Thursday, 19 January 2023
Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]
Rose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
I thank my colleagues for allowing me time to speak and the Regional Group for bringing forward the motion. I am supposed to be in Mayo at the moment but I stayed on because this issue is such a problem in the county. No dentists are taking on new clients. This is not just coming to the fore now; it has been going on for months and it must be addressed. I wish to follow on from the point made by Deputy Cullinane that it takes direct intervention with the dentists to get this sorted. I am aware of teenagers who are suffering mental health and physical health difficulties because they cannot get something as basic as their teeth done. The integrity of any essential health service that precludes dentists from providing vital treatment must be questioned. Such an approach cannot be condoned. Forcing people to have their teeth extracted in 2023 is inhumane. It is the wrong thing to do. Even just saying it sounds wrong. I appreciate that money has been allocated but I read the Minister's statement and there are references to millions of euro here, there and everywhere. Why, then, can people in Mayo not access the basic dental services they need?
With regard to training, there are students doing their leaving certificate this year who will get maximum points but will not be able to get a place to study dentistry. That is wrong. The issue is not only that there are not enough places on dentistry courses - the current number needs to be doubled - it also relates to the chronic underfunding of the third level sector. There is a need for joined-up thinking in this regard. The Minister knows that a college will get €9,630 to train an Irish person to become a dentist but it will get up to €46,000 to provide the same training to a wealthy international student.
That also has to be examined in terms of the overall funding of our higher education institutions. They cannot be forced to do these things, which are impacting women, children and elderly people in Mayo.