*The matter was raised at the regional Health Forum.
CLARE’S SPECIALIST orthodontist within the HSE has not been replaced since their retirement in July with a four year waiting list continuing to expand.
On July 28th, the specialist orthodontist within the HSE retired. Recruitment campaigns by the HSE to fill the vacancy have been unsuccessful to date with no applicants coming forward since August.
Approval to fill two additional Specialist Orthodontists posts has been given to the HSE Orthodontic Service in the Mid-West.
Maria Bridgeman, Chief Officer, HSE Mid West Community Healthcare outlined that if the recruitment process for these two posts is successful, “the waiting time for treatment will reduce significantly”.
At a meeting of the HSE Regional Health Forum, Cllr Mary Howard (FG) questioned why the orthodontist covering Co Clare had not been replaced. “I have been told the waiting list is four years,” she stated.
For non-priority cases, the waiting time for orthodontic treatment is currently over four years.
Recruiting “for such specialist resources” is proving quite difficult for the HSE, Bridgeman acknowledged. “Since May 2022, the HSE has conducted five recruitment campaigns (most recently in August 2023) in an attempt to backfill the three vacant Specialist Orthodontist posts (one retirement and two newly approved posts). Successful candidates were offered positions as a result of this campaign but these candidates have not accepted these posts”.
She confirmed there was no applicants for the most recent campaign in August. “While every effort has been made to fill the existing vacancies within the service, unfortunately, the pool of Specialist Orthodontists is very limited and most are attracted to the more lucrative conditions of private practice. It should be noted that the issue of recruiting and retaining suitably qualified Orthodontists is not unique to the HSE Mid West area, it is an issue for the HSE Orthodontics Service throughout the country. HSE Mid West Community Healthcare will continue its efforts to fill these important roles within the Orthodontic service”.
As per HSE policy, patients who are in need of an orthodontic assessment must be referred from the Primary Care Dental Service prior to their sixteenth birthday. “While the national target for the waiting time for orthodontic assessment is that 45% of patients should be seen within six months of referral, due to the unique assessment strategy in operation within the Mid-West, 100% of patients are seen within six months of referral and 80% of assessments are seen within three months of referral,” Ms Bridgeman stated.
Assessments are completed at orthodontic clinics within the region such as Ennis, Limerick, Thurles and Nenagh.
Such lengthy waiting lists “are becoming more regular,” Cllr Howard observed. She said she became aware of the matter after a mother was left “taken aback” when she discovered the waiting list for treatment in Clare was four years. “The big fear is if they wait four years, what damage will be done with overcrowding of teeth and teeth coming out crooked,” the Ennis woman added.
In response, Ms Bridgeman remarked, “ It is not that haven’t replaced orthodontist, people have been offered the position but they have not accepted it”. She continued, “There are other people on waiting lists that are given advice on how to protect their child from the matters you have raised, they are being advised on how to best deal with it in the intervening treatment”.
“It is a long process which is adding to the waiting list, we’re doing everything we can to get those posts filled,” Bridgeman concluded.