We saw another press release from the Government announcing a new national oral health policy called Smile agus Sláinte. Only Fine Gael could try to make dental treatment sound fluffy. The new policy implements one of the recommendations of the Sláintecare report. All children will receive eight oral healthcare packages while medical card holders who are over 16 years will also receive packages. However, there is no mention in the fluffy press release of the 18,000 children who are currently on the orthodontic waiting list or the 24,000 children waiting for dental treatment in general, including many in my constituency. I have been lobbying the Government hard on this matter. As we speak, up to 9,000 children with moderate to severe malpositioned teeth and jaw problems have been waiting for more than two years for access to an orthodontist. Those who can afford treatment will pay in excess of €3,000. All of that was glossed over.
The proposals are welcome but as with every press release and announcement from Government Buildings, also know as spin central, this one comes with a health warning. While the president of the Irish Dental Association, Dr. Kieran O'Connor, welcomed the publication of the document, he pointed out that his members were not involved in or consulted in detail regarding its formulation. We have a new dental strategy that has been formulated without talking to dentists. One could not begin to make it up.
I remind the Tánaiste of the conversation I had with him on Tuesday regarding an article by Paul Cullen published in The Irish Times and followed up by Aoife Hegarty in "RTÉ Investigates" on Tuesday evening. The programme, which was compiled following whistleblower allegations, reported on an audit of orthodontic treatment affecting 7,500 people in the greater Dublin and Leinster area in the period between 1999 and 2002. The report was finalised in 2015 and still has not been published. We need to know the details of that report. Why is it taking so long so deal with the findings? Have the people affected been contacted? Since Tuesday, what has been the Government's response to Paul Cullen's article in The Irish Times and the "RTÉ Investigates" report? What action is being taken to contact people whose orthodontic treatment has been compromised by the difficulties within the service?