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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 226-234
 Header Item Medical Aids and Appliances Provision
 Header Item HSE Properties
 Header Item National Dementia Strategy Publication
 Header Item Hospital Charges
 Header Item Hospital Appointment Delays
 Header Item Mobility Allowance Scheme Extension
 Header Item Community Audiology Service
 Header Item Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 808 No. 2

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Written Answers Nos. 226-234

Medical Aids and Appliances Provision

 226. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) is granted a swivel chair.  [30973/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

HSE Properties

 227. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the position regarding title of the lands and buildings at St. Bridget's nursing home, Crooksling, County Dublin; the extent of any changes that have taken place regarding the permitted use of the land; the decisions, if any, taken at executive or other levels in relation to the future use of the buildings and lands at Crooksling; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [30978/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly Management of the health care property estate is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

National Dementia Strategy Publication

 228. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly when he plans to publish the national dementia strategy; if he will ensure that the core elements of timely diagnosis and post-diagnostic early interventions are included in the strategy; if he will commit to improving the provision of community-based support for carers of those with dementia; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [31001/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch It is estimated that there are currently 41,000 people with dementia in Ireland and Alzheimer's Disease accounts for the majority of cases. Given that the number of people with dementia is expected to rise to between 141,000 and 147,000 by 2041, the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a National Alzheimer's and other Dementias' Strategy by 2013 to:

- increase awareness

- ensure early diagnosis and intervention and

- ensure development of enhanced community based services.

  A significant amount of preparatory work has already been completed.  A research review funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies to lay the foundations for the Strategy, titled Creating Excellence in Dementia Care, A Research Review for Ireland’s National Dementia Strategy  was published in January 2012. A public consultation process to inform the development of the Strategy was conducted in 2012 and a report of same published on the Department's website in February 2013. A Working Group, representative of key stakeholders from the Department, the HSE, the medical profession and the community and voluntary sector has been established, meetings of which are on-going.

  While the development of the Strategy will have to have due regard to the constraints imposed by the budgetary situation, it is intended that it will be a transformative Strategy. It will have a very practical focus, will be action oriented and will focus on what can be done to make a difference to the lives of people with dementia. It is intended that a draft of the Strategy will be completed by the end of 2013.

Hospital Charges

 229. Deputy Olivia Mitchell Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if he will clarify if, under the proposed legislation, patients holding private health insurance admitted to hospital through accident and emergency, occupying a public bed and in receipt of public hospital services, are liable to pay the full economic cost of the bed; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [31005/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White At present, private in-patients in public hospitals are subject to maintenance charges that generally range from €586 to €1,046 per day when they are accommodated in a private designated bed. However, if a private designated bed is not available and a private in-patient is accommodated in a public bed, the maintenance charge is currently not levied, although the private in-patient continues to pay the fees of his/her hospital consultant.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has reported that 45% of in-patients treated privately by their consultants were not charged for their maintenance costs because they were not occupying private-designated beds. This situation represents a significant loss of income to the public hospital system and an indirect subsidy to private insurance companies, who cover most private patients. I believe that this situation cannot continue and that the new charge makes sense. Up to now insurers have enjoyed a significant subsidy, where these private patients have only paid a standard €75 charge per night even though they have seen their consultant privately.

The gap between the cost of providing this service to private in-patients and the amount that public hospitals are currently allowed to raise is estimated to be about €200m per year. The subsidy is equivalent to the cost of treating over 30,000 public patients every year. While everyone is entitled to use a public hospital, some people chose to be treated privately, in which case they have chosen to pay the consultant and the hospital. The Government believes that users of private services should pay for the costs of providing these services even when they are provided by a public hospital.

As part of Budget 2013, the Government announced that it would raise €60m in 2013 under this heading, and €115m in a full year. This represents a modest phasing in of the charge – as called for by the insurers themselves - and is a relatively modest extra cost on an industry that pays out some €2 billion in claims costs every year. The Health (Amendment) Bill 2013 is presently before the Dáil and provides for charges to be levied on all in-patients who opt to be private to their consultant, irrespective of where the patient is accommodated in the hospital and regardless of whether they are admitted directly or through emergency departments.

Hospital Appointment Delays

 230. Deputy Patrick Nulty Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly further to Parliamentary Question No. 1307 of 16 April 2013, when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be facilitated with visiting London to see a neurologist specialist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31009/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Mobility Allowance Scheme Extension

 231. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly further to Parliamentary Question No. 523 of 18 June 2013, if he will indicate the exact number of months that the mobility allowance is to be extended; and if he will confirm that this applies to the motorised transport grant also  [31091/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch): Information on Kathleen Lynch Zoom on Kathleen Lynch As I indicated to the Deputy in my response to his question on 18th June last, an Interdepartmental Group has been asked to develop detailed proposals and to report back to Government by October. I am not in a position to pre-empt any decision the Government may make, following the receipt of the report of the Interdepartmental Group. I can assure the Deputy that the Government will take the needs of this vulnerable group into consideration when making a decision on any future arrangements.

The Government decided to extend payments of Mobility Allowance by the Health Service Executive to those currently in receipt for a further number of months, pending establishment of new statutory provisions to support the mobility needs of people with severe disabilities. This decision was taken on the basis that this will prevent hardship, and, on an interim basis, alleviate stress, anxiety and uncertainty among a vulnerable group in society. The existing position regarding the Motorised Transport Grant remains as before, i.e. the scheme remains closed. The inter-departmental group will examine this issue as part of its considerations of how future statutory arrangements should operate.

Community Audiology Service

 232. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan is on a waiting list for a hearing examination; the length of time they are on the waiting list; and when they may expect to receive an appointment.  [31104/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White The Health Service Executive Community Audiology service administers and monitors hearing tests for adults who are at risk for hearing loss. Appointments for the audiology service are sent in a strict chronology according to clinical priorities and date of receipt of referral. The HSE has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Regulation of Health and Social Care Professions

 233. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly his views regarding a discrepancy in prices being charged for hearing aids in view of the fact that many are very expensive.  [31115/13]

 234. Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly his views regarding professional training or lack of training for some hearing aid suppliers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31116/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

Prices charged for privately procured hearing aids are a matter of private contract. The Department of Health has no role in relation to setting such prices.

The Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (ISHAA), the body which represents the majority of private sector hearing aid audiologists, has introduced a voluntary registration process for their members, which I welcome. This process involves ensuring that members have a minimum level of qualifications and that they engage in continuous professional development.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council (HSCPC) and the 12 registration boards to be established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 are responsible for protecting the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among the registrants of the 12 health and social care professions designated under the Act. The Council (also known as CORU) was established in March 2007 and is working to put in place the necessary structures for registration, education and fitness to practise for the 12 designated professions. All the registration boards and their registers for the designated professions should be established by 2015. The legislation empowers the Minister for Health to include, if he considers it appropriate and in the public interest to do so, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system over time, and under specific criteria. The question of regulating further health and social care professionals, including audiologists, may be reviewed post 2015 in the context of progress made at that juncture.


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