Dentists have said a Government failure to engage with the profession cannot be tolerated.
The president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) said it was “disrespectful and unreasonable” for the Government to expect dentists to carry on as normal when ministers had failed to engage with the sector over a range of issues including the provision of PPE and Covid-19 vaccines for dentists.
Dr Anne O’Neill said this inaction will have “hugely negative” consequences for patients.
She said: “Dentists have done extraordinary work since the onset of the pandemic last March, yet despite this the obvious cracks in the oral health system are not being addressed.
“The Government appears to be content to sideline the dental profession in the midst of the biggest health crisis this country has faced.
Enough is enough – we need to see action otherwise the health of patients will suffer and the provision of dentistry as we know it in Ireland will be in perilous dangerAnne O'Neill
“Time and again, dentists have asked for action on hugely important issues from the Government, and every time they have failed to get results. This Government’s repeated failure to meaningfully engage and deliver on promises cannot be tolerated.”
Dr O’Neill said Covid-19 had placed a huge amount of difficulty, stress and extra costs on private dentists and their staff, who have received no state support.
“PPE promised by former health minister Simon Harris seven months ago, in June last year, has still not arrived, despite 700 private dentists registering their interest with the HSE for this equipment,” she said.
“This is especially disappointing given an abundance of this equipment is being delivered to GPs and nursing homes.
“It is disrespectful and unreasonable for the Government to name dentistry as an essential service, while expecting dentists to also uphold excellent standards of care amidst a huge recent increase in cases without any support whatsoever.”
Dr O’Neill also said it was disappointing that dentists had not been given any indication when they will be vaccinated as a priority group for Covid-19.
“Despite assurances made by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, there has been no timetable published for the vaccination of dentists despite our designation as priority healthcare staff,” she said.
The IDA is meeting the HSE on Wednesday to discuss vaccinations.
“Unfortunately dentists are concerned that, with their experience of PPE being promised but not delivered, they will be left at the back of the queue when it comes to being vaccinated,” Dr O’Neill said.
She added that these issues were exacerbated by the crisis in the medical card scheme, which has seen a fall of 20% in participating dentists since this time last year.
Dr O’Neill concluded: “Dentists cannot be expected to carry on as normal with no support from the Government when they are under such grave strain.
“Enough is enough – we need to see action otherwise the health of patients will suffer and the provision of dentistry as we know it in Ireland will be in perilous danger.”