Clare’s Dental Treatment Services (DTSS) program is suffering a serious deterioration after official figures revealed nearly 3,000 fewer local medical cardholders were treated over a two-year period.
This is despite a dramatic increase in the number of Clare patients eligible for treatment under the DTSS, which rose from 31,909 in December 2019 to 33,064 in August 2022.
A total of 8,683 dental patients in Clare were treated under DTSS in December 2019, according to figures provided to Councilor Cillian Murphy at an HSE Forum West meeting on Tuesday. This figure fell to 5,762 in December 2021 and the latest statistic for 2022 is for August, which stands at 3,661.
Private dental practitioners contracted under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provide dental services to adult medical card holders aged 16 or over.
The shocking latest figures follow an anti-poverty strategy commissioned by the Clare Public Participation Network, which showed there are 16 dentists in Clare, or 1.26 for every 10,000 people.
That’s just under half the national average of 2.38 per 10,000.
‘At the moment you cannot find a dentist in West Clare,’ a Kilrush resident said in a group interview held in the town in April 2022.
“If you have a medical card, it seems that the nearest dentist who will treat you if you are new to the program is in Limerick. They have stopped taking medical cards from Kilrush.
The number of dentists in Clare who have received payment under the DTSS has increased from 14 in January 2022 to nine in August 2022.
Councilor Murphy expressed great concern about the decline in the number of dentists in Clare who have received payment under the DTSS.
“A lot of medical card holders have great difficulty getting an appointment with a dentist. This is a big problem that needs to be solved. We need to identify the reasons why there has been a decline in the number of DTSS dentists.
Councilor Mary Howard, who tabled a motion on dental cover in Clare at a previous HSE West Forum meeting, confirmed she is receiving a large number of calls from people trying to get an appointment with a dentist in Clare.
Whether a person is a medical card holder or a private patient, Councilor Howard stressed that people need to get dental care.
“People are looking for service and there is none. It’s very frustrating for people. The whole system seems broken. More dentists need to be brought into the system as soon as possible. »
Mid-West Community Health Care Executive Director Maria Bridgeman said under the DTSS, a medical card holder is not limited to seeing a dentist under contract with the DTSS.
in their own county.
They can see a dental practitioner under contract with the DTSS anywhere in the country for dental care if the dental practitioner is able to support them.
Therefore, Clare medical cardholders can travel outside of the county to receive dental treatment under the program and likewise, out-of-county medical cardholders can receive dental treatment in Clare s they access it.
This issue was also raised at a Dáil health committee by Deputy Cathal Crowe, who revealed he had had a broken tooth for five weeks.
Deputy Crowe called on the HSE to carry out a capacity mapping audit in Clare to identify where the health gaps are at community level.
Ms Bridgeman said the HSE could carry out this mapping exercise.
“We know the Dental Services Plan, DTSS, and the dentists very well. At the national level, an incentive initiative has been put in place, but dentists have not applied in large numbers for it. We are aware of the problem and are no doubt challenged regarding the provision of dental care to medical card holders,” she said.