IDA chief executive slams government cutbacks

Fintan Hourihan says the most vulnerable in society are being affected

The divide between those least able to afford dental care and others is widening because of government neglect, inaction and cutbacks.

Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association made the claim, adding that no other branch of medicine in Ireland has been subjected to such a haemorrhaging of funding and cuts in state supports over the past three years as the dental sector.

In his address to the annual conference of the IDA in Killarney, Hourihan said good intentions and talk about reviews are not enough. We need action now. And he warned that, once again, the most vulnerable in society were bearing the brunt of cuts to the Medical Card and PRSI schemes.

“This is a major public health issue – an issue of national importance – yet the silence from government, the lack of direction from government and the failure to honour promises by government is damning. The minister spoke to us here in Killarney today but he failed to offer a timetable for change out of the current abyss,” Hourihan said.

“Lasting damage is being done to patients’ oral health and these ongoing cuts are disproportionately affecting the less well off and those in need of regular dental care. Dentists are seeing an alarming deterioration in the oral health of increasing numbers of patients.

“This is reflected in the provision of dentures for teenagers, more extractions of teeth due to the state’s withdrawal of key preventive and restorative treatments as well as a rise in gum disease.

“Medical card holders want to know when essential reforms of the scheme will be enacted. Two million taxpayers want to know why, despite the fact they are now paying increased social insurance charges, are they only entitled to one dental examination a year. The country wants to know why Ireland alone in the developed world has no chief dental officer and has not had one for a decade,” Hourihan added.