Seamus Rodgers, Labour Party spokesperson for the Glenties Electoral Area
Labour Party spokesperson for the Glenties Electoral Area, Seamus Rodgers, has called on Government to widen access to dental care by restoring the Dental Treatment Benefit scheme to pre-2009 levels after problems impacting on medical card holders were raised by the Irish Dental Association.
The former long-serving Annagry-based councillor is challenging the current system saying a change is long overdue.
“The Government need to examine the levels of dentists participating in the scheme throughout the country to ensure that those who need the service can access it easily,” he said.
“Our dental health is one of our greatest resources, and preventative treatment saves money in the long term, and ensures a better quality of life. Someone should not have to have a tooth pulled just because they can’t afford a filling.
“Like with access to GPs, no one should be put off going to the dentist because of costs.
“It’s very concerning to hear Irish dentists say that the medical card system which provides dental care to 1.5 million people in Ireland is on the brink of collapse due to dentists exiting the scheme. However, it’s clear that the scheme itself is not fit for purpose and does not embed enough preventative measures to protect vulnerable patients.
“Over a decade on from the financial crisis and at a time when we have a heightened awareness of the importance of our health, we must reverse the cuts made and look to rebuild our overall capacity in oral health in Ireland.
“As many dentists and oral healthcare practitioners withdraw from the scheme, patients are facing difficulty in accessing treatments.
“This is leading to a scenario where the most vulnerable in society are unable to access adequate oral healthcare to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
“The limitations of the service are bizarre. Those accessing the scheme are entitled to only two free fillings a year.
Once this quota is reached, the only solution available is extractions. So, rather than having access to preventative treatment, people on medical cards are forced to remove teeth, potentially unnecessarily. This is nonsensical," he said.
Mr Rodgers added that the Labour Party have long called for the scheme to be widened to include two, rather than one, free oral examination under the scheme as well as scale and polishing. Ensuring that basic preventative treatments are included in the scheme will protect against people experiencing more severe issues down the line, he said.
“The Government need to buck up and listen to the dentists who are providing this service on the frontline. It’s time to increase the funding available for the public dental service and look to recruit additional dentists and dental nurses to prevent the system from complete collapse.
"We need to take a practical and common sense approach to oral healthcare in Ireland.
“Prevention is always better than cure.”
He added: “That’s why Labour would like to see a rethink of the dental scheme and see more regular check ups and scale and polishes included in the scheme.”
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