Dental Treatment Scheme for Older People at "verge of total collapse" – David Cullinane TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Minister for Health to intervene and engage with dentists to prevent a total collapse of the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS).
Teachta Cullinane has also called on the Minister for Health to ensure funding is available to boost public dentistry in the coming year.
The Waterford TD said that more than 200 dentists have left the scheme in the last year, with more than a third of dentists having left the scheme since 2016, leaving older people and other medical card holders without any coverage for dental treatment except in emergency cases.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Dental Treatment Scheme is on the verge of collapse because it is not fit for purpose and under-resourced.
“Last year, less was spent on public dentistry than in 2001, the lowest level in 20 years. Severe cuts were made in 2010 which were never restored.
“More than a third of dentists have left the scheme in the last 5 years, with more than 15% of the remaining dentists having left so far this year.
“Between May and August 2021, almost 50 more dentists left the scheme. They are leaving the scheme because it does not work for them and it does not work for patients.
“The mass withdrawal of dentists from the scheme is limiting care in much of the country to emergency only, and this is having a severe effect on children and adults, particularly those with special care needs.
“This is a particular problem now in Kildare and Wicklow, where public dentistry is severely under-resourced, but much of the country has experienced periods of emergency-only public dental care because of staff shortages and the collapse in the DTSS.
“The Minister needs to intervene, engage with dentists, and ensure a boost for public dentistry this year while working to fix the scheme long-term.
“Dentists have been flagging concerns with a lack of preventative treatments available through the scheme for longer.
“We need a new, preventative approach to healthcare, including dental care, which can increase health outcomes and quality of life while also reducing overall costs.
“Public patients need more than a scale and a polish, but even this is unavailable to them. Their options are mostly limited to extractions, but not the measures needed to save their teeth in the first place.
“Despite knowing that the scheme is collapsing with devastating consequences for people’s oral health, the Minister has failed to deliver a change in direction in the Budget, which contrasts with serious proposals put forward by Sinn Féin.”