McGrath says crisis in dentistry needs urgent attention.
SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath MLA has urged the Department of Health to act now to address the crisis in dentistry, before many practices across the North are forced to shut.
The South Down MLA said: “Last week, the Health Committee received a presentation from the Chief Dental Officer where assurances were sought about the sustainability of this vital sector. However, many dentists have contacted me in recent days to highlight serious concerns.
“Some of the most prominent problems highlighted include the inability to access the appropriate PPE. The Department is providing its own dentists with the necessary equipment but other sectors are left to fend on their own at often extortionate prices.
“Dentists also highlighted their difficulties with the proposed practice of waiting one hour between seeing patients. This is apparently based on best ‘scientific advice’ which hails from England – but yet Britain is one of the only countries in the world to use such a cumbersome system. This begs the question about the advice every other country is getting. This practice of waiting one hour will seriously restrict the number of patients a dentist can see in a day.
“There have been problems too for many women dentists whose payments to cover the pandemic period when practices had to shut were based on a particular period last year.
“If some were off on maternity leave, they were unable to avail of normal pay levels. An explanation was given to the committee but many female dentists have told me that the explanation does not measure up and they will be in a dire financial predicament as a result.
“Oral Health in the North is in a difficult place. There have been no updates to the Oral Health Strategy from 2003 and many in the sector will face decimation as a result of the lack of interventions by the Department in the face of Covid-19.
“These are tough times for the sector and it needs urgent attention. We cannot afford to let dental practices across the North collapse.”
“I have written to the Minister of Health and asked for immediate Departmental intervention with the dental sector, to bring some resolution to the issues they need addressed urgently.”