Audit of orthodontic files of 7,500 children due in ’weeks’

Minister for Health and HSE ‘regret’ delay in completion but ‘robust report’ a priority

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary asked ‘why is it taking so long to deal with the findings’ when the review was completed in 2015 and still had not been published.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary asked ‘why is it taking so long to deal with the findings’ when the review was completed in 2015 and still had not been published.

 

An audit into the medical files of more than 7,500 children who may have “suffered damage” from orthodontic services they received is expected to be completed in “the next couple of weeks”, the Tánaiste has said.

Simon Coveney told the Dáil that the time taken for the completion of the audit by the Health Service Executive had been protracted because of the scale of the review of the files and the requirement for dedicated personnel and resources.

He said the Minister for Health and the HSE regretted the delay but they wanted “a robust report”.

The audit is of files in the greater Dublin area for treatment received between 1999 and 2002. A review was conducted in 2015 following whistleblower allegations of maltreatment.

Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary asked “why is it taking so long to deal with the findings” when the review was completed in 2015 and still had not been published.

“Have the 7,5000 people affected been contacted? Have they been advised by the HSE review team that their files are being exampled and that they may have to undergo treatment?”

Mr Coveney said the original audit was a “scoping” exercise and did not include a review of any patient records and “reliable conclusions could not be drawn at the time regarding definitive patient harm”.

A new audit with dedicated funding and personnel has been undertaken and is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks.

The Tánaiste presumed that until the audit was completed and the extent of what was involved was known patients had not been contacted.

He also asked what action was being taken to contact the affected patients “whose orthodontic treatment has been compromised by the difficulties within the service”.

Mr Calleary told the Tánaiste that the Government’s proposed implementation of the new national oral health policy “comes with a health warning” because the Irish Dental Association said its members “were not involved in or consulted in detail regarding its formulation”.

The proposed new service is intended to be provided by private local dentists.

He also said the “fluffy” announcement of free care did not mention the 18,000 children currently on the orthodontic waiting list of the 24,000 children waiting for dental treatment in general.

The Mayo TD added that “as we speak there are up to 9.000 children with moderate to severe malpositioned teeth and jaw problems waiting more than two years for access to an orthodontist. If someone can afford it, they will pay more than €3,000.”

The Tánaiste said the new policy was “hugely positive” with eight new packages of care for children up to the age of 16.

He added: “For what it’s worth there was extensive consultation” with dentists before the new approach was launched.