Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]

 

6:25 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)

I thank Deputy Naughten, at the outset, for his generosity. I met him last night and he said I could speak for a couple of minutes. It is good to see the season of goodwill continuing right into the middle of January. A lot has been said here today and I think the tone of the debate has been very constructive. It is nice to see a motion being tabled where the Minister accepts the spirit in which the motion has been moved and many good suggestions have been made. That is very important. There are a number of points I wish to highlight. It is impossible to compare the situation with 2010. There were so many more services available through the medical card and the PRSI scheme before 2010. We cannot compare the situation with 2010 for many things in the economy and the country. It was a different period. However, I acknowledge that additional measures were introduced in the PRSI scheme and the medical card scheme last summer. It is interesting the Irish Dental Association has noted that 70% of people did not avail of the cleaning service available under the PRSI scheme last year. I will use this as an opportunity to appeal perhaps to men in particular. I know that on a gender front we are quite poor at presenting ourselves on health grounds. Maybe that includes dental care. I met one of our work colleagues outside the door and he told me he has not been to the dentist in a long time. There is a cleaning service included under the PRSI scheme for certain bands. I encourage people to take up that service. There is also an onus on the dentists as well. I have a very good relationship with my own dentist. He keeps the pressure on me to continue to present myself for treatment. That is important as well.

We all agree that preventative care and gum health is critical at an early stage to prevent further problems down the line. The Minister mentioned €200 million in funding. That is a lot of money, but he did acknowledge that structural change is needed. There are plenty of issues, including supply issues in the provision of orthodontic and dental services. A lot of structural change is needed. It is about getting to the root cause of where the issues are, if Members will pardon the pun. Orthodontic care is a massive issue in terms of affordability. It is also an issue in terms of orthodontic service provision. Indeed an orthodontic vacuum provides a very visible example of poverty, where people who cannot access and afford orthodontic care. It is a very visible reflection of poverty. That is something we need to continue to monitor.

My experience recently with dentists and dental hygienists through the HSE scheme in both Creeslough and Letterkenny has been nothing but positive, not just at a courtesy level but also at a professional level. It is essential that if there are any logjams within the primary school system, we continue to monitor them. The Minister may not be aware, but the children in the Finn Valley area have to travel to Letterkenny due to the closure of the dental service in St. Joseph's in Stranorlar. Perhaps the Minister would look at that to see if there is an opportunity to reopen that service. I was speaking earlier to my colleagues, Deputies Ring and Durkan. Deputy Durkan was keen to point out that the very issues we are raising here today were presenting themselves in a similar way back in 1981. Similarly, Deputy Ring referenced his own experience over the past number of decades in this profession. The issues continue to be the same.

I thank the Regional Group for raising the issue. I thank Deputy Naughten for affording me the time to speak on this important item. I certainly hope the spirit that has been taken on the part of the Minister for Health, and he did come across as being very sincere on this issue, means that whatever proposals coming from the Irish Dental Association are taken seriously and listened to.

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