Professor Leo Stassen contrasts the recommendations of the first report of the National Oral Health Forum with the publication of the HSE budget for 2015.
The recommendations of the first report of the National Oral Health Forum are outlined in the members’ section of this Journal. They are clear, sensible, progressive and in the public interest. Recommendations include: decisions to be based on clinical needs; the restoration of foundation training in dentistry; intelligent use of patient co-payment; and, the development of the optimal skill mix in dental practices. These are important, worthwhile and practical recommendations. The recommendations also address oral healthcare policy in Ireland in several ways:
- primary dental care should mirror the Primary Health Care Strategy;
- primary care services should link into appropriate secondary care services;
- continuity of care should be ensured;
- securing and maintaining oral health early in life is an urgent concern; and,
- priority should be given to the development of a strong primary prevention policy, and service entitlement for children, special needs and vulnerable groups.
These aren’t just broad aspirations dreamed up by someone in the dental profession; they are the recommendations of the most important stakeholders in dentistry and oral health. The report is entitled ‘A vision for improved oral health in Ireland’ and is promoted primarily by the Association, the Dublin and Cork dental schools, and the Faculty of Dentistry at the RCSI.
Depressingly, we also read in this edition from both the President, Dr Peter Gannon, in his message, and in the news pages from the Chief Executive, Fintan Hourihan, of the announcement of the HSE’s service plan for 2015. In essence, bar a €1 million allocation for orthodontics (which in itself is wholly inadequate), there is no increase in allocation for the provision of public dental health services.
The context of this announcement is a working public which has been paying PRSI but receiving nothing for it in oral health bar a dental health check once a year, and an unemployed/elderly/vulnerable population with medical cards, which has been on highly restricted oral care since the start of the recession.
Oral healthcare is no more or less important than any other form of healthcare. It will, when neglected as now, cause pain, distress and, in cases such as oral cancer, it will kill you.
It is being treated by the State as less important. This is a public scandal and is already resulting in pain and illness. What is even more upsetting is that the Association met with the Minister, Dr Varadkar, in advance of the announcement, and impressed on him the importance of prevention as a public policy. What part of this message did Dr Varadkar not understand? It is willful neglect of our population and the State will pay a high price for the treatment of its citizens in the future – but not until those citizens have endured years of unnecessary pain and suffering.
Several years ago the term ‘parity of esteem’ was useful in articulating an important civil right in Irish politics. It appears the phrase may have to be reintroduced in relation to the healthcare of the population.
Elsewhere in the Journal, we have a multitude of great articles for you: scientific, clinical, practice management, abstracts, advice and news. One of the best news items is that dentists are being heralded by their patients and that was celebrated in style at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on December 6 at the Sensodyne Sensitive Dentist of the Year Awards. Congratulations to every dentist that was nominated, but especially to Drs James Turner, Anna Zwolinksa, Vincent O’Connor and Aidan Higgins.
We have had a good year in the Journal and we hope that you did too. On behalf of the Editorial Board, I want to thank all our contributors and reviewers for their great work. We wish all our readers a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2015.
Prof. Leo F. A. Stassen