A total of 24 dentists have withdrawn from the medical card scheme across Roscommon and Galway over the last five years leaving many patients unable to access dental treatment, Denis Naughten TD has revealed.
“In this time just over half of the dentists providing a service to County Roscommon patients have left the scheme, while 40% of dentists have left the scheme in County Galway,” explained Denis Naughten. “Dental services for medical card holders are now being offered by just five dentists in County Roscommon and just 28 left throughout County Galway. However, all of these dental practices are now full and cannot offer services to additional patients.
“While the HSE has provided emergency treatment through local health centres this is only available for children and at present no adult service is available.”
Nationally there are 1.5 million adults eligible for medical cards and currently less than 600 dentists across the entire country operating the scheme.
Denis Naughten, as part of the Regional Group, brought a motion before the Dáil earlier this year urging the Government to take immediate action to address this situation.
“On that occasion I gave one example of the situation faced by a constituent who had been trying to get an appointment with a dentist. She rang every dentist in County Roscommon, County Mayo and County Leitrim, and not one of them was taking medical card patients. She is a single parent with two adult children for whom she is the primary carer. She is someone who worked all her life but was forced out of employment back in 2015. She paid all of her taxes like everyone else and now felt like she was begging to get the help she urgently needed,” said Denis Naughten.
“Under section 67 of the Health Act 1970, the HSE is obliged to provide dental treatment and dental appliances to persons under the medical card scheme. It is obliged under law to provide this service but has instead turned its back on those struggling to cope. Underpayment has led to an exodus of dentists from the medical card scheme, leading to unacceptable delays. People simply cannot get appointments. The whole system right across the board is collapsing.
“What we need to see is a review of the contract with dentists across the country and investment in addressing staff shortages right across the dental sector.”