Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 29 June, 1999
Written Answers. - Dental Services.
Mr. Yates Mr. Yates
156. Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will ensure that there is parity of remuneration and operation for dentists participating in the PRSI and medical card dental treatment schemes; if he will ensure that there is uniformity of fees for identical treatments under each scheme; if his attention has been drawn to the pending ballot and possible withdrawal from the scheme by dentists for medical card holders and the hardship that this would impose on many patients; if he will intervene in this dialogue to ensure continuity of services and agreement with the Irish Dental Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16648/99]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Dentists providing services for medical card holders under the dental treatment services scheme do so under contract arrangements with the health boards. Dentists providing services for insured persons under the dental treatment benefit scheme – DTBS – do so under contract arrangements with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. The IDA has negotiated a number of special fee increases under the DTBS with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in return for  implementation of 1997 budget provisions for the abolition of the £35,000 income limit, relaxation of dependency conditions, the extension of dental benefit to public service workers and for dropping any claims to items which were annexed to a 1992 agreement with that Department, viz pensions, sick leave, study leave etc. These special fee increases were applicable to circumstances peculiar to that Department's agreement with the IDA for the provision of services under the DTBS.
The DTSS is entirely funded by the Exchequer. Health boards must keep within budget and need to maintain adequate epidemiological information on oral health. Operational procedures under the DTSS are designed to meet these needs.
A claim for a fee increase under the dental treatment services scheme has been made by the Irish Dental Association. An offer in regard to this claim has been made through the Health Service Employers Agency. A commencement date for the final phasing of the DTSS i.e. extension of routine treatment to persons in the 35-64 age group and an end to premium payments for emergency treatment are part of a package of proposals drawn up in the context of this claim. Agreement on these proposals will enable my Department in consultation with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs to explore ways in which operational procedures under the two schemes may be further harmonised in the interest of patient and of dentist.
The Health Service Employers Agency – HSEA – has sought clarification from the Irish Dental Association of the association's recent decision to ballot its members on a withdrawal from the scheme. The decision to ballot and threat to withdraw from the scheme was announced to the media before my Department or the HSEA was informed. The HSEA has also indicated its willingness to have further discussions with the association in regard to its claim.
Dáil Éireann 507 Written Answers. Dental Services.