Friday, May 12, 2023

Michael Bolton

A new survey from the Irish Dental Association shows that almost 40 per cent of patients are now having to wait an average of up to 3 months to get an elective appointment.

These new findings were announced as dentists gather in Kilkenny this weekend for the Irish Dental Association’s Annual Conference.

The survey also shows over half of patients are being forced to wait longer than three months for specialist care which includes orthodontic and oral surgery.

It follows a recent vote of no confidence tabled against the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Department of Health officials at the Irish Dental Association’s pre-conference AGM, which took place last week.

The Irish Dental Association say this is the direct result of ongoing recruitment issues and a capacity crisis across the sector. More than half of dentists surveyed say they have tried to hire a dentist for their practice in the last 12 months with almost 60 per cent of those unable to find a suitable candidate.

One quarter of dentists are currently not in a position to take on new private adult patients, while four out of five dentists surveyed said they don’t have the capacity to take on any new patients, including children.

As a result, patients are finding it increasingly difficult to access essential care across both the private and public sector, particularly those most vulnerable.

Speaking ahead of the Irish Dental Association’s Annual Conference in Kilkenny, President Eamon Croke said: “The stark results of this survey and the resounding response from our members substantiate our concerns surrounding the ongoing issues facing the sector, which are acting as significant barriers to patients who require access to adequate and efficient oral healthcare.

“The fact that an unprecedented 93% of dentists say that they would not sign up to the medical card contract in its current form even with the promise of a new scheme is indicative of a model which is not fit for purpose and directly impacts on the most vulnerable in our society.

“We see this also in the Government’s plans to provide for new prevention-focused oral healthcare for children aged from birth to seven years through a model where they are only seen by a private dentist, moving away from public service screening. It’s notable from our survey that 83% of members would not be in a position to sign up to such a scheme for Under 7s due to practices already being understaffed and overstretched.

“Our membership is beyond frustrated at the endless broken promises and false dawns by the Minister and his Department. The recent vote of no confidence in the Minister by dentists shows how broken their trust is in a system and service that has no capacity or seen any meaningful commitment to reform.”

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