An Aontú County Councillor in Wexford, Jim Codd, has brought attention to a “shocking” story about a constituent, aged 80, who pulled his own tooth out with a pliers after being unable to get medical attention.
Cllr Codd said:
“It was incredibly emotional speaking with Seán Hayes, an elderly man in Taghmon, Co Wexford who had to pull his own teeth out because no one else could help him. Seán says he paid tax all his life, never asked for, or received, help, and now feels abandoned by the state. In this country, when you retire, you get put on the dung heap”.
The Wexford People reported that Mr Hayes “was forced to take out his own teeth after failing to get an appointment at seven dental practices” and that the pensioner said he placed the blame on the government and not local dentists for his plight.
Mr Hayes said that his four bottom front teeth became loose, making eating and cleaning his teeth very difficult. He sought help with seven different dentists but couldn’t get an appointment as he wasn’t registered with a dental clinic or practice.
He told South East Radio that he felt elderly people living in rural areas were being forgotten about. “I have four teeth missing in the front of my mouth now, and what am I going to replace them with?” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“I worked all my life .. I was a tax payer all my life, I never got any assistance in my lifetime from the government and now that I need a bit of help I can’t get it,” he said.
“When you are retired you are just put on the dung heap and that’s it,” he told Alan Corcoran of South East Radio. “For someone that worked all my life, I think its completely and utterly wrong.”
Mr Hayes also shared that his wife and son had also died in the last two years. “Things have been very tough,” the pensioner said. He also drew attention to what he felt was the lack of care available to older people in rural Ireland.
Listen back to Mr Hayes’s interview with South East Radio here:
The Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín TD has added his voice to that of Cllr Codd, saying: “For hundreds of thousands of people necessary dental healthcare is no longer accessible. For hundreds of thousands of people Ireland is regressing to the 1950s in terms of dental healthcare. Its time the government recognise the situation for the emergency that it is”.
Last year, the chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, Fintan Hourihan told an Oireachtas Committee that “approximately 1.5 million dental patients are being exposed to a lifetime of embarrassment, decreased nutrition and loss of well-being”.
The Dental Association told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health Review of the Operation of the Medical Card Scheme that “the express view of its members, who are the dentists operating the scheme on a daily basis, is that the State scheme for the approximately 1.5 million eligible medical card patients is in crisis and on the brink of collapse.”
Mr Hourihan said that the previous year has seen an unprecedented crisis develop as a quarter of all participating dentists have withdrawn from the medical card scheme with serious repercussions for patients across the country:
“Total spending on the scheme fell from more than €63 million in 2017 to barely €40 million last year. The implication of this is that large numbers of patients are no longer accessing treatment as the scheme is a fee-per-item structure,” he said.
The Dental Association said that the origins of the current crisis go back to 2010 when the HSE imposed unilateral cuts to the scheme to reduce costs.
Those cuts which were implemented “without consulting the association, dentists or patients” fundamentally altered the scheme from “a demand-led scheme to a budget-led scheme.”
This was done by removing access for many patients to treatments under the scheme.
According to Mr Hourihan, this also restricted access for the majority of patients to one examination annually, a maximum of two fillings irrespective of circumstances. However, no such limits were imposed on the number of extractions that could be carried out.
The IDA said this has meant that the medical card dental scheme no longer supports the oral health of medical card holders; rather it enables them to lose their teeth and to rely on dentures: