‘Altnagelvin not coping with dental demand’

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Dental patients in Derry are being forced to wait longer than anywhere else in the north to see a consultant, it has been revealed.

New figures obtained by SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood reveal that at present a total of 204 patients are currently waiting more than 18 weeks for a first appointment with a consultant at Altnagelvin. The Derry MLA said the statistics show Altnagelvin hospital cannot cope with demand for dentistry services.

“The figures speak for themselves, it is quite clear that Altnagelvin hospital simply hasn’t got the resources needed to cope with the demand for dentistry services. It is crucial that patients with dental problems get the attention they need and deserve as a matter of urgency.”

In response to a Assembly Question from Mr Eastwood, Health Minister Edwin Poots revealed that the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for a first dental consultant outpatient appointment at Altnagelvin is the highest in the north.

In November the ‘Journal’ revealed how a 78-year old Derry man attempted to remove his own teeth with pliers after waiting more than three months for an appointment at Altnagelvin. At that time Mr Poots said demand exceeded the capacity within the Western Trust. He said that in such cases funding would be provided to treat patients in the private sector.

But in the last two months more than one hundred extra patients have been added to the waiting list for a first dentistry appointment at the hospital – the total number of people in need of attention now stands at 1,000.

“The minister this week declined to rule out job losses as part of continuing cuts at the Western Trust but this is further evidence that investment and not cuts in services is what is needed,” Mr Eastwood continued.

“The fact that public money is being spent on private health care where demand exceeds capacity in the hospital spells out the need for adequate investment in staff and services rather than further cuts to meet savings targets.”

The number of people waiting in Derry dwarfs that at the the Royal in Belfast, where 39 patients are waiting more than 18 weeks, Craigavon (23 patients) and the Ulster (8).