Figures from the HSE have shown that there has been an almost 10% reduction in the number of dentists in Cork accepting medical cards over the past five years.
The figures were released by Cork / Kerry Community Healthcare following a parliamentary question to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and posed by Cork Labor TD East Seán Sherlock.
In response, Priscilla Lynch, Head of Primary Care Services at Cork / Kerry Community Healthcare, wrote that dental care is provided to eligible children, medical cardholders, clients with special needs and others taken. supported by HSE in various locations in Cork.
Ms Lynch said children under 16 and adults are treated by private dental practitioners under contract with the HSE under the Dental Treatment Services Program (DTSS).
“Unfortunately, there has been a significant reduction in access to DTSS for medical cardholders in Cork, as dentists with DTSS contracts have either resigned from their contracts or are not accepting new patients for. the moment, ”Ms. Lynch wrote.
In October last year, the HSE revealed 460 of the 17% of Irish dentists had left the program since 2016, including 252 since the start of the Covid pandemic, leaving parts of the country with emergency coverage only .
Many of them have expressed concern that the program limits the number of preventive treatments allowed, such as fillings, while allowing an unlimited number of extractions.
Figures for Cork show that since 2016 there were 300 dentists in Cork’s four HSE coverage areas contracted with DTSS. By the end of last year, that number had fallen to 272, a reduction of 9.3% over five-year periods.
Ms Lynch wrote that, in line with the national trend, there are now fewer dentists in Cork operating DTSS than before the Covid pandemic.
“As a result, there is an increased demand for care from private dentists who continue to run the program.
“In addition, many dentists who continue to operate the program are not accepting new patients,” she added.
Ms Lynch concluded that a long-term solution to the problem “would require a commitment at the national level between the different stakeholders”.
Deputy Sherlock pointed out that HSE figures for the North Cork region showed nearly 18% of the number of local dentists on DTSS contracts, down from 45 in 2016 to 37 last year,
This has increased pressure on dentists still aligned with the program and increased wait times for medical cardholders and other eligible people seeking dental treatment.
Calling for a review of the program, MP Sherlock said the combination of a reduced number and a dentist not accepting new patients on medical cards was starting to have a negative impact on families.
“It is time for the government to review this service to ensure that those who are entitled to dental services through the general medical services plan are actually receiving these services,” said MP Sherlock.
Meanwhile, Deputy Sherlock is conducting an online survey of dental wait times and other related issues, available at tinyurl.com/2s4kn4fw.