More dentists bid to overturn HSE move on medical cards
Published 05/08/2010 | 05:00
A FURTHER 56 dentists will today ask the High Court to block the Health Service Executive (HSE) from drastically cutting back on its scheme providing free dental treatment for the holders of medical cards.
Two other dentists, Dr Martin Reed and Dr James Turner, have already won injunctions restraining the HSE from unilaterally varying the medical card dental scheme until the courts have ruled on the validity of the HSE's move.
The new bid by the 56 dentists from across the State will seek to apply similar restraints on the HSE regarding their individual dental practices.
Barrister Eileen Barrington, counsel for the 56, said their application for injunctions was particularly urgent in that an HSE circular, seeking to breach its contracts with the dentists, had been introduced in April and was currently in operation.
The circular was sent to dentists treating the country's 1.6 million medical card holders and told them that such patients were now entitled to only one oral examination a year and emergency treatment.
Previously, they had been entitled to free routine dental care, such as fillings, extractions and denture repairs.
Mark Connaughton, SC, counsel for the HSE, told Ms Justice Mary Irvine that the executive needed an adjournment until today for the completion of evidence that it would present to the court.
He said financial analyses had been prepared by KPMG accountants and counter-analyses had been served on the HSE on behalf of the 56 applicants. KPMG would have a further report ready for the court today.
Mr Connaughton said the financial report prepared on behalf of the dentists revealed that almost 30 of them had net profits of more than €100,000 from the scheme last year.
He said the HSE had been advised that the budget that would be required for the continuation unchanged of the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) for 2010 was €88m and that only €63m was available.
Each of the dentists has a contract with the HSE for the provision of dental treatment services under the DTSS.
By way of a circular on April 26, the HSE had sought to vary the terms of the contracts with the dentists.
The court has heard in the Reid-Turner applications, which have already been dealt with by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, that restrictions of services under the new cuts would be such as to almost wipe out some dental practices and drastically reduce the viability of others.
Judge Irvine will begin to hear the applications for injunctive relief today.
The hearing is expected to take more than a day.