The situation faced by medical card patients in trying to access a dental appointment in Louth was laid bare in Leinster House last week during a debate in which Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú read out a text from a constituent.
The Dundalk deputy was speaking on a Regional Group motion calling on the government to sort out the huge issue of dentists leaving the medical card treatment scheme.
Deputy Ó Murchú highlighted the issue faced by Louth people in trying to access dental care with a medical card.
He said: ‘In 2016-17, there were 35 dentists in Louth operating the scheme. At the end of 2022 there were only 13. On the basis of those figures, the Minister can work out what the impact has been’.
He read out a message from a Dundalk constituent: ‘My son was in a bad way with a dental issue two or three months ago.
‘His dentist would not take his medical card, so he went, as suggested, to the doctor on call. The doctor on call said that if he could not get a dentist within 24 hours to go to A&E.
‘We had to borrow money to get him an emergency dentist in Dublin. Two weeks before Christmas I had a dental issue. I had registered with a new dentist in Dundalk as mine also had stopped taking medical cards.
‘When I went to the new dentist, even though I was in agony and I had the €40 deposit they required, they told me that as I was a new client I was not a priority.
‘They advised that I go to a GP and if I could not get an appointment to go to A&E. I did go to my original dentists, who were excellent.
‘It cost me €35 for the appointment and €95 for an extraction or filling. If you are on social welfare while looking for work, it is devastating.
‘It meant no heat in the house over the past week. I am happy and grateful to have home and food and electricity but the Government need to fix the issues with the dentists also. So, the GPs are out the door, the dentists won’t take the medical card and everyone is suggesting to us A&E’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said the ‘debacle’ is ‘putting further pressure on the emergency department in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital’.
He said: ‘We also have the possible impending closure of the Navan accident and emergency department, which would heap even more pressure onto this particular problem.
‘We can see that all of these crises are coming together. It is an absolute necessity, even if it is all we do, for the Minister to engage with the Irish Dental Association and bring this one part of the problem to a closure.
‘We would then have dealt with at least one of the many issues that exist in the health service.
‘We need more dentists and better workforce planning, we need work permits dealt with and we need to consider the possibility of directly employing dentists to deal with the issue we have.
‘This is an ongoing disaster and we need delivery, not positive words from the Minister’.