The Department’s response to IDA figures on waiting lists for children with chronic dental infections was extremely disappointing, as was the failure of Budget 2016 to address dental cutbacks.
I would firstly like to say that I, like all dentists, am extremely disappointed that Budget 2016 failed to address any of the cutbacks in dentistry. This is despite some indications, in the run up to the Budget, that serious consideration was being given to the restoration of some of the cuts. The HSE Service Plan will be issued in the coming weeks and we wait to see if there will be any improvements made to the DTSS scheme. However, it is worth pointing out that dentists do not simply want a restoration of the old scheme, but instead we are calling for an entirely new scheme to be negotiated with the IDA.
I opened the Annual Seminar for HSE dental surgeons in October. The Seminar was a great success and I would like to congratulate the Chair of the HSE Committee, Dr Frances O’Callaghan, and wish her well in the role, as she is continuing as Chair in 2016. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Dr O’Callaghan on areas of importance to all dentists, both public and private.
One such area that unites our profession, and on which we must continue to campaign strongly, is the issue of children’s oral health. It is an issue that the IDA highlighted with great success during the HSE Seminar, in many local and national radio interviews and in the print media. Figures compiled by the IDA prior to the Seminar show that waiting times for young children with chronic dental infections are now up to 12 months, and that every year up to 10,000 children under the age of 15 in Ireland are being hospitalised for dental extractions under general anaesthetic. As I stated in the interviews, 95% of these cases could have been avoided if they had been detected and treated earlier. The reason they were not is because of Government cuts to family dental supports since 2010, the constant undermining of what had been a highly effective schools screening service, and the fact that too many of our young people have a poor diet containing too much sugar.
I was shocked that in response to the IDA figures, Ministers and HSE spokespersons were more interested in scoring points over numbers rather than engaging with us and asking why a preventable disease is being managed in such a way. Their response reveals a failure to understand that these children endure immense pain, discomfort and sickness from a preventable disease that should be caught much earlier. Also, we as dentists know that this is not the best spend of taxpayer’s money. The Ministers and their spokespeople do not appear to understand the emerging shape of DMFT in children. Although the overall average is down, we are now seeing 25% of children experiencing 80% of the decay.
I would like to congratulate all those who were elected to the new Dental Council and to thank them for giving such time and effort to engage fully with their profession. I would also like to thank the outgoing Council and Chair Dr Eamon Croke for all their hard work and endeavour.
I was delighted to attend the Sensodyne Sensitive Dentist of the Year Awards in the RDS in December. It was wonderful to see dentists nominated by their patients and rewarded for their outstanding care. Congratulations to all of those nominated, and in particular to overall winner Dr Karl Cassidy.
The upcoming GDP members’ seminar in Croke Park in January will be a chance to reflect on the current landscape facing dentists in private practice. It is evident to me that there is a lack of political will to invest further in dentistry. As a result, there is a new type of practice evolving that is less dependent on State-funded and other third-party schemes. The seminar in January will help us to think about this and about the different models of practice. The future is less bleak than we anticipated and we have a lot to look forward to. We need to remain current and keep up with the trends.
Dr Anne Twomey