Sinn Féin’s East Galway representative Louis O’Hara has said that the health service is failing children by failing to provide them with their statutory entitlement of routine dental screening in primary schools.
O’Hara said that almost 100,000 children nationally, including 5,635 in schools in County Galway, are waiting for routine dental examinations.
The figures were revealed in a response to a parliamentary question put forward by O’Hara’s party colleague Mark Ward TD.
“Eligibility for dental services is a statutory entitlement under the Health Acts. Almost one million children aged up to and including 15 years are eligible for HSE Dental services,” said Louis O’Hara.
“All of the HSE Dental Services are provided free of charge.”
He said that prior to COVID, we saw reports from The Irish Dental Association that stated an increasing number of children are only being offered examination and dental care for the first time at sixth class – instead of at first, second, fourth and sixth classes.
“This situation has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid. The bar was already set low for dental screening in primary schools and figures released to Sinn Féin by the HSE show over 5000 children are waiting on routine dental examinations in County Galway.”
O’Hara says that this follows on from a 63% decrease in dental screening in primary schools nationally in 2020.
“This situation is not unique to Galway, but it is replicated right across the State, where there are currently almost 100,000 children waiting on an appointment. Some areas offer appointments to 6th classes only and emergency services to other children under 16.”
The Athenry native said that there are strong links between good oral health and good physical health, and it is “vital that the HSE develop a contingency plan so children can receive this vital service.”