Dental crisis in Louth
Sixth class primary school students in Louth are waiting over a year for a dental check-up for the past three years.
While the number of dentists providing treatment to medical card holders in the county has more than halved, from 34 to 16, since 2017, new figures have revealed.
And everyone on the Adult Oral Surgery and Paediatric Special Care waiting lists have been waiting 12 months or more for treatment, according to official figures obtained by local Labour TD Ged Nash.
Deputy Nash has described as "scandalous" the fact that one year after raising the crisis in dental care in Louth, the problem for children, medical card holders and dental professionals has only worsened.
Deputy Nash said: “The number of dentists who have withdrawn from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) means there are fewer dental professionals available to treat patients who are entitled to free treatment because they have a medical card.
“I have recently been contacted by a host of concerned constituents who have been refused dental care at their regular practice due to their medical card status and by other patients who have been waiting an extraordinary amount of time for essential medical treatment and who are on the Adult Oral Surgery list or who have a child on the Paediatric Special Care waiting list.
“Over a year on from when I first drew attention to this serious problem, the problem has only gotten worse.
"I have raised this issue directly with the Minister for Health and HSE on their behalf and behalf of all constituents in Louth and East Meath area.
“Frankly, I am shocked by the statistics which prove the huge scale of the problem in terms of waiting times for dental treatment and the impact of the withdrawal of care from medical card patients.
“This has left a number of vulnerable patients - from children, to students and pensioners - in the lurch, scrambling to find another dental service or scrapping together money for expensive treatments at a time when household finances are already stretched."
The Louth TD said he has repeatedly raised this issue with the former Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, and current Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly and was assured last year that the Department of Health was “urgently pursuing the matter with the HSE National Oral Health Office to seek to ensure that no patients are left without a service”.
Deptuy Nash continued: “Yet over a year later, we have seen little or no concrete action taken and the situation continues to deteriorate.
"Despite the promises, patients continue to be left without vital dental care or are forced onto unacceptably long and ever-growing waiting lists.
“This flies in the face of the Government’s own promise under the National Oral Health Policy to develop a model of care that will improve access and enable preventative approaches.
“I am aware that the assistant national director with the HSE, Dr Joseph Green has directly warned that ‘unless the provision of basic dental services to adult medical card holders is addressed urgently at the highest level, the HSE Louth Meath dental service may be forced to confine dental services to emergency treatment only, to the detriment of the oral health of both children and adults in particular those with special care needs.’
“This red alert for dental care cannot continue to be ignored by the Minister for Health.
Deputy Nash said the Minister for Health and the HSE "urgently need to engage with providers and their representative body and put an effective plan and resources in place to ensure the people of Louth & East Meath have timely and affordable access to essential dental treatment".
Deputy Nash said that he has also requested a meeting with the Irish Dental Association to establish how I can assist to address this problem and the people he represents.
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