Dáil debates

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Dental Services

11:30 pm

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I previously raised the case of a 13-year-old boy who was referred to an orthodontics department on 8 August 2019 and not offered an assessment until 3 March 2022. His family was also informed that if he needed treatment, he would have to wait five years for it. When I inquired about this, the HSE also confirmed that the consultant orthodontist for south-east community healthcare carries out all assessments in Clonmel clinic and that the consultant is available one day every fortnight. Leaving aside the fact that a child can be expected to be on a waiting list for five years, the fact that it took more than two and a half years for him to be assessed by a consultant who is available in Clonmel for one day every two weeks is a complete failure. I understand that Covid had an impact but that is no excuse for how long children have to wait, either for assessments or the procedures they need.

I was recently contacted by the parents of another 13-year-old in Tipperary. This girl was assessed by the consultant orthodontist on 23 December 2021 and was added to the waiting list for treatment. The family was told that she can expect to wait approximately 48 months before being offered an appointment. The family was then told that if their daughter was found to require surgery to correct jaw-size discrepancy and so on, she can expect to wait another 36 months for an initial assessment with a consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeon. This means that the girl could have to wait until she is 20 years of age. This young lady's father was told by the orthodontist that while she would have liked to deal with this immediately, her hands were tied because of understaffing and underfunding, and hence the length of the waiting list.

The orthodontist said that she would like to see the girl given a block brace. Doing this could avoid any need for surgery in the future. It will only be effective if the brace is administered in the very near future, while the girl is still young. If she has to wait until she is in her late teens or even in her early 20s, as she has been told, then surgery is more likely.

It is a problem because it would be more invasive and it would ultimately cost the HSE and the State even more.

There is another complication facing the family. If they went a private route now and got the brace that way, they are concerned that if their daughter needed some form of surgery in future, they would have to continue to rely on the private system. They cannot get the services they need in the required timeframe and if they go private, it would make things very tight for them, although it would address their daughter's needs. They would be disqualified from follow-up treatment, however. They are precluded from being able to avail of the treatment their daughter deserves from the State. They are in a lose-lose position.

This family has an immediate need. Is the Department going to fail this young lady or can something be done to ensure she gets the treatment she needs when she needs it?


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