Number of dentists taking patients on sick leave plummets as system is ‘unfit for purpose’ – Irish Dental Association

The number of dentists providing dental services to patients with health cards has fallen from 1,500 in 2019 to just over 600 this month.

There were 1,100 dentists on Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) contracts in January and that number has almost halved in the last 10 months because it is “unfit for purpose”, the President of the Irish Dental Association said.

dr Caroline Robins said the program has remained largely unchanged since 1994 and there are now around 600 dentists serving around 1.5 million DTSS patients.

“In 2019 we sat around 1500 [dentists in the scheme].

“By January of this year we were down to 1100. And the latest numbers show we have just over 600. The program is simply unsuitable for the purpose. It was developed in 1994. I graduated in 1995 – I’m not practicing the same dentistry that I was in 1995,” said Dr. Robins on Virgin Media’s Tonight Show.

dr Robins said while fees for dentists participating in the DTSS were increased in May, it was the first time in 17 years that most dentists were offering treatments under the program previously “at a loss” because fees were so low.

The increase did little to stop the number of dentists dropping out of the program.

dr Robins said dentists leaving the system were “not about money, it was about patient care.”

She said that the contract under the DTSS dictates what a dentist can do for a health card patient and that “I don’t want to treat my health card patients any differently than my private patients.”

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen confirmed that a review of the DTSS has not yet started, although Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil in March it would start by the “second quarter” of this year.

Mr Cowen said Secretary Donnelly had acknowledged the system was not fit for purpose and committed to “a thorough review” of the DTSS. He also explained that the government allocated €15 million in additional funding to dentistry this year.

The Irish Dental Association said this will do “little to eliminate oral debris” if “spending on dental care was cut by €100m a year in 2009”. Number of dentists taking patients on sick leave plummets as system is ‘unfit for purpose’ – Irish Dental Association

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