Crisis in Connemara dental services must be addressed, says senator

Frank Fleming, Moylough, Patrick Ruddy, Oranmore and Mike O'Leary, Claregalway pictured at the ZELTIQ/Allergan company "Night at the Dogs" at Galway Greyhound Track. ZELTIQ/Allergan established their European manufacturing facility in Knocknacarra in Galway city last year. Photo Martina Regan

Frank Fleming, Moylough, Patrick Ruddy, Oranmore and Mike O'Leary, Claregalway pictured at the ZELTIQ/Allergan company "Night at the Dogs" at Galway Greyhound Track. ZELTIQ/Allergan established their European manufacturing facility in Knocknacarra in Galway city last year. Photo Martina Regan

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has said the crisis in the provision of community dental services in Connemara is much worse than previously envisaged.

Speaking on receipt of clarifications from the HSE to questions he raised after voicing concerns around the discontinuation of dental services in Clifden and Carraroe, the Galway West – South Mayo senator said: “It is clear from the responses I have received that community dental services in Connemara are totally under resourced and that we need to have this addressed as a matter of urgency by the HSE.

“The statement says that there are six vacancies in the service in west Galway at present; three for dental nurses; one for a dental hygienist; one for a senior administrative dental surgeon; and another for a general dental surgeon. This is hugely significant for an area with a population of almost 40,000 people.

“The current dental service, which has only been available for three and a half days a week shared between Clifden and Carraroe has been suspended, due to the lack of a dental nurse to support procedures. This can only be resumed when the vacant dental nursing post is filled and it is not clear when that will happen.

“Another team provides care in Oughterard, averaging a day and a half a week, seeing children from west County Galway. There is only one dental hygienist in the department working two days a week split between Oughterard and Carraroe. She sometimes has a dental nurse in support. Occasionally, a patient is seen same day as an emergency by another dentist on duty on the day in another location, usually Shantalla.

“The statement says that ‘support for the dentist who serves Connemara is being considered. As a third dental nurse is retiring this month, this support is not available at present. It is not clear yet what can be provided in the short term given the resources available to cover the gaps in service in Galway county and they say that the dentist will be posted where support can be provided’.

“This is a wholly unacceptable situation. It is yet another example of a rural area being totally deprived of basic services. Government TDs should hang their head in shame with the deplorable state that these and other health services are in.”

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