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Children’s orthodontic assessment & treatment waiting lists in North- East unacceptable – Reilly

10 February, 2016

Senator Kathryn Reilly has criticised the long delays in orthodontic assessment and treatment of children in the HSE North East region, which covers Cavan and Monaghan, and has said there is need to properly fund the Public Dental Service.

Senator Reilly said:        

“There are 785 children on waiting lists for orthodontic assessment in the HSE Dublin North East area. Furthermore, 4,162 children are waiting for commencement of treatment, with 3,276 of those waiting over a year from their initial assessment.

 “There has been little progress on this problem and the government have failed to address the underlying issues of lack of resources to provide children with vital health services such as this.

“During the recession there was a drastic scaling back across the main fields of publicly funded dental provision. As a result, children in parts of the State, including parts of Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Cavan/ Monaghan have not been getting the first two rounds of screening under the Public Dental Service (PDS). The service was intended to offer dental screening and consequent treatment to children in 2nd class, 4th class and again in 6th class. However, since 2008, the number of dentists employed has been slashed from 387 Whole-Time Equivalents (WTEs) to 315 WTEs in May 2015. This is a drop of 19%, despite demand increasing due to rising pupil numbers.

“The HSE only extends orthodontic treatment to the most severe cases. For those with a severe need who qualify for orthodontic treatment, the wait has been getting longer. Since 2008, the number of Whole-Time Equivalent Orthodontists employed by the HSE has fallen by 8% and the total number on the lists waiting for treatment has risen from 12,978 to 18,025, a staggering increase of 39%.

“Orthodontic problems often have serious debilitating psychological effects for developing teenagers. Tax relief at the standard rate is available but only after treatment and for many the upfront costs are simply unaffordable. Those families on the lowest incomes may not benefit from the tax relief at all. Dental ill-health is closely related to income inequality and all of these cuts have had their greatest impact on low-income families.

“The cuts made across the dental schemes have inflicted unnecessary pain and suffering. They have caused an increase in the use of more complicated and expensive emergency treatments as a direct result of the removal of opportunities for prevention and early intervention. This situation has caused significant job losses across the dental sector, forcing many graduate dentists to emigrate, and has undoubtedly led to deterioration in public dental health.

“The failure to provide timely screening and treatment of simple problems or early onset of dental disease causes severe deterioration which then requires more complex remedial treatments. The State services often cannot provide these and many families simply cannot afford them, particularly given current economic circumstances.

“In order to make sure our children’s dental health is looked after, the Public Dental Service needs to be properly funded and the Orthodontic Service needs to be expanded. This makes both immediate and long term sense for our children’s dental health and financially for the state.”

“In our Health policy document Better4Health, Sinn Féin have committed to increase funding to the Public Dental Service to allow it deliver on its remit in full, i.e. all screening for children actually taking place at the ages it is supposed to with follow-up treatment provided in an appropriate timeframe. Similarly, we would provide a funding increase of €21.67 million to that end. From within this increase, recruit an additional 80 dentists, including 10 orthodontists, and 120 dental nurses for the Public Dental Service, at a full year cost of €11.2 million. We would also extend the direct provision of orthodontic treatment to children with less severe needs than are currently covered through an expanded HSE Orthodontic Service, at an estimated cost of €27 million.”

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