health confirmed they quit the scheme over the past three months after warnings from a union representing Irish dentists.

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said the disgruntled dentists were leaving the ‘underfunded’ Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) because the HSE refused to provide PPE – despite the previous health minister Simon Harris promising to do so three months ago.



The Department of Health confirmed 106 dentists have left the HSE scheme. Pic: Shutterstock


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The Department of Health confirmed 106 dentists have left the HSE scheme. Pic: Shutterstock

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) advised dentists that regular dentistry wear would be sufficient to protect them from the coronavirus.

Medical card holders receiving care from dentists leaving the scheme will now face ‘delays while seeking treatment’, as well as ‘increased travel times while seeking treatment’ and some may have to rely on ‘underfunded public dental service’ where there are no DTSS contracts in place.

An IDA spokeswoman said the Government was leaving dentists ‘out in the cold’ after they suffered losses due to the pandemic.



a hand holding a baseball bat: The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said the disgruntled dentists were leaving the ‘underfunded’ Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) because the HSE refused to provide PPE. Pic: Getty Images


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The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said the disgruntled dentists were leaving the ‘underfunded’ Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) because the HSE refused to provide PPE. Pic: Getty Images

‘Over the past number of months, dentists have had to review the viability of their practices, as well as their participation in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, which provides access to limited dental treatment for adult medical card holders,’ she said.

‘Dentists have been left out in the cold by a Government, which has merely paid lip service to the provision of PPE and has not engaged regarding emergency adjustments to the medical card scheme or regarding support for dental practices in general, the vast majority of which have suffered significant shortfalls since the emergence of COVID-19.’ The IDA, which represents 2,000 dentists, estimates PPE to cost an average of €14 per appointment in a three-surgery practice, which has made it ‘unviable’ for many dentists to provide for medical card holders.

‘New protocols introduced due to COVID-19 and social distancing have meant a decrease in patient turnover and increased costs,’ the association said.



a woman brushing her teeth with a toothbrush in her mouth: The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) advised dentists that regular dentistry wear would be sufficient to protect them from the coronavirus. Pic: Shutterstock


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The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) advised dentists that regular dentistry wear would be sufficient to protect them from the coronavirus. Pic: Shutterstock

It then added: ‘As a result, individual dental practices have been forced to reconsider their participation in the DTSS, with many expected to withdraw.

‘It is, a matter for each individual dentist to decide on their participation in the scheme.’ The department confirmed that 106 dentists left the scheme – 16 of whom left over one seven-day period – in the past three months but the HSE has assured current Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that no medical card holders were left without a service. There are about 1,600 dentists on the scheme, which the HSE admitted needs ‘to be revised in order to align it with modern evidence on oral health needs and provision of dental services’.

Under the terms of the DTSS contract, dentists leaving the scheme have a three-month ‘withdrawal period’ where they must continue to provide service or refer medical holders to an alternative practice that will provide it, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said. ‘To date, only two dentists have completed their notice withdrawal period of three months,’ added the department’s spokeswoman.



a pair of scissors: Medical card holders receiving care from dentists leaving the scheme will now face ‘delays while seeking treatment’. Pic: Shutterstock


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Medical card holders receiving care from dentists leaving the scheme will now face ‘delays while seeking treatment’. Pic: Shutterstock

Over 100 dentists still have time to complete their three-month notice period in the interests of patients’ care. The spokeswoman for the department said: ‘The HSE has assured the minister that no patients have been left without a service following the serving of notice by a small number of dentists to resign from the DTSS, which currently provides a range of dental treatments to medical card holders.

‘The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has advised that regular PPE, which has always been used by dentists, is generally sufficient for routine dentistry. ‘This is supported by the Dental Council, which has indicated that dentists should take a case by case assessment when deciding if additional PPE is warranted.’ But an IDA spokeswoman countered that: ‘To date, the Department of Health have failed to honour commitments given over three months ago to supply PPE equipment for dentists.

‘The commitment was given by the former Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, at a meeting with the IDA, which took place on Friday 8th May last.’

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