IDA calls for overhaul of medical card scheme

HSE has effectively introduced ‘dental apartheid’ with the treatment of medical card patients

The medical card scheme needs to be overhauled as it is “wholly unfit for purpose” according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

The association has said that, despite the number of eligible patients increasing by 17 per cent between 2009 and 2015, the number of dental treatments funded by the HSE has fallen by 20 per cent in the same period.

The HSE figures also reveal that, while the number of patients attending has increased by 35 per cent, the number of scale and polishes have dropped by 97 per cent, fillings are down by 33 per cent, while surgical extractions are up 53 per cent and routine extractions have increased by 14 per cent.

The IDA claimed that one of the most serious consequences of the 2010 cutbacks has been an increase in the number of medical card holders forced to use antibiotics for prolonged periods. It found that nine out of 10 dentists had prescribed multiple courses of antibiotics to patients who were on waiting lists for treatment. There has also been a 38 per cent increase in the number of people with severe dental infections requiring hospital admission since the cuts were made. The IDA highlighted the irony of this situation given the HSE’s numerous recent campaigns to reduce antibiotic use in general dental and medical practice.

IDA CEO Fintan Hourihan said: “The HSE has effectively overseen the introduction of dental apartheid for medical card patients. That is why we are calling for the introduction of a new state funded dental scheme where the medical card and PRSI schemes would be merged and one universal scheme would prevail for the benefit of both medical card and PRSI eligible patients over 16.”

The IDA presented a copy of its report UNFIT for PURPOSE – HSE Dental Care for Medical Card Patients to new health minister Simon Harris TD at the recent annual conference in Galway.