I propose to take Questions Nos. 762, 780, 783, 920, 955 and 976 together.
I am aware of the difficulties that the current Covid-19 pandemic poses for the dental profession. My Department, in conjunction with the HSE, is examining the issue of the provision of PPE across all parts of the health service, including health service contractors.
The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides dental care free of charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. These services are provided by over 1,400 independent dental practitioners who have a contract with the HSE. I understand that since the beginning of March 149 dentists have withdrawn from the DTSS and that 36 new applications are being processed. I expect due process to be followed in respect of any withdrawal from the terms of a DTSS contract, in particular regarding an appropriate period of notice. I also expect dentists to continue to honour their ethical and contractual obligations to patients during the notice withdrawal period, to either provide a service or to ensure that patients are referred to another dentist who will provide a service. The HSE will assist medical card holders in accessing such treatment, if required.
The DTSS will need to be revised in order to align it with modern evidence on oral health needs and provision of dental services. My Department is committed to reviewing the provision of dental care for those eligible for public services and will engage with representatives of the dental profession in this regard.
I am aware of the delays in accessing some services provided by the HSE, caused in part by the necessary concentration of resources at managing the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, I understand that the HSE expect most services to return to normal in due course.