The outgoing D66-ministers Ernst Kuipers of Public Health (VWS) and Robbert Dijkgraaf of Education (OCW) have decided to reduce dental school from six to five years. The decision requires a change in the law, which is not yet in place.
The two ministers’ decision comes three weeks after a special committee from the profession released the research report “Verkenning van 6 naar 5,” which bashed the plan. Albert Feilzer, committee member and former dean of the joint Amsterdam dental schools (Acta), already expressed extremely negative views on the ministers’ proposal in Folia last week but is now extremely angry.
The two ministers’ decision requires a legislative amendment, which means it must still be steered through the (new) House of Representatives and the Senate. “As representatives of an old government culture and also of D66, Kuipers and Dijkgraaf have yet to get that done,” Feilzer said. “I hope it fails. I am surprised that two former professors with strong scientific backgrounds are such bad ministers and propagate an old culture of governance. This certainly applies to Education Minister Dijkgraaf, who inaugurated the new Acta building at the time, but did not stop by to discuss this plan with us.”
With this decision, the two ministers aim to reduce the dentist shortage in the Netherlands. Shortening the length of training would speed up the training of dentists, but they will not be of sufficient quality to guarantee good oral care in the future, Feilzer suspects.
“This is not going to solve anything for the rapidly increasing dentist shortage in the Netherlands. In addition, many political parties want more oral care included in basic health insurance, increasing the demand for care and making the problem of shortages even worse,” Feilzer says. “From that perspective, it is sad that people probably want to force this decision for other reasons without paying attention to the real problems. I suspect that the initiative may be a covert experiment to later reduce medical school to five years, too.”
The dental profession KNMT has been in constant contact with the two ministers in recent weeks in an attempt to turn the tide but to no avail. The rectors of the universities involved (RU, RUG, UvA, and VU) sent a fiery letter to the ministers just last Tuesday, but that, too, made no difference.