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News / March 1, 2011

Judge rules against dentists in HSE case

by Guy Hiscott

Two dentists, Martin Reid and James Turner, have lost their High Court bid to stop the HSE restricting the scheme for free dental treatment for medical card holders.

The dentists had obtained an injunction in June 2010, claiming that the changes to the scheme unilaterally varied the terms of an agreement between dentists and the HSE, amounting to a breach of contract by the HSE.

However, passing judgment yesterday [28 February], Mr Justice Roderick Murphy discharged the injunction.

He said that the dentists, who are members of the Irish Dental Association, had been a part of the DTSS scheme, which was introduced in 1994 for medical card holders.

Mr Justice Murphy stated that, in 1999, the IDA negotiated revised procedures that provided the HSE (then the health boards) with the right to take whatever measures were needed to work within its budgets and statutory obligations.

The judge said that the 1999 agreement was an acknowledgement by the Association of the health boards’ statutory obligations to stay within the budget.

In reference to the scheme’s statutory background, the judge concluded that the HSE circular of 26 April 2010 was contractually binding on the dentists.

As such, Mr Justice Murphy found that there was no breach of contract by the HSE when it sent out a circular giving priority to funding for treatment focusing on pain relief, sepsis and emergencies.

The IDA is studying Mr Justice Murphy’s judgment and will consider advice from its lawyers presently.