Friday 23 August 2019

Government happy to neglect our teeth


ON FRIDAY I gave a talk at a summer seminar organised by the Irish Dominican Sisters. The seminar was to mark 50 years since Vatican II. I was asked to talk on the media in Ireland.

I argued that the primary purpose of newspapers is to make money for their shareholders and if they don't do that, customers will not buy their product. Good business means you survive and make a profit.

In the days approaching the talk I was nervous and apprehensive. And then on the Wednesday before the talk while washing my teeth I noticed a piece of a tooth had broken away. The tooth had been a source of pain for the previous few days. But it was nothing serious and really not causing me any bother. But once it broke I became quite anxious. The last thing I wanted to happen was to wake up on Friday morning before the talk with a throbbing toothache. Those of you who have experienced bad toothaches will know exactly what I mean.

I called my dentist in Tralee who kindly arranged for me to visit a dentist in Dublin, who did some temporary repair work on the tooth. It meant it was not going to cause me any added worry for my Friday talk.

It set me thinking about all sorts of things. How privileged I am to have the financial resources to be able to pay for work on my teeth. What must it be like for someone who has no spare cash to get their teeth fixed.

Talk to any dentist and they will quickly tell you that the Irish Government has given up on the dental health of the nation. If I did not have the money to pay for dental treatment last week PRSI contribibutions would not cover any repair work on my broken tooth. The possession of the medical card would entitle me to have the tooth extracted. I don't have a medical card.

GMS (medical card) patients are entitled to one check up, two fillings and as many extractions as they want per calendar year. PRSI patients are entitled to one examination only per year. The self-employed are entitled to nothing. >> >> Isn't that really a wonderful State. PRSI patients are entiled to no corrective work and GMS patients are allowed two fillings per year.

Any dentist I have spoken to in recent times is most critical of Government dental policy. Well, that's not really the correct way to say it as the Government has no dental policy outside extraction.

It seems this Government has no problem with a toothless society. When the Minister for Health was in a hurry to get back to the Dáil from Cyprus to try to justify or explain, whatever, his financial situation regarding his ownership of a nursing home, he can summon the Government jet to get him home on time.

Just think of it, a Government that incentivises tooth extractions has the money to fly a Government minister home from Cyprus to talk in riddles in the Dáil. GUBU has risen from the ashes.

I doubt if any of our politicians, top Civil Servants, the bankers who are paid loads of money, give a second thought about going to a dentist. They just pay. That's what I did last week. But I'm ashamed of the society in which I am a citizen.

Of course, it's not just dental care - it's right across the board. We give lip service to treating all the children of the nation equally. It's quite clear we don't.

Last week Social Justice Ireland issued a report which shows how the gap between rich and poor is widening. We all know that we are in recession but isn't it odd that the top earners are now in a better position than they were before the crisis hit. And isn't that ironic as it's the top earners who are the ladies and gentlemen, who nodded their heads to the gurus and nomenclature of the day and did nothing about stopping the disaster. Were we not paying them such top salaries so as to do good jobs and ultimately improve the conditions of all the citizens of this little republic?

The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn keeps reminding us that we are in receivership and I understand that. But I don't understand how we can pay the salaries we do to Government ministers and the panoply of people around them and at the same time have not a care in the world in ripping out people's teeth.

What do GMS/PRSI patients with no spare cash do when they and their children need dental work? It is shocking. And as long as the current Government 's 'extraction policy' is in place, every Government minister should walk about with his/her head bowed in shame. How dare they fly in Government jets.

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