Seanad Éireann - Volume 137 - 30 June, 1993

Adjournment Matters. - School Dental Services.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Neville): I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea. Limerick is well represented here at the moment. I call on our Clare neighbour Senator Daly.

Mr. Daly: I, too, welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea. I know he is equally concerned about this issue because it affects his constituency. The dental services in County Clare are now at a critical stage. In the national schools dental treatment is only available for second and sixth class pupils. There is only an emergency service available for the others which is not satisfactory. The situation for adults is worse; there is only an emergency scheme in operation for adults.

There are about 700 people on a waiting list in the mid-west area even though the list has been closed for the past two years. There are more than 400 people on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment and 2,500 people on the assessment waiting list. There is a three year waiting list. The position is becoming critical and parents are genuinely anxious about it. The work is extremely expensive in many cases. The Minister of State might consider a scheme whereby private individuals, in conjunction with the health board, could come together to provide the service. In many cases parents would be willing to make a contribution towards the provision of such a service.

About a year ago it was proposed to build a new dental clinic at the County Hospital in Ennis. The dental service is at present provided in prefab accommodation which is very old and dilapidated. The working conditions for staff would not be tolerated in any other section of the health services. I ask the Minister of State to pay special attention to this problem, investigate what must be done and ensure that additional finances are allocated to the Mid-Western Health [550] Board to enable it to effectively tackle this chronic problem which is causing untold hardship for parents and children. It can also have psychological effects on children as they must wait for many years for the necessary dental treatment.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. O'Dea): In regard to the school dental services in County Clare the position is that the Mid-Western Health Board, in common with other health boards, is now adopting a systematic targeted approach for the delivery of these services. This ensures a more equitable distribution of the dental resources available. The approach aims to examine all children in specific classes and to provide treatment as necessary. The classes chosen in County Clare are second and sixth classes. These classes are chosen with preventive treatments in mind and to ensure that children are dentally fit before they leave national school.

Children for whom a service was previously rarely, if ever, demanded and those in greatest need of dental care, will be screened, advised of the services available, educated in dental hygiene and provided with treatment as necessary. In this way the optimum service is provided for those in need within the resources available. Under this targeted approach about 3,800 children in County Clare are screened annually which represents about 28 per cent of the total number of children attending national school. Emergency treatment for the relief of pain is available to children on demand.

I am aware that the board is experiencing difficulties with suitable dental accommodation in Ennis and is actively considering measures to improve the situation. A consultant orthodontic service is provided to children from County Clare through the regional centre at St. Camillus.

The position in regard to the adult dental service in County Clare is that an emergency service for the relief of pain is available to all adult medical card holders on demand. The board has not been able to provide a routine adult dental service [551] for some time because of budgetary constraints. However, the Minister for Health, after consultations with me, has recently made additional allocations available to the health board for the development of the dental services in the current year in accordance with the provisions contained in the Programme for a Partnership Government. Following my consultations with the Minister I am [552] hopeful that a number of extra dentists can be employed quite soon which will considerably reduce the waiting list.

The board is reviewing the recommencement of a routine adult dental service for County Clare in the light of the additional allocations provided.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 1 July 1993.