Number of dentists taking medical card patients collapsing as scheme is ‘unfit for purpose’ – Irish Dental Association

The number of dentists providing some dental services to medical card patients has fallen from 1500 in 2019 to just over 600 this month.

here were 1100 dentists with contracts under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) in January and this has figure nearly halved in the past 10 months because it is “unfit for purpose”, the President of the Irish Dental Association has said.

Dr Caroline Robins said the scheme has remained largely unchanged since 1994 and that there are now around 600 dentists to cater for approximately 1.5 million DTSS patients.

“In 2019 we were sitting around 1500 [dentists in the scheme].

“By January of this year, we’re down to 1100. And the latest figures show that we have just over 600. The scheme is just unfit for purpose. It was developed in 1994. I graduated in 1995 – I don’t practise the same dentistry that I did in 1995,” Dr Robins said on Virgin Media’s Tonight Show.

Dr Robins said while the fees for dentists who participated in the DTSS were increased in May, that was the first time they were increased in 17 years and that most dentists were providing treatments under the scheme “at a loss” before this, because the fees were so low.

The increase has done little to stop the number of dentists resigning from the scheme.

Dr Robins said that dentists leaving the scheme was “not about money, but about patient care”.

She said that the contract under the DTSS dictates what a dentist can provide for a medical card patient and that, “I don’t want to treat my medical card patients any differently to my private patients”.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen confirmed a review of the DTSS has not yet begun, despite the fact that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil in March that it would begin by “Q2” of this year.

Mr Cowen said Minister Donnelly has acknowledged that the scheme is not fit for purpose and has “committed to a root and branch review” of the DTSS. He also stated that the government allocated additional funding of €15m to dentistry this year.

The Irish Dental Association said that this will “do little to clear oral backlogs” when “spending on dental care was slashed by €100m per annum annually in 2009”.

 

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