Government has betrayed duty of care

IDA conference. New president goes on the attack

The new president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has accused the government of betraying its duty of care to young people.

Dr Andrew Bolas said that between 15,000 and 20,000 Irish children are on waiting lists for orthodontic treatment with many of them waiting up to five years for treatment.

In his inaugural address at the IDA’s annual conference in Killarney, Dr Bolas said it was totally unacceptable in 21st century Ireland, that children were being denied treatment in this manner and that waiting lists and waiting times were continuing to mount.

“The public health system only treats patients with severe dental problems so we know the children on these lists have serious issues. In many cases their childhood is being blighted by these problems and the long delays for treatment. But the problem is much bigger than this. Tens of thousands of other children will not qualify for treatment and will either have to go without or pay for private treatment,” he said.

Dr Bolas – a senior dental surgeon with the HSE in Sligo – said a totally inconsistent approach to school screenings meant thousands of other cases were being missed and he accused the government of a betrayal of its duty of care to young people.

“In theory, all children under 16 are entitled to receive dental health screening and preventive treatments. In all they should be examined three times in primary school but some children are only receiving their initial screening in sixth class. We know the situation is particularly bad here in Kerry, Cork, Laois, Offaly and Sligo,” Dr Bolas said.

And he pointed out that the system – which was already faltering under the weight of draconian cutbacks to the Medical Card and PRSI schemes – was now in danger of collapse due to chronic understaffing.

“After decades of steady progress in advancing the dental health of the nation the clock is now being turned back. The post of chief dental officer has been vacant for over a decade, which means there has been no one to speak out about cutbacks to dental schemes at the heart of government or to co-ordinate policy on dental services nationally. The current Minister for Health James Reilly, gave a commitment to fill that post prior to the election and to reinstate the Medical Card scheme.

“In February, 28 dentists and nine dental nurses took early retirement. None of these have been replaced due to the moratorium on replacing front line staff. We know this has led to rural clinics being closed and services being centralised all over the country. For example, clinics in Dingle and Cahirciveen here in Kerry have been shut, while the same is happening in Sligo, Leitrim and many other counties,” Dr Bolas said.