Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]


5:55 pm

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)

I thank the Regional Group for tabling this motion. Nearly every Deputy in this Chamber, including Deputy Munster and me, have raised the DTSS and received many answers over a long period. We all know that the inability of people on medical cards to get dental care is having a major impact. We all know people are putting off dental care and we know the long-term impact this has. The Minister must actively address this issue as quickly as possible. The situation is not getting any better.

Since 2017, dentists have been leaving the scheme and there are now 1,000 fewer dentists operating it. In 2016-17, there were 35 dentists in Louth operating the scheme. At the end of 2022 there were only 13. On the basis of those figures, the Minister can work out what the impact has been.

I will read out a message that was sent to me by a constituent. This will get across the impact, especially of one pressure point within the health system and how it impacts others.

My son was in a bad way with a dental issue two or three months ago. His dentist would not take his medical card, so he went, as suggested, to the doctor on call. The doctor on call said that if he could not get a dentist within 24 hours to go to A and E. [People can see where this is going]. We had to borrow money to get him an emergency dentist in Dublin. Two weeks before Christmas I had a dental issue. I had registered with a new dentist in Dundalk as mine also had stopped taking medical cards. When I went to the new dentist, even though I was in agony and I had the €40 deposit they required, they told me that as I was a new client I was not a priority, which I do understand. They advised that I go to a GP and if I could not get an appointment [wait for it] to go to A and E. I did go to my original dentists, who were excellent. It cost me €35 for the appointment and €95 for an extraction or filling. If you are on social welfare while looking for work, it is devastating. It meant no heat in the house over the past week. I am happy and grateful to have home and food and electricity but the Government need to fix the issues with the dentists also. So, the GPs are out the door, the dentists won't take the medical card and everyone is suggesting to us A and E.

This debacle means the DTSS is putting further pressure on the accident and emergency department in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. We also have the possible impending closure of the Navan accident and emergency department, which would lump even more pressure onto this particular problem. We can see that all of these crises are coming together. It is an absolute necessity, even if it is all we do, for the Minister to engage with the Irish Dental Association and bring this one part of the problem to a closure. We would then have dealt with at least one of the many issues that exist in the health service.

There are 1,000 special care patients and 3,000 children on waiting lists for dental surgery under general anaesthetic. There are 13,000 children and adults on waiting lists for dental and oral surgery in the public system and a further 13,000 on orthodontic waiting lists. As was said previously, we need more dentists and better workforce planning, we need work permits dealt with and we need to consider the possibility of directly employing dentists to deal with the issue we have. This is an ongoing disaster and we need delivery, not positive words from the Minister.


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