Why We Don’t Medical Card Patients Anymore

Man and woman holding hands barefoot

Why We Don’t Medical Card Patients Anymore

20, Aug 2021

Pembroke Dental practices have been participants in the medical card dental scheme since the scheme came into existence in 1996. Unfortunately, in 2020 following the pandemic first lockdown, our dentists have made the difficult decision to resign from the medical card scheme. In our opinion, the scheme is no longer fit for purpose from a dental care perspective nor is it financially viable for dental practices.


It came into existence in 1996 and has not been updated, modernised or renegotiated since then, despite the best efforts of the dental profession to engage with the HSE and Government bodies. The procedures allowable under this scheme were restricted to very basic emergency type procedures in 2009 during the economic crisis and the fees first negotiated and agreed with dentists in 1996 were reduced at that time also. They have not increased since. The fees paid under this scheme simply do not cover our costs in 2021, especially post pandemic.


We, like many other dental practices throughout Ireland, have had to adapt to the new post pandemic norm for healthcare facilities which has put significantly increased personnel and financial strain on our practice organisation which can no longer be absorbed. The HSE and Government have not provided any support to the dental profession during the pandemic although PPE was promised to dentists by the then Minister of Health in summer 2020.This PPE has never materialised for dental practices.


As a practice organisation, we carry the full professional and financial responsibility for all increased PPE and other costs, unlike our medical and pharmacy colleagues who have been supported by the HSE, despite dentists also being frontline workers. Our dentists have resigned from the HSE medical card dental scheme in 2020 and will therefore no longer be accepting medical card patients. We regret that this decision has had to be made but it is simply not viable for us to continue to support the dental medical card scheme.


Since we reopened our doors after lockdown there is a need for additional PPE to meet the safety standards required. Global demand during the pandemic has also increased the cost for PPE significantly. Appointment time lengths have also had to increase, further adding to the pressure on our dentists and nurses. The Government is not providing PPE for dental medical card treatments and unfortunately it is not possible for us to cover the additional cost whilst ensuring the practice remains open to treat patients in the long term with the modern dental care that our patients expect and deserve.


We apologise for any inconvenience this decision may cause you as a medical card holder.


You are very welcome to return to Pembroke Dental as a private patient for continued care with the team you trust.


Questions and answers


Why can I see you as a private patient and not a medical card patient?

Our dentists are required to be registered to the medical card scheme to treat medical card patients. Unfortunately, our dentists have made the difficult decision to resign from the medical card scheme as it is no longer professionally or financially viable. Our practices will therefore no longer be accepting medical card patients.


Can I pay for the PPE and be seen as a medical card patient?

Unfortunately, this is not possible. The dental contract with the HSE for medical card patients states we can’t charge any additional costs to medical card patients for the treatments covered under the scheme. We are simply not allowed to charge medical card patients any fees to subsidise the scheme.


Is this decision long term?

We will not be accepting any medical card patients for the foreseeable future.


Is this just for new medical card patients?

This relates to both new and existing medical card patients. Under our obligations in the current scheme, it is an all or nothing situation- we are not allowed to restrict access to the scheme and therefore must see all medical card patients who seek treatment, not just our existing patients. Thus, our practices will therefore no longer be accepting any medical card patients under this scheme.


What are my treatment options now?

Although our dentists have resigned from the scheme, there is an option for our dental team to continue caring for you as a private patient.

For more information on our services and fees, please visit our website www.pembrokedental.ie

Alternatively, you may wish to look for another dental care provider who accepts medical card patients. You can search www.hse.ie to find your nearest dental care provider registered under the medical card scheme.


What happens to my data if I move to a new dentist?

We will keep your dental records in accordance with our legal obligations.

If you find a new dentist and they ask for your records, you can request to have them transferred by calling or emailing your Pembroke Dental practice. Once we receive a written permission from you to release your records, we will release them according to your wishes.


If the government provides PPE in the future, will you begin accepting medical card patients again?

It is unlikely unless there is a significant overhaul of the dental medical card service overall. The current system for medical card holders is significantly under resourced and not fit for purpose. It does not provide for modern dental care that our patients expect and deserve.