33 dentists leave medical card scheme in last year in wider Midlands

Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has said that the crisis in accessing dental treatment is now a public health emergency impacting every county in the Midlands region.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after the Chief Officer of the HSE’s Midlands Louth Meath Community Health Organisation confirmed to her that in the period from September 20, 2020 to September 23, 2021 there have been thirty-three resignations of dental surgeon contractors from The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). The DTTS provides services to all medical card holders over the age of 16.

“Since at least 2016 the Irish Dental Association have been pointing out that the number of dentists in the public service has been dropping," Deputy Nolan said.

"In fact, it is now almost five years since the Association described the situation in Laois/Offaly as “simply shocking.”

"Yet here we are, all those years later, and the crisis is not only unresolved, it is actually getting worse.

"Thirty-three resignations in the space of one year clearly indicates that we are now experiencing a genuine public health emergency when it comes to accessing dental treatment.

"This is confirmed by the fact that there are currently only forty-eight remaining practices within the Dental Treatment Services Scheme across the entire Midlands region, and only thirteen of those are operating within counties Laois and Offaly.

"The HSE has also stated in its reply to me that there are currently no new applications being processed to join the DTSS with the HSE dental Midlands area.

Describing the situation as profoundly alarming, she said she had medical card holders contacting me every single week, from Birr and Ferbane in particular, who simply cannot access dental treatment no matter how many dental practices they call for an appointment.

Clearly the system is in freefall, the TD argued.

"The Minister for Health must move to tackle this emergency before the public dental system collapses due to the overwhelming capacity constraints that the remaining practices are experiencing,” concluded Deputy Nolan.