Part-time CDO is ‘an insult to the profession’

Criticism after new chief dental officer is appointed… for just two days a week

More than a decade after Dr Gerry Gavin resigned, the post of chief dental officer (CDO) has finally been filled.

However, the appointment of Dr Dympna Kavanagh has received criticism in some quarters as the HSE’s current national oral health lead will only take up the post two days a week.

Writing in the Journal of the Irish Dental Association’s June/July issue, the publication’s honorary editor Professor Leo Stassen, said: “The lack of a competition for the post is, alone, a grave cause for concern. All of the analogous posts (chief medical officer, chief nursing officer, etc) have, to our knowledge, been filled after serious competition.

“The part-time (two days a week) element is a serious insult to the profession and to the public. It says, by implication, that the oral health of the nation is not worthy of the full-time attention of the state. And, additionally, there is a deeply complex relationship between the state and Health Service Executive.

“To ask an individual, no matter how well qualified and highly regarded, to serve both masters is to place that individual in a deeply invidious position.

“The minister should act swiftly to prevent this position becoming impossible for the individual and meaningless for the public and the profession, by staging a competition for the full-time appointment of a chief dental officer.”

Dr Kavanagh, whose main focus in the role of CDO will be to lead the development of a new oral health policy, gained a PhD in preventive dentistry from Cork and has previously worked in both the NHS in the United Kingdom and the Irish health service. She completed her higher training in dental public health at Guys Hospital in London, where she worked as a senior registrar and lecturer.

In London Dr Kavanagh worked across several strategic health authorities in dental public health and returned to Ireland in 2001 taking up a post with the Mid Western Health Board in general management. She returned to dentistry in the post of principal dental surgeon for the Limerick/North Tipperary area in 2003. She has also worked in HSE Corporate for the Quality and Risk section of the former Primary, Community and Continuing Care Directorate.