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 Header Item Medicinal Products Expenditure (Continued)
 Header Item Ambulance Service Provision
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Broadband Services Provision

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin] That is a position we would like to get to. It cannot happen soon enough in my opinion.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher We have also offered support in terms of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill and will try to encourage the committee to move as quickly as possible with that. Equally, however, it is legislation that needs to be critically analysed on Committee Stage.

There was some price referencing between Ireland and New Zealand that showed huge disparities in the cost of drugs. Even with the legislation, we are still completely out of kilter with the norms for pricing of ordinary medicines, the everyday drugs that are issued on prescription and this clearly cannot be sustained. The Bill will deal with aspects of that but there are other inherent difficulties in the system that lead to increased costs for medicines for individuals and the State through the reimbursement scheme.

Deputy Alex White: Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White There has been considerable progress in the broader area. On the question of the agreements with the industry, savings have been made, although not as quickly as all of us would have hoped. The agreements have been put in place and will yield considerable benefits to the taxpayer and patients in the year ahead. I thank Deputies Kelleher and Ó Caoláin and the other Deputies who have supported the rationale behind this legislation, which is finally getting a grip on this issue at a level of legislation, putting in place a system where we can make happen what people had been talking about for so long.

Ambulance Service Provision

 9. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if enhanced ambulance and paramedic services will be made available in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57017/12]

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Emergency ambulances from all stations across Donegal are used in a dynamic manner, to maintain emergency cover and respond to calls as required. Ambulance stations across the county and adjacent counties support each other, and the nearest available resource responds to an emergency call, regardless of where it is based. I would be the first to acknowledge the geographical spread in County Donegal.

The National Ambulance Service has enhanced the delivery of ambulance services in the north west through the recent introduction of a new intermediate care service in Sligo and Letterkenny. The purpose of the ICS is to undertake routine and non-emergency stretcher-based patient transport, such as inter-hospital transfers, in order to free up emergency resources for emergency calls. Once again, we are back to the patient being treated by the right person in the right place at the right time, which carries for ambulance services as well. This service will be fully operational in early 2013 with 19 intermediate care operatives. At the moment it operates in a limited number of areas, which includes Letterkenny. The NAS is also assisted in the west by a pilot emergency aeromedical service which was established in June 2012 and which is based in Custume Barracks, Athlone. This dedicated resource provides emergency transport where transport time is critical and where certain clinical criteria are fulfilled. I have had discussions with Minister Edwin Poots, MLA, in the North on how we can co-operate on air ambulance services as well and in community services on either side of the Border, and hospital services. Radiotherapy services in Altnagelvin are a case in point.

The ambulance service is also progressing training of additional advanced paramedics and a number of staff from the north west, including Donegal, are included in this programme.

In addition to the above, a paramedic upskilling programme is currently being progressed across the country, which will enhance the delivery of care to patients.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin My attention has been drawn to a report in the Donegal Democrat of Monday, 26 November. This referred to a situation where a distraught mother had to drive her unconscious child to hospital while a paramedic tended to the child in the back seat of the car. If this was an isolated incident, it might not have been raised in this way, but I am told there are other reported instances where ambulances have been told only one paramedic was available to both drive and tend. With the child needing to be attended to and brought to Letterkenny General Hospital, the paramedic could not drive the ambulance. The situation is serious and I am drawing it to the Minister's attention because there is a fault line. That is not to question the role of individual ambulance drivers and-or paramedics but certainly it is to question the decision making of those who oversee the service or who have issued governance rules to those entrusted with that oversight.

  We were told by the article, and inquiries I have made on the back of it, that the paramedic in this instance sought additional support through the channels he would report to and people were available with the necessary skills, other paramedics and ambulances drivers, but permission to engage those available professionally trained personnel was refused. This is a serious matter and was of significant concern to the paramedic concerned and to his fellow professionals in the ambulance service in Donegal. I ask the Minister what steps he will take to assure the people of Donegal that a situation such as that described in the Donegal Democrat article will not reoccur.

Deputy James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly This is a serious matter and I intend to have it investigated. It makes no sense to me that an ambulance driver would go out on his or her own and the paramedic would therefore be unavailable. Given the choice between driving or caring for the patient, it does not make any sense. I went around the country and met the staff, including ambulance staff, in the regions about the future plans for the health service. One of the paramedics raised an issue with me that I intend to address. Sometimes these very experienced individuals are sent to a house and when they arrive, having examined the patient, they see no reason to bring him or her to hospital but they have no other option. They cannot bring the patient to the out of hours doctor on call, or advise them to wait until the follow morning to see his GP. I believe, however, that should be the case; these are highly qualified individuals.

That is not quite what the Deputy is talking about but what I am trying to say is we have a wonderful resource here and we should allow paramedics to give of the knowledge they have in a complete fashion and not just corral them into narrow spaces. I undertake to investigate this and come back to the Deputy with a report. To my mind, this was utterly unacceptable.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Paschal Donohoe - the need to finalise student grant applications; (2) Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan - the need to address the problems of rogue taxi drivers through regulation; (3) Deputy Derek Keating - the increased incidences of tuberculosis throughout Dublin city and county; (4) Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan - the need to respond to the increase in homeless numbers from the recent sleeping rough count; (5) Deputy Gerald Nash - the need to fast track carer's allowance payments to returned emigrants who have come back home to care for family members; (6) Deputy Simon Harris - the lack of primary school places available in Greystones and Kilcoole, County Wicklow; (7) Deputy Michael McNamara - the need to give courts discretion not to allow banks who have unreasonably refused offers of restructure to repossess family homes; (8) Deputy Michael P. Kitt - the closure of the residential centre of Toghermore House, Tuam, County Galway; (9) Deputy Jonathan O'Brien - the effects of the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio from 17:1 to 19:1; (10) Deputy Noel Harrington - the need to provide adequate broadband speeds in all areas of the country; (11) Deputy Charlie McConalogue - the impact of a number of cuts in budget 2013 to the further education and training sector in particular the increase in the pupil teacher ratio for PLC schools; (12) Deputy Joe McHugh - Irish culture and bullying in Irish society; (13) Deputy Billy Timmins - the need to publish an interim report on the inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar; (14) Deputy Shane Ross - the proposed closure of Stepaside Garda station, County Dublin; (15) Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin - the implications of the proposal to appoint up to 1,000 nursing and midwifery graduates to a two year rotational graduate scheme on 80% of an entry grade nurse-midwife salary; (16) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the need for FÁS to remunerate persons with whom it entered agreements in relation to the Tipperary hostel project; and (17) Deputy Mick Wallace - the need for a grant scheme to assist with septic tank repairs.

The matters raised by Deputies Noel Harrington, Michael P. Kitt, Gerald Nash and Maureen O'Sullivan have been selected for discussion.

Topical Issue Debate

Broadband Services Provision

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I thank the office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this topic. It is one of those debates that comes to this House and its committees quite often - the idea of providing adequate broadband to the country. It is parallel in importance to railway, road or other infrastructure in terms of driving economic activity. Broadband, literally, is vital in this day and age, not just for home use but to generate economic activity, be that in an urban or rural area. I know the Department has recognised this through the announcement of various schemes recently, such as the national broadband scheme, the schools 100 megabyte project, the metropolitan area networks and the rural broadband scheme.

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