The Irish Dental Association have warned that the scheme which provides dental treatment for medical card holders is in ‘complete chaos’ with dentists withdrawing from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme in their droves.
Locally there has been a 40 per cent reduction in the number of dentists operating the medical card scheme for patients in County Louth over a five-year period.
According to the Irish Dental Association (IDA) Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan, the figures come from an answer to a parliamentary question.
“From September 2017 to September 2021 the number of dentists operating the medical card scheme in County Louth fell from 41 to 25. It was a 40 per cent reduction,” he said.
“In relation to County Louth, I do know from speaking to some of the dentists, that in Drogheda hardly any dentists are seeing medical card holders.
“And the situation in Dundalk isn’t much better. I believe some of the 25 dentists may be dormant in County Louth.”
Fintan added: “Dentists and patients are angry and astonished that there was no plan to deal with the crisis in the budget.
“It has affected the Northeast in the most obvious way but it is a nationwide problem. There are 1.5 million eligible medical card patients in the country as a whole. There has been a mass exodus of dentists from the medical card scheme in recent years. People are finding it harder and harder to find a dentist.”
He continued: “Dentists can’t afford to stay in the scheme. They want to be able to help medical card patients. We need a new scheme, the old one is beyond saving. We have sought to engage with the Department of Health to modify this scheme over many years but to no avail,” he stated.
Because of the drop off in funding and dentists’ participation medical card patients are now faced with delays while seeking treatment; increased travel times while seeking that treatment; and possible reliance on the already underfunded public dental service to provide care in areas where DTSS contracts are not in place.