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News / October 7, 2010

Dentists call for cutbacks to be evaluated

by Guy Hiscott

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has called on the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, to carry out an immediate evaluation of the effects of the wide-ranging reductions to the PRSI and Medical Card schemes. 

In a recent response to a Dáil question, the Minister confirmed that the Department of Health and Children is not planning to carry out any evaluation on the effects of the cutbacks.

It has also emerged that the HSE has yet to act on the recommendations of a report it commissioned on recruitment to the Public Dental Service (PDS). The PA Consulting Report suggested that a moratorium on recruitment that is currently in place should not apply to the PDS.

Speaking at the IDA’s HSE Dental Surgeons Conference in Sligo, the Association’s chief executive, Fintan Hourihan, commented that the failure of the HSE and the Minister to staff the PDS adequately was a matter of the utmost seriousness. 

Mr Hourihan went on to say: ‘When implementing the cuts to the dental schemes, the HSE said it was doing so to protect services for children and those with special needs. I would urge them to implement the findings of their own report as a matter of urgency. The PDS service has been understaffed for years and this moratorium has stretched the service to breaking point.

‘If the HSE does not act promptly it promise to look after children and special needs groups will ring hollow indeed.’

Speaking about the cuts to the PRSI and Medical Card schemes, Mr Hourihan said: ‘The failure of the Minister to evaluate the effects of the cutbacks on 1.9 million Medical Card holders beggars belief. We have warned the HSE and the Minister that they are storing up huge problems for the dental health of the nation for the future.

‘If people are denied treatments now, the remedial treatment needed in a few years time will be more painful and much more expensive. So these cuts are not just unfair – they simply don’t make any financial sense.

‘Perhaps that’s why the Department isn’t carrying out an evaluation. Whatever the reason, it is grossly irresponsible and patients down the line will suffer due to the complete absence of any data on this system failure.’