€15 million to enhance oral health

Ireland’s Health Minister responds to claim that ‘the system has collapsed’

An “unprecedented” €15 million has been allocated in the Irish Government’s budget for next year to enhance the provision of oral health services.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly conceded the Irish Dental Association (IDA) was correct in identifying the need for a significant increase in staff.

The issue of the public dental system was raised in Parliament by Labour’s Duncan Smith, who said it had “collapsed”, adding: “What is the Minister’s plan to address this?”

A portrait of Stephen Donnelly speaking at a press conference
Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly

Deputy Donnelly (pictured) responded: “There have been significant delays in the provision of services. These were significant before Covid-19 arrived and, as with many other patient services, Covid has made them worse. It is a top priority for me and the Government to address it.

“We are backing that sentiment up with money. I have allocated an unprecedented €15 million in the budget for next year to enhance the provision of oral health services. A dedicated amount of nearly €5 million has been provided to develop a comprehensive oral healthcare package for children. I have allocated €9 million specifically to address the waiting lists in orthodontics, which the Deputy has quite rightly called out, and to allow the public dental service to provide care to all eligible children.

“In addition to the €15 million allocation, resources will also be available to recruit more orthodontists.”

Deputy Donnelly also discussed where the much-needed dental professionals would be sourced, saying: “A number of community healthcare organisations have run recruitment initiatives to fill the vacancies that exist. Vacancies equivalent to approximately 72 whole-time equivalent staff have been filled so far this year.

“The HSE dental service recently held a recruitment event. It invited dentists who are registered or entitled to be registered with the Dental Council of Ireland. I am delighted to say that the event was well attended by dentists who were expressing an interest in these public service jobs, which is where we need them.”

He added: “One area in which we need to be open to quite radical action is that of college places and training places.

“We do not educate remotely enough healthcare professionals in our country. We need at least a doubling of college places. That would cover both groups of workers, dentists and dental hygienists.

“We need to be radical and ambitious in scaling up the number of college places and training places in the coming years.”

Read more, Dentistry’s future in question.

Published: 16 December, 2022 at 13:06