Describing the “deplorable situation within the public dental service”, Deputy Naughten said the woman told him she “felt like she was begging” in order to receive treatment.
“Mary is a single parent with two adult children for whom she is their primary carer. She put it to me that it is not easy to survive on her welfare payments,” he said.
“She is someone who worked all her life. She was forced out of employment back in 2015. She paid all of her taxes like everyone else. She said she felt like she was begging to get the help she urgently needs”.
Another example given involved a man with an intellectual disability, who ended up in the A&E at University Hospital Galway with facial swelling, hallucinations, and confusion due to his dental issues, despite being on an emergency waiting list for over two months.
Deputy Naughten said the situation for children is just as bad with many missing out on vital checkups.
“Just 499 primary school children in County Galway had such a check-up in the first half of 2022,” he said.
“With regard to our orthodontic services, in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, we have 1,343 children waiting. Some are waiting up to two years to start treatment”.
The local TD said it also seems some children with a disability have been “completely forgotten” with reports of children with autism in mainstream schools unable to avail of primary school dental services.
“Neglecting our public dental services and
oral hygiene leads to emergency dental issues, advanced oral lesions, chronic ill health and sepsis that all add to pressure on our emergency departments, which just cannot cope,” he said.
At this month’s meeting of Roscommon County Council, Cllr Emer Kelly put forward a motion calling on the Council to write to the Health Minister with a view to incentivising dentists to take part in the Medical Card scheme.
Cllr Kelly, who highlighted the high number of GPs opting out of the scheme and difficulties in accessing services, received widespread support across the chamber.
Cllr Tony Ward, who sits on the HSE West Forum, described the situation as “totally wrong”, and claimed that a number of medical card holders had been forced to borrow money in order to pay for treatment. He vowed to continue to raise the issue at the forum.