Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (137, 138, 139)

Michael Ring

Question:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment. [8247/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are over 4,000 children on the assessment waiting list for orthodontic treatment in the Southern Health Board area, and a further number of over 3,000 on the treatment waiting list; his views on whether this is the worst by far in the country; and the reason therefor. [8248/04]

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The provision of orthodontic services in the Southern Health Board is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of that board in the first instance.

I am aware of the unacceptable number of cases on the board's assessment and treatment waiting lists; this is due in part to the limited availability of trained specialist clinical staff to assess and treat patients. At the end of December 2003, the chief executive officer of the board reported the highest number of cases awaiting assessment for orthodontic treatment. However, the chief executive officer has informed my Department that at the end of the same period, there were 3,400 children getting treatment from the board. This means that almost one out of every six children getting treatment from the public orthodontic service is from the Southern Health Board area.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that I have taken a number of measures to address the shortage of specialists and so increase the treatment capacity of the orthodontic service. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the health board orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the health boards funded 13 dentists from various health boards for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 13 trainees for the public orthodontic service are additional to the six dentists who commenced their training in 2001. Thus, there is an aggregate of 19 dentists in specialist training for orthodontics. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board has reported that the professor commenced duty on 1 December 2003. In recognition of the importance of this post at Cork Dental School my Department has given approval in principle to a proposal from the school to further substantially improve the training facilities there for orthodontics. This project should see the construction of a large orthodontic unit and support facilities; it will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

In June 2002, 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 Southern Health Board was allocated an additional €0.720 million from this fund for the treatment of cases in this way.

Finally, the chief executive officers of the health boards/authority have informed my Department that at the end of the December quarter 2003 there were 21,727 children receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are over twice as many children getting orthodontic treatment as there are children waiting to be treated and 4,432 extra children are getting treatment from health boards since the end of 2001.

John McGuinness

Question:

140 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 337 and 339 of 9 December 2003, if a comprehensive response will be issued immediately. [8249/04]

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Responsibility for the provision of services for persons with intellectual disability is a matter, in the first instance, for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer in the South Eastern Health Board to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and reply, as a matter of urgency, directly to him.