NEW PRESIDENT OF IRISH DENTAL ASSOCIATION ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF BETRAYING DUTY OF CARE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
- UP TO 20,000 CHILDREN ON ORTHODONTIC WAITING LISTS – MANY WAITING FOR UP TO FIVE YEARS
- 28 PUBLIC HEALTH DENTISTS RETIRED IN FEBRUARY – NONE REPLACED
- SYSTEM OF SCHOOL SCREENINGS IN DISARRAY
- NO CHIEF DENTAL OFFICER FOR A DECADE
The new President of the Irish Dental Association, Dr Andrew Bolas, has said that between fifteen and twenty thousand 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 3 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.
Dr Bolas 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 9 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 centralized 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.
Dr Bolas also noted that a recent controversy over cheese advertising provided a good example of the kind of role a Chief Dental Officer could have in public debate.
“Cheese provides an important source of calcium which is vital for the growth of healthy teeth. It also demonstrates properties that seem to prevent dental decay, and this matter should be examined in detail before any proposed ban is implemented. This is exactly the kind of debate a Chief Dental Officer would be involved in. I note a motion at our conference calls on the Department of Health and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to support a science based approach to dealing with issues pertaining to the role of constituents of diet, both positive and negative in oral and general health” Dr Bolas concluded.
For Further Information
Contact Kieran Garry
01/6650455 or 087/2368366
Note to Editor
Dr Andrew Bolas, who is married with 3 children, is from Ballisodare, in Co.Sligo. He qualified from Queens University, Belfast in 1990 and was awarded an FFD from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1994, an FDS from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1995, and an MSc from Kings College London in 2000. An Oral Surgeon with a specialist interest in Dental Radiology, he is based in Sligo, and works for the HSE as a Senior Administrative Dental Surgeon.