Saturday 17th May 2014. A leading representative of the Irish Dental Association has said savage cutbacks combined with a staff recruitment embargo have eroded the effectiveness of the public dental service.
Iseult Bouarroudj, the President of the HSE Dental Surgeon group said the service was in crisis and was failing our primary school children, special needs patients and teenagers.
“Many children are now being left with untreated dental decay as the service has changed from one which provided preventative treatment to one which only provides reactionary treatment.
“In some areas, children are only being seen at sixth class, which is far too late for any preventative measures to be carried out*. We have seen an increase in dental decay due to the decrease in manpower and the end result is a huge increase in emergencies, requiring extensive treatment and extractions” she said.
Ms Bouarroudj was addressing delegates at the Irish Dental Association’s annual conference in Kilkenny where the Public Dental Surgeons’ Committee has been vocal in its criticism of the HSE.
The Committee has called on the HSE to ensure adequate dental staffing in all areas and to allow patients access to equitable services, irrespective of location.
The Committee described the current situation as a geographic lottery, both in terms of accessibility to general dental treatment, and treatment of children and special needs cases under general anaesthesia. It said the most vulnerable and voiceless in society, are again being let down.
“Preventive measures in dentistry, such as the placement of fissure sealants, are of vital importance in the management of a sound dentition. In many areas, even this procedure is being missed.
In order to improve the situation, the government simply must lift the embargo on recruitment within our service, allowing the recreation of a system where each and every child is seen at regular intervals” Ms Bouarroudj said.
The Chief Executive of the IDA, Fintan Hourihan pointed out that children are only being seen in sixth class in counties Cork, Galway, Kerry, Laois and Offaly but that the IDA feared the issue had spread to many other counties.
He said the Government had reneged on its undertaking to review the cuts to dental services.
“We are still waiting for that review. We have now reached a tipping point where the harm being done to oral health is greater than the short term savings achieved by blunt cutbacks to the public dental service, to the medical card scheme and to the PRSI schemes. This is a point we will be making forcefully to Minister Alex White when we meet him this evening”
*Previously children were screened in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes
Note to Editor
Three hundred and fifty public service dentists see over 250,000 children every year. In addition they care for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society; the elderly and young people in the care of the HSE, those with intellectual, physical and special needs etc.
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