Thursday, 19 January 2023
Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]
Richard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent)
This did not happen today or yesterday. In the period from 2002 to 2005, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children expressed its total dissatisfaction with the delivery of orthodontic services. It considered the position adopted by the Dental Council of Ireland on the issue of training in orthodontics to be unsustainable. In 2002, concerns were raised that quality orthodontic care was not available through the Irish system. The Dental Council of Ireland controlled the dental schools and these were in competition with the regional services. Therein lies the problem. One was in competition with the other when they should have been working together and having the same funding to sort out the problem. The committee agreed that a very good service was being offered by the regional service in the mid-west region and commended it on its excellence. The Joint Committee on Health was on board to support the regional service. It made recommendations, which were sent to the health board at the time. Subsequently, the HSE set up a review body, ignoring the recommendations made by the health board.
Needless to say, they went nowhere and the follow-up died a death. Hundreds of children have been damaged, there are restrictions of education by the Dental Council of Ireland, there is restricted training. Again this goes back to funding whereby both systems could have worked together. The recommendations went nowhere. The aim was to stop regional services. The bottom line is that children being hidden behind improper systems for 21 years. There is no consultant professor overseeing what is required within the dental schools. There is no academic consultant professor in the dental schools. We are talking about 21 years; we are not talking about yesterday or a week ago. This has been going on for 21 years as a result of politics. The services on both sides could have been invested in rather than setting one against the other and causing the problem that we have 21 years later. Why did the Dental Council of Ireland stop qualified orthodontists coming in from the UK? Public orthodontic services are now even worse than they were when the health committee expressed its concerns in respect of the period from 2002 to 2005.
A report compiled by Bearn and Richmond in 2015 was never published despite several calls on the Minister, who left the House two minutes ago, to publish it. The then Minister, Deputy Harris, got the report and has it. The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and the Tánaiste, Deputy Micheál Martin, all have this report. Why was it never published? It would have highlighted the problems that the Government created. Who is going to suffer for this? Children and adults have suffered for 21 years because of bad policymaking and funding. The Government could have funded both services and there would be no backlog. If it is serious about fixing this problem, the first thing it needs to do is accept the blame for its part in what has happened. The Minister should publish the report, if he is not scared to do so, and show the people what actually happened, rather than pitting the regional service against the Dental Council of Ireland, with one blaming the other. That is not the problem; the problem lies with Government.