NEARLY 3,500 children are on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment in the HSE South — nearly 20 times as many as in the North East.
That’s according to figures released by Dympna Kavanagh, national oral health chief, after a question was tabled in the Dáil on the numbers of children waiting for treatment nationally and the average waiting time.
There were just 168 children on the waiting list in the North East and the average waiting time for them was two-and-a-half to three months.
But in the HSE South area — which covers Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and south Tipperary — there were 3,455 children on the list. Ms Kavanagh said they spent an average of 12 months waiting for treatment and they are not considered for assessment until they reach 12 years of age.
She said the figures in the region were particularly high due to a number of issues including a staffing moratorium and staff bereavement. However, she added that a new consultant orthodontist had been recently appointed in the region. The Mid-Western HSE area had the second highest waiting list at 1,688 — which is still less than half of those seeking treatment in the HSE South area. The figures were obtained by Fine Gael and their Cork-based senator Jerry Buttimer said he was very alarmed by what he read.
“Our... children in the Cork area are clearly being neglected and discriminated against where orthodontic provision is concerned.
“Children must be promptly assessed and given corrective orthodontic treatment as soon as possible if a positive outcome is to be achieved,” said Mr Buttimer. He said the excuses given of a staff moratorium and a delay in appointing a new consultant “simply will not wash”.
“There are two prominent Government ministers in Cork and a Green Party senator who is never off the airwaves yet our children and their oral health have been allowed to drop to the bottom of the priority list where this failed Government is concerned.”
A total of 9,601 children are awaiting assessment nationally with children in the HSE South representing a whopping 36% of the waiting list. “Fianna Fáil and the Greens need to stop attacking our children and start taking their oral health seriously. Fine Gael recently highlighted how dental experts challenged what they see as an indefensible HSE memo telling them not to fill children’s baby teeth, as a means of scaling back on scarce resources,” the senator said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved