Dáil Éireann - Volume 581 - 03 March, 2004
Written Answers - Health Board Services.
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
154. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting orthodontic treatment in County Donegal; and the efforts that are being made to improve the situation. [6829/04]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: The provision of orthodontic services is a matter for the health boards in the first instance.
I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services in the North Western Health Board, NWHB, area and on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards — including one from the NWHB — for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.
Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 of December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.
Orthodontic initiative funding of €4.698 million was provided to the health boards-authority in 2001 and this has enabled health boards to recruit additional staff, engage the services of private specialist orthodontic practitioners to treat patients and build additional orthodontic  facilities. The NWHB was allocated an additional €0.273 million in 2001 for orthodontic services of which €0.178 million was for the orthodontic initiative.
In June 2002, my Department provided additional funding of €5 million from the treatment purchase fund to health boards specifically for the purchase of orthodontic treatment. This funding is enabling boards to provide both additional sessions for existing staff and purchase treatment from private specialist orthodontic practitioners. The NWHB was allocated an additional €0.285 million from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way.
The waiting times for orthodontic treatment by county are not routinely collected by my Department. Therefore, the chief executive officer of the NWHB has been requested to provide the information requested directly to the Deputy.
The chief executive officer of the NWHB has informed my Department that at the end of the December 2003 quarter, the average waiting times for category A and category B orthodontic treatment were seven months and 2.3 years, respectively. The chief executive officer of the NWHB also informed my Department that at the end of the December 2003 quarter, there were 2,532 patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the board’s area.
Dáil Éireann 581 Written Answers Health Board Services.