Yes, I am aware that medical card holders in certain areas of the country are experiencing difficulties in getting an appointment with their local dentist, and that is of real concern to me.
The problem is that too many dentists are leaving the Scheme for various reasons, and I want to see that situation reversed, so that we have an abundance of dentists available to provide services to medical card holders.
I've listened to the dentists myself, and I have heard their frustrations with the Scheme; that the range of services available to patients under the Scheme and the fees payable to contracted dentists are out of kilter in today’s environment.
I have given a commitment that there will be a root and branch review of the Scheme, and my officials and the HSE expect to be in a position to begin that work early in the New Year.
In the meantime, I want the contracted dentists, and their representative association, the Irish Dental Association, to work with me and my officials to address the immediate issues of concern and to ensure that as many dentists as possible are available to provide services to medical card patients.
I have heard what the dentists have had to say about the viability of the scheme, and I want that addressed to.
I have secured an additional €10 million in Budget 2022 to address that very problem and I hope that agreement can be reached very quickly on how that money can be used to address some of the immediate problems of the scheme, pending the full root and branch review next year.
I am aware that a preliminary engagement with the Irish Dental Association was held in June of this year, and that the intention is to invite the IDA in to further talks in the coming weeks.
I hope that the IDA will respond positively to that invitation and that we can put in place immediate solutions for the benefit of patients and the dental community.
In the meantime, my officials are engaging with the HSE Public Dental Service, the in-house salaried service, which is seeking to provide emergency cover for any medical card patients who are experiencing problems in accessing a service from their local dentist.