Thursday, 19 January 2023
Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]
Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
Ireland's dental service is in crisis and the Government is burying its head in the sand. I have previously spoken about the fact that there is just one dentist and one dental technician accepting medical cards in County Laois. I asked a question on this recently and the answer, which I received this morning, was that only one dentist and no technician accepts medical cards in Laois. I called the surgery only to be told it is not taking on new patients. There is no medical card dentist in the whole county, with its population of 90,000. I do not know how this Government sleeps at night. The Minister referred in his presentation to a town with no dentist but I am talking about a whole county.
I asked a parliamentary question recently to receive a list of dentists accepting medical cards in Kildare. The list looked hopeful but when we started calling to see whether the practices were accepting new patients, we found 95% were not. People in extreme pain are popping pills waiting for appointments in other counties. There are children missing the chance to have dental problems discovered and dealt with because the schools programme is in disarray. Early intervention is key to dental health, and the public is being failed by a broken system.
I had a man in my office recently who could not get an appointment locally. He ended up in hospital with sepsis, which was life-threatening. I spoke to a lady last month who had not done food shopping because she was saving up to have a sore tooth dealt with. She is yet another medical card holder who cannot find a dentist. She had been surviving on cereal and tinned food that she got from a local food bank, in which, ironically, the local Fine Gael counsellor is involved. Talk about rubbing salt in somebody's wounds.
The best time to start dealing with this crisis was ten years ago. The second-best time is today. In Sinn Féin's alternative budget for 2023, it proposed an expansion of public dentistry, starting with school screening and an oral health scheme for children, and the negotiation of a fix to the dental treatment service scheme.
In any other country this scandal would be a resigning issue. Shame on you.