Tipperary Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne has raised his continued concerns at the number of dentists who are viewing the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (medical card scheme) as being no longer viable, while the HSE in the South East also confirms six-year waiting lists for orthodontic treatments.
Teachta Browne said:
“Earlier this year I highlighted how the number of dentists operating the DTSS in Co Tipperary has been falling significantly in recent years because the scheme is outdated and no longer reflects operational costs.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been informed by dentists in the county that this decline is continuing because there has been no movement in reviewing the scheme.
“One dentist in Co Tipperary told me that he can no longer afford to take on any additional medical card patients because the scheme no longer covers the costs of dental repair and that, after 40 years, he cannot stick with the medical card scheme much longer in its current state.
“The town of Carrick-on-Suir is the latest town to find itself without a dentist operating the scheme.
“According to the Irish Dental Association, the Department of Health’s slow movement on the matter means ‘the current crisis will get a whole lot worse before things get any better.
“The IDA believes that there are only 800 dentists actively operating the scheme at this point,
leaving many of the 1.5 million eligible medical card patients without ready access to dental care.
“The scheme is on the brink of collapse.
“This is failing people across Co Tipperary, and the Department of Health needs to commit itself to reviewing it and to pay more than lip service to our dental professionals.
“But the crisis in dental treatment in Co Tipperary doesn’t stop there.
“Enquiring about a case of a young person’s orthodontic needs, the Office of the Head of Primary Care at South East Community Healthcare told me that if a person ‘is within guidelines for HSE Orthodontic treatment when assessed, the current wait time is approximately 72 months.
“This equates to six years of a young person’s life, when their body – in this case, their mouth and jaws – are forming. If they can’t get the treatment they need in good time, then it will lead to more pronounced problems down the road, and more invasive treatment.
“This can lead to parents of young children getting themselves into a high level of debt or even approaching unscrupulous money lenders in order to get private treatment.
“To allow such a situation to arise in Co Tipperary is sheer and absolute neglect on the part of the Department of Health.
“I have contacted the Department of Health and Minister Stephen Donnelly on both of these matters. A crisis is happening in the dental sector. Entire areas of Co Tipperary are being affected by these scandals, and I have called on the Minister to engage with the sector immediately, or else the health and wellbeing of people of all ages are going to decline.”