Irish dental sector could lose 1,000 jobs in 2012

A new survey of Irish dentists indicates the sector is facing up to 1,000 job losses in 2012.

The survey found that 86% of dentists saw their turnover fall in 2011, with almost half (49%) recording falls of more than 20%.

The survey of more than 300 dentists was carried out on behalf of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) by Omega Financial Management.

Half of the dentists said they expected their turnover to fall further in 2012, and one in four said they believed their practice will be reducing staff numbers in the coming year.

According to the survey, 20% of dentists want to sell their practice but are prevented from doing so because there are few buyers in the market.

These findings demonstrate how the recession and the cutbacks to dental schemes are impacting dentists all over the country, according to Fintan Hourihan, IDA chief executive.

"We have already seen 2,000 job losses over the last two years, and if a quarter of dentists say they are looking at reducing staff numbers, that translates into 1,000 job losses," he stated in a press release. "If the government is serious about dental health and growing employment, they will take action now."

Some 40% of dentists now expect to have to work until at least age 70 as their retirement plans have been compromised in recent years, according to John O'Connor of Omega Financial.

"The main reasons for this are falling turnovers, the collapse in the value of surgery buildings, and insufficient levels of pension funding," he said. "These challenges are being exacerbated by falling numbers entering the profession and setting up new practices, making it more difficult for those wishing to retire to do so."

The future for young graduates also is grim, according to Hourihan, with only half a dozen or so of the 70 young dentists who graduated in 2011 finding employment in Ireland.

"Most of the class of 2011 emigrated to the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada," he said. "Many established dentists are also being forced to emigrate or work part time in the U.K. to supplement reduced work in Ireland. These dentists have been educated and funded in large measure by tax payors, and now they are being trained for emigration even though the need for dentists to care for and treat patients has never been greater."

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