The Irish Prison Service expects to pay as much as €3m for regular check-ups, fillings, and other dental services provided to inmates in seven of its 12 detention facilities over the next eight years.
Six of the seven prisons have fully equipped dental surgeries on their campuses, while treatment is provided off-site in the case of the open centre at Shelton Abbey in Co Wicklow.
The anticipated outlay excludes major institutions like Mountjoy and Cloverhill, and does not take into account the cost of providing equipment and consumables for dentists at the in-house surgeries.
The prison authority estimates that up to 2,880 inmates will require dental services at these six facilities each year, while an additional number at Shelton Abbey will be entitled to visit a clinic outside the centre.
Qualified professionals have been invited to tender for contracts to provide dental services at each of the seven institutions, and are expected to begin work in August or September.
The contracts are for a period of four years and may be extended for a further four years, according to tender documents. Spending under the agreements will amount to a maximum of €3m excluding VAT.
The range of services provided will be comparable to those available to medical card holders, including an annual check-up, emergency care, denture repair, extractions, and fillings.
Dental clinics will be held once a fortnight in Cork, Limerick, Castlerea, and Portlaoise, and once a month in Loughan House open prison.
One and a half sessions per week will be held in Midlands Prison, which accounts for the largest estimated cost of €640,000.
The anticipated spend on dental services for inmates in Limerick Prison is €360,000, while €280,000 is expected to be spent in respect of prisoners in Portlaoise, Cork and Castlerea.
Services provided at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House will cost around €200,000 each.
“The [prison service] aims to deliver a quality of healthcare reflective of that available to those holding medical cards in the wider community, taking into consideration the constraints that custody imposes,” it states in the tender documents.
“For onsite contracts, the [prison service] will provide a fully equipped dental surgery and will make appropriate consumables available… buildings and equipment may be added at the same or different locations as… the operational circumstances dictate,” it adds.