Dr Cormac McNamara
The number of dentists in Louth operating the medical card scheme has fallen by nearly half since 2012 to today, with just 21 dentists contracted to the scheme in 2022, new figures seen by the Irish Dental Association have revealed
The medical card scheme, or Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), is the HSE-contracted service that was first developed in 1994 and provides access to dental care to medical card holders.
Reimbursement levels to dentists were reduced following the financial crisis of 2008 and treatments available to medical card holders suspended or available in emergency cases only.
This has not changed in the 13 years since, and dentists have become increasingly critical and frustrated by a scheme that they say is not reflective of modern dental practice, does not have the patient’s best interests at heart, and is completely unfit for purpose.
Local Louth dentist, Dr Cormac McNamara, said:
“Dentists want an entirely new scheme that reflects modern dental practice and care, one that allows vulnerable groups to access routine dental care in their community.
"We have never understood the rationale behind a scheme that restricts the number of preventative treatments allowed, such as fillings to save a tooth, while permitting an unlimited number of extractions.
“As a profession, we have serious moral and ethical reservations about providing such restrictive treatment to patients, despite dental medicine having advanced significantly in the years since the medical card scheme was introduced, and further since it was subjected to such brutal cuts and cutbacks in 2010.
“We cannot in good conscience operate a scheme which limits our ability to provide preventative treatments to save a tooth and limits our use of modern materials and techniques.
"As such, dentists around the country – including here in Louth – are leaving the scheme in their droves and medical card patients are finding it more and more difficult to access care in their own communities.
“The HSE has a responsibility to ensure medical card patients can access adequate dental care, as is their duty under the Health Act. Dentists believe that the HSE has wilfully allowed the scheme fall into a state of crisis and unless meaningful reform comes soon, dentists will continue to leave, and patients will continue to suffer.”
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) recently published an independently commissioned research paper outlining an alternative proposal to the medical card scheme and continues to call on the Government to engage with it to find a sustainable solution before the scheme reaches total collapse.
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