Deputy Pearse Doherty has said that there are serious failings in the management of the “notorious” orthodontic waiting lists in Donegal which must be addressed.
The Sinn Fein TD was speaking having raised a number of questions with the Minister for Health in relation to the lengthy waiting lists for orthodontic assessment and treatment in the county.
He said “The Minister for Health and his department officials must be well aware of the issues relating to orthodontic treatment in Donegal given the number of representations that I have been asked to make by constituents who have come to me for help.
“The issues with orthodontic assessment and treatment in Donegal are nothing new.
“The waiting lists in the county have been notorious for years with many adults and children waiting far longer than they should for assessment and treatment. In August last year, I asked again for an update on the figures and was told that 370 people in Donegal, said to be Grade 4 or Grade 5 in severity, had been waiting at least 6 months for treatment.
“This figure grew to 441 by December 2020. When we delved further into this earlier this year it transpired that of the Grade 5 patients, 128 had been waiting more than 2 years for treatment.”
The West Donegal-based TD said this begged the question as to the reason for the delay.
He added “I then found out that despite the former Minister for Health, Simon Harris, having visited the orthodontic department last year; nothing has been done in relation to the inadequacy of the space and infrastructure within which the dental team has to work.
“There have been numerous failings in management which raise serious questions.
“For one, the HSE has confirmed to me that despite going ahead and spending money on the purchase of new dental chairs, equipment and a new x-ray machine; there is now no space for these new items within the current Letterkenny University Hospital campus. Why purchase equipment without a plan?
“There are also questions in relation to whether there is adequate staff to use the new equipment?”
Deputy Doherty said surely management within the HSE should have foreseen such issues and planned accordingly?
But instead, we have the new chair and x-ray machine sitting in a closet, unable to be used. All the while, the waiting lists continue to grow, he added.
“I have respect for the staff who have to work in such cramped conditions without adequate equipment. How can we continue to attract highly trained and skilled dental professionals to work in the county, and to tackle the waiting lists, if we don’t have the space or equipment necessary?
“I am again calling on management to review the entire situation. The waiting lists must be tackled and if this means that relocation or refurbishment of the existing orthodontic unit in the Letterkenny University Hospital campus is required, then steps should be taken by management to address this.”