Section 1 states:
(1) A health board shall make available without charge, for children who have attended a national school or a school standing specified in an order under section 66 (3) of the Health Act, 1970, and are of or under such age as may be specified by the Minister by regulations, such dental health services as may be so specified.
The Minister has specified that the person must be under 16 years of age. Will he be more specific and outline the service likely to be available? A reasonable screening service is offered through the schools but problems arise in the provision of orthodontic treatment. The Minister spent some time agreeing with my colleague on the Opposition benches who agrees with the people who tell me that a great many problems are merely cosmetic. There is a danger that people will seek cosmetic treatment at the expense of the taxpayer. Will he be specific on how it is proposed to categorise the people who need treatment? Category 1 patients should get the treatment as quickly as possible and although it will take up to a year that is not sufficient excuse for not attempting to tackle the problem. There is no sense in enacting this legislation unless it attempts to do something about the problem. I am sure the Minister shares my view that we do not want to find ourselves in a year's time in the same position having failed to identify the categories of people who need urgent attention. I am worried about the availability of finance and I accept the Minister's assertion that all the problems cannot be solved at once. Unless there is a commitment that those in need of urgent care will get it as and from a specific date, we are wasting our time.
A 15 year old may have an orthodontic problem that is not deemed sufficiently urgent to deal with it immediately. If the problem is not dealt with before his or her sixteenth birthday what will happen? If treatment is started before a person's sixteenth birthday will it be continued when the person is 17, 18 or 19, as the case may be? Everybody is aware of the age limit so that if it is wished to offload a category at any time, one has only to wait until the person is no longer eligible. Will the person who should have had treatment before becoming ineligible on age grounds be treated under the scheme? If category 1 patients do not get orthodontic treatment we are wasting our time.