Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Department of Health
212. To ask the Minister for Health the status of the ongoing problems with the availability of dental treatment to patients with a medical card; if his attention has been drawn to the number of dental practices no longer providing treatment under the medical card scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45459/21]
265. To ask the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to resolve the difficulties for persons with medical cards accessing dental treatment since the pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45734/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 265 together.
The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides dental care, free of charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. These services are provided by independent dental practitioners who have a contract with the HSE. Patients may choose to have their treatment undertaken by any dentist who participates in the Scheme.
I am aware that there has been a reduction in the numbers of dentists participating in the DTSS since the beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some people are experiencing problems in accessing a service close to their home. However, I have been assured by the HSE that their local services on the ground will assist any persons who are experiencing problems in accessing a service.
The national approach to future oral health service provision will be informed by Smile agus Sláinte, the National Oral Health Policy, which was published in 2019. The aim of the policy is to develop a model of care that will enable preventative approaches to be prioritised, improve access, and support interventions appropriate to current and future oral health needs.
I am committed to ensuring the sustainability of the DTSS, but recognise that it needs to be aligned with the new Policy. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the roll-out of the National Oral Health Policy to be delayed, and the proposed review of the DTSS contract to be deferred. Officials in my Department and from the HSE are currently engaging with the Irish Dental Association on matters relating to the provision of services under the DTSS.