Seanad debates

Tuesday, 28 June 2005

10:00 pm

Tom Morrissey (Progressive Democrats)
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I welcome the Minister of State to the House to discuss this issue. My concerns relate to a health centre in Castleknock. My understanding is that the centre might not have a sufficient number of dentists to deal with emergencies and routine treatment of children in the area. I ask the Minister of State to consider that in the light of my concerns.

I have written to the Health Service Executive about the issue and received no less than two letters stating that an investigation is being carried out over a period of some six weeks. In view of the impending summer recess, I decided to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I await the Minister of State's reply.

Tim O'Malley (Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)
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I am taking this Adjournment matter this evening on behalf of my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney. I thank Senator Morrissey for raising this matter as it provides me with an opportunity to outline to the House the position in regard to the dental unit at theRoselawn Health Centre.

As the Senator is aware, the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes the delivery of public dental services. Nonetheless, I am happy to convey the information provided by the Health Service Executive on the specific question raised by the Senator.

The dental centre at Roselawn Health Centre is one of 11 dental centres providing services to a distinct geographical area. There are five treatment areas located within the Roselawn Health Centre. Dental staff are distributed between the 11 dental centres based on the best possible combination to meet the dental needs and demands of the service users. The distribution is under constant review to ensure that the resources are provided to their greatest efficiency and maximum effectiveness.

Currently, there are 14.7 whole-time equivalent clinicians employed in the Roselawn dental area consisting of 11.7 whole time equivalent dentists and three whole time equivalent hygienists. Roselawn dental area has a complement of 17.8 whole time equivalent clinicians. Thus, there are vacancies for 3.1 whole time equivalent clinicians.

Taking into account the fact that there are a number of unfilled clinicians posts in theRoselawn dental area, there are naturally some limitations on the dental services being provided. However, I am pleased to inform the House of the dental services currently being prioritised.

A daily emergency service, with no appointment needed, is provided for all eligible children at each surgery that has a dentist on duty. At the emergency service a dentist provides relief of pain and trauma using a number of temporary or permanent treatments. Consultation and advice is given to anxious parents or guardians with respect to dental issues which cause concern. In addition, screening and routine dental treatment is provided to second and sixth class national schoolchildren, with priority being given to permanent teeth. The service is focused on those locations in the geographical area with high levels of dental disease and social deprivation, as identified annually using indices of dental decay and the Department of Education and Science's designated school lists. Furthermore, screening and routine dental treatment of all special needs children and adults in the dental area is provided. Finally, where indicated by medical or dental abnormalities, baby teeth are filled.

Despite the existing vacancies, there has been a high patient throughput in the Roselawn dental area. The figures for 2004 show 20,711 children were seen in the Roselawn dental area, of which 8,114 were seen at the Roselawn health centre. Furthermore, of the 20,711 children seen in the Roselawn dental area, 5,048 were child emergencies, of which 2,073 were seen at the Roselawn health centre. As noted, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, public dental services. The executive will continue to set priorities within available resources on an ongoing basis.

Tom Morrissey (Progressive Democrats)
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I thank the Minister.