Serious concerns are being raised about reduced access to HSE dental services in Wicklow for medical card holders following a sharp decline in the number of dentists participating in the scheme.
ver 72 per cent of dentists in Wicklow have withdrawn from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) in the county since 2016. The DTSS allows medical card holders to access a range of dental treatments.
County Wicklow is split into two community healthcare organisations, which oversee the community health services. Data shows that 72 per cent of dentists have withdrawn from the scheme in the healthcare area for Wicklow. 28 per cent of dentists have withdrawn from the scheme in the west Wicklow-Kildare area.
Sinn Fein Deputy John Brady said 16 dentists remain in the scheme in Wicklow and this is causing delays to medical card holders waiting for treatment.
“For over two years now I have been raising the issue of the DTSS in Wicklow with the Minister. It is an absolutely outrageous situation, where the Minister is flagrantly ignoring the well-being of people not only here in Wicklow, but also across the country.
“Since 2016, there has been a remarkable drop of 72 per cent in terms of the dentists here in the county signed up to the scheme. Wicklow has one of the highest figures in the country – where the national average suggests that there is one dentist available under the DTSS for every 2,000 people in the state. A figure of approx. 27,000 people are currently waiting for dental and oral surgery. With over 80 per cent of patients on orthodontic waiting lists currently waiting for more than a year – with a further 40 per cent waiting more than three years
“Since I have last raised this with the Minister in October, a further nine dentists have left the scheme. The result of this is that the number of dentists available to treat medical card holders is dwindling by the month. With only 16 dentists left in the scheme in the county, by this rate of going by next Christmas there will not be a single dentist left in the DTSS in Wicklow.
“While the current situation is not only leading to delays, and patients having to travel further distances, at even greater personal costs, in many instances it is ruling out access to a dentist for a great many people. This is not acceptable.
“I am yet again calling on Minister Donnelly to do what needs to be done to resolve this situation. If this means he needs to sit down with the Irish Dental Association and sort this mess out, then that’s what he will have to do. He cannot allow the current situation cannot be allowed to continue.”
Data released by the HSE to Sinn Fein’s Health Spokesperson David Cullinane showed that only 660 dentists were active on the DTSS in January 2022, 1,000 fewer than in 2017.
At the time of publication, the HSE had yet to respond to a request for comment.