Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath, Imelda Munster, raised the matter of the complete lack of dental services for primary school children in Drogheda and South Louth in the Dáil this week. Since the New Year there have been no dental clinics in operation in the area. A service is not expected to resume before June of this year, when a new clinic is due to open in the Boyne centre in Drogheda, leaving 200 primary school children per week without a local service for the next six months.
“Upwards of 4,800 children will be left without a service locally over the next six months, since the surgeries in the Haymarket Clinic in Drogheda were closed, and the other two clinics in Ballsgrove were closed due to fire damage.”
“Primary school children are currently being referred to the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk, and to other clinics in Duleek, Ardee and Navan which is causing significant delays, disruption and gross inconvenience for children and their parents.”
Deputy Munster suggested that a mobile dental unit might be a practical solution in the short term, however Minister for State Helen McEntee, who was taking questions on behalf of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, said that this will not be possible for health and safety reasons, despite their use being widespread in England.
“The Department’s response to my call for a mobile unit is not correct. I can only assume the Department does not want the bother or inconvenience of providing a mobile unit to cater for these children.”
Deputy Munster also asked if, in the absence of a mobile unit, a HSE-run hourly shuttle bus might be brought into use to assist families with their travel needs, as they are now obliged to travel to Dundalk, Navan and Ardee.
The Minister of State did not give a commitment on this matter, other than to say the potential for minibus transfer for patients with lack of access to transport is being explored by the HSE and that Deputy Munster can expect an update by the end of this month.
“This situation is unacceptable. I expect the Minister to get back to me on this at the earliest opportunity. Children in Drogheda and South Louth can’t be left without a local dental service.”