18 March 2020
By Bryan Smyth
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has warned that the dental profession in Ireland is on the brink of collapse and said that urgent direction was needed from the Government if it is to survive the Covid-19 crisis after a survey published today outlined the scale of the crisis facing dentists. The Association has today written to the Taoiseach, Minister for Health, party leaders and the health spokespeople of the various political parties outlining the gravity of the situation and is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Health.
In a survey of 358 private dentists around Ireland:
- 66 respondents (18%) said they have already closed their practice at least temporarily
- A further 35 (10%) plan to close in some form within the next fortnight because of the crisis
- 42% of respondents are already restricted to providing emergency treatment only
- Nearly half (48%) estimate a drop of at least 90% in practice income in the medium to long term as a result of Covid-19.
Guidelines around maintaining social distancing of at least two metres between people are unworkable in a dental setting. The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.
Mr. Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association, said that this unprecedented situation called for an unprecedented response from Government. “The IDA has made numerous efforts to communicate this message to politicians, and we have received no clear direction whatsoever. Politicians need to wake up to the fact that the dental profession as we know it is disintegrating before our eyes due to the fact that dentists simply cannot practise under these circumstances. Dentists are frustrated with the advice given by the HPSC. They want to help all patients but particularly those in trouble and reluctantly feel compelled to alter their practice workings for the safeguard of patients, their staff and their own health – in the majority of cases that means laying off staff.”
Approximately 10,000 people are employed directly and indirectly through dental practices in Ireland.
“The vast majority of practitioners in Ireland receive no support at all from the State, so are extremely exposed to this crisis. We have received notifications from dozens of practices saying they have already closed their doors, and our fear is that this number will multiply over the coming days. This is a tragedy for thousands of hard-working healthcare professionals who want to contribute to the wider healthcare effort and help their communities through this crisis without having to worry about their livelihoods. The dental profession urgently needs a wide-ranging package of supports in order to survive.”
Mr. Hourihan added that, as experienced healthcare professionals, dentists were willing to support in the wider healthcare effort. “We want to make it absolutely clear that dentists want to help their wider healthcare colleagues in combatting this virus, however it is crucial that the Government and politicians in general understand how dire this situation is for dentists and that we need action now to safeguard our livelihoods.”