One million adults 'to face dental waiting lists'
Published 18/01/2010 | 05:00
MORE than one million adult medical card holders could face waiting lists for dental treatment for the first time as a result of stringent cutbacks.
Dentists yesterday declared a vote of 'no confidence' in the Government as they claimed the long-term impact of shaving up to €110m from the State's dental bills would result in a rationing of treatments.
However, a spokeswoman for the Health Services Executive (HSE) said it was far too early to tell what sort of an impact it could have.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said cuts in the dental treatment service scheme were necessary in light of the economic challenges.
"Without any change being introduced it was estimated the cost of the scheme for 2010 would have been €93m," he said.
"Expenditure on the dental treatment services scheme has increased by 60pc over the past five years."
He said the cap on spending under the medical card scheme to 2008 levels of €63m would be reviewed at the end of the year.
Cutbacks will also mean more than two million people covered by PRSI will have to pay for their treatments.
New Ross dentist Maurice Quirke said the cutbacks to the medical card funding would definitely result in waiting lists.
Dentists have been responding to the downturn by reducing prices and carrying out cost reviews, the meeting of more than 400 dentists in Dublin's Croke Park was told.
Irish Dental Association chief executive Fintan Hourihan said it was a "fact of life" that people were travelling to the North and abroad for dental treatment but that the numbers were overstated.
A survey by the Irish Independent found some dentists in the Republic were charging double the fees of their Northern counterparts for the same procedures.
"People are reviewing their fees but dentists are also conscious they don't want to see some sort of race to the bottom in which standards of care are forgotten about," Mr Hourihan said.
The IDA pointed out that dentists in the North received grants and allowances worth up to €40,000 a year, while dentists in the Republic also faced higher operating costs.
Consumers' Association of Ireland chief executive Dermott Jewell said business would continue to be lost until prices were brought down.
Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan warned the Government was "storing up" problems for the future.