Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]

 

5:55 pm

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offaly, Independent)

I am delighted to speak on this important motion and I thank the Regional Group for bringing it forward. I held a very good briefing with the Irish Dental Association before Christmas attended by Deputies Verona Murphy and Matt Shanahan from the Regional Group. It was great to have so many people from different groupings and parties present.

It is no shock to any of us that the dental services are in crisis. They are in deep crisis as we speak. My constituency of Laois-Offaly is one of the worst affected in the State. A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the parent of a ten-year-old boy. The parent pleaded with me for help to access dental treatment for the child who would end up having an operation on his jaw if he did not have urgent treatment. That shows the seriousness of the issue. The Government, the Department of Health and the HSE do not treat this issue with sufficient urgency.

I thank the Irish Dental Association and welcome its representatives to the Chamber. The association has been highlighting the challenges dentists are facing with a medical card scheme that is not fit for purpose. The scheme does not focus on prevention strategies. It does not do anything to deliver for people in the long term. Urgent intervention by the Minister for Health is required. This cannot continue and should not be allowed to continue any longer.

I understand there have been some calls for meetings with the Department and the HSE. There needs to be meaningful and constructive engagement and the Minister for Health should be central to that process. It is my understanding that the Irish Dental Association has written twice to the Minister for Health and has yet to receive a response. I believe the association wrote on 10 January 2023 and before that on 6 December 2022. I again ask for the Minister for Health to intervene on this issue. He is central to making things happen. With constructive engagement, we can certainly progress this issue and bring in the necessary and meaningful reforms to a medical card scheme that is currently not fit for purpose.

I urge the Minister to take on board what I am saying. I have raised this issue in the Dáil a number of times. I have asked parliamentary questions. In November 2021, during Leaders' Questions, I expressed concern that my constituency was becoming one of the worst affected constituencies in this regard. I specifically asked the Taoiseach if the Department of Health would respond positively in the near future to the Irish Dental Association's request for the appointment of an independent chair and to confirm a framework for negotiations, equivalent to that agreed with the Irish Medical Organisation seven years ago. That is not a big ask. It is very constructive and it could certainly bring a resolution to this issue if the political will was there. I will end on that note. Again, I ask for urgent intervention.

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