Dáil Éireann - Volume 558 - 27 November, 2002
Written Answers. - Orthodontic Service.
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
186. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers on waiting lists in the ERHA for orthodontic treatment for the years 1992 to 2001, inclusive. [24052/02]
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
187. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the numbers of children and teenagers on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area and the other seven health board areas during 2002. [24053/02]
Mr. Broughan Mr. Broughan
188. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on current waiting lists for orthodontic treatment around Ireland; the measures he has taken to reduce and eliminate these waiting lists; and his views on whether the crisis in orthodontic treatment requires a fundamental review of arrangements with the Irish Dental Association and other stakeholders. [24054/02]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin) Micheál Martin
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 188, inclusive, together.
The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons and the maintenance of waiting lists for such treatment is the statutory responsibility of the health boards/authority in the first instance.
I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to improve orthodontic services on a national basis.
A grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created to address the issues of recruitment and retention of qualified clinical personnel in the orthodontic service. In addition, my Department expects to fund 11 dentists this year from various health boards, including the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA), for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at two separate universities in the United Kingdom. This is an aggregate of 18 public service dentists currently in training for specialist in orthodontics qualifications. Additional funding of €0.414 million was provided to the authority in 2002 for specialist training in orthodontics. These training programmes are made possible by co-operation between the health boards, the majority of consultant orthodontists and the dental teaching institutions. The creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist is another structural measure being introduced in order to increase the number of orthodontic treatments.
In the short-term, additional funding of €6.729 million was approved for orthodontic services last year of which €4.698 million was to fund an initiative on orthodontic waiting lists. Under the initiative, the ERHA was allocated €2.044 million. This enabled the authority to recruit additional staff, including two consultant orthodontists and to develop new treatment facilities at Loughlinstown and at the regional orthodontic unit located at St. James's Hospital. My Department has also funded a six-chair orthodontic suite for the Northern Area Health Board, expected to be operational in spring 2003. The authority is also validating its orthodontic waiting lists as part of this initiative.
Last June, 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 ERHA received €1.815 million from the fund for the treatment of cases in this way.
 The chief executive officers of the health boards have informed me of the following information on their orthodontic waiting lists as at the end of the September 2002 quarter:
*There are no category A patients awaiting assessment, category B have an average waiting time of < 48 months for assessment.
**Category A patients have an average waiting time of < six months for assessment, category B have an average waiting time of 12 months for assessment.
Patients in category A require immediate treatment and include those with congenital abnormalities of the jaws such as cleft lip and palate, and patients with major skeletal discrepancies between the sizes of the jaws. Patients in category B have less severe problems than category A patients and are placed on the orthodontic treatment waiting list. The number of cases treated is dependent on the level of resources available, in terms of qualified staff, in the area and this is reflected in the treatment waiting list. The regional chief executive has informed me that at the end of September 2002, there were 2,990 cases in orthodontic treatment in the authority's area.
The information for the years 1998 to 2002, requested by the Deputy, is as follows:
I regret that in the time available it was not possible to provide the information from 1992 to 1997. However, my Department will arrange for the information to be sent to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.
Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards have further informed me that at the end of the September 2002 quarter, there were 18,511 patients in orthodontic treatment in the health boards. This is an increase of 1,216 patients in orthodontic treatment when compared with the number of patients in treatment in December 2001 and the objective of my Department is to further increase the number of cases in treatment. I am confident, that in co-operation with all the relevant stakeholders, namely the health boards, the Dental Council, dental hospitals, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Post-Graduate Medical and Dental Board, all these measures combined will ensure the achievement of this objective.
Dáil Éireann 558 Written Answers. Orthodontic Service.