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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 449-64
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Health Services Provision
 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists
 Header Item Medical Card Reviews
 Header Item HSE Governance
 Header Item Adult Diet Supplement
 Header Item Home Help Service Provision
 Header Item Hospital Appointments Administration
 Header Item HSE Expenditure
 Header Item Organ Donation
 Header Item Marine Safety

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 823 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 449-64

Vaccination Programme

 449. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly his plan to institute a vaccine for meningococcal group B on the national immunisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51784/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The are currently no plans to introduce Meningococcal group B (Meningitis B) vaccine in Ireland. However, should the National Immunisation Advisory Committee advice recommend its inclusion into the primary childhood immunisation programme in Ireland, my Department, in association with the Health Service Executive's National Immunisation Office, will examine the issue.

Health Services Provision

 450. 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 if he will ensure that wheelchair repairs are carried out for a child (details supplied) in Dublin 15, as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51791/13]

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

  Question No. 451 answered with Question No. 396.

Hospital Waiting Lists

 452. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if he will expedite an appointment for an X-ray at Kerry General Hospital in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51825/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly The management of inpatient and day-case waiting lists for patients awaiting public health care is based on the principle that after urgent and cancer patients are treated, then clinically assessed routine patients should be seen in chronological order (i.e. longest waiter first).

  Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved.

  In relation to the specific query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

  Questions Nos. 453 and 454 answered with Question No. 398.

Medical Card Reviews

 455. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if he will examine a review of GP medical card in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; if he will reinstate the full medical card at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51853/13]

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.

The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has issued to Oireachtas members.

HSE Governance

 456. Deputy Derek Nolan Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly the way he plans to address the problem of the large number of management roles in the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51866/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly In October 2013 there were 15,531 management / administrative staff employed in the HSE and agencies funded by the HSE, which represents 15.4% of total staff; management/administrative staff numbers have reduced by 2,890 since a peak in September 2007. In the context of the employment control framework numbers employed in the health service must be further reduced. While it is a matter for the HSE to determine the composition of its staffing complement, it is important not to underestimate the significant role that management/administrative staff play in the direct support of front line services.

Administrative staff ensure that the service runs as smoothly as possible, for example staffing ED reception, organising OPD clinics, processing medical cards, collecting income due, managing the health service budget and paying its staff. Managers are essential also in such a complex system and those earning over €100,000 have taken the biggest reductions in recent years, while shouldering substantial responsibility for the delivery of essential services and functions at national and regional level. The HSE has operated a general moratorium on the filling of management/administrative posts in recent years, so as to focus development funds as far as possible on the front-line.

I am satisfied that the tools are available to the HSE to ensure that the correct number and mix of staff is available in accordance with its business needs and government policy on public service numbers. In this regard, 78 management/administrative staff have recently been approved for incentivised career breaks. The HSE has been asked to review the scheme to establish whether there is potential for more staff to be released, in light of the additional capacity available under the additional working hours provisions of the Haddington Road Agreement.

In addition a targeted voluntary redundancy scheme is one of the measures that the HSE will use in order to achieve further numbers reduction and facilitate on-going health sector reform. The HSE will determine the areas and functions to be targeted in the context of the changing health service structures and roles, such as the implementation of the hospital groups model, the introduction of shared service functions etc.

There will be no automatic right to redundancy under this scheme as grades and posts targeted will be determined by health service managers, according to plans for future service configuration.

Adult Diet Supplement

 457. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly his plans to allow coeliacs to obtain gluten-free products on the medical card; if coeliacs on medical cards and the elderly will be given special consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51884/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Alex White): Information on Alex White Zoom on Alex White In the current financial environment the Health Service Executive (HSE) faces a continuing challenge to deliver services in a way that will minimise any adverse impact on patients and continue to protect, as far as possible, the most vulnerable citizens. Unfortunately, as a result it has become necessary for the HSE to suspend certain products from its list of items reimbursable under the GMS and other community drug schemes. This includes gluten-free products.

Gluten-free products have become more widely available in supermarkets in recent years and tend to be significantly cheaper than products sold through community pharmacies. A Supplementary Welfare Allowance Adult Diet Supplement may be awarded by the Department of Social Protection to eligible persons. Persons wishing to apply for this allowance can do so by completing an application form which can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Forms/Documents/swa9.pdf.

  For persons who are not awarded a Diet Supplement, monies spent on gluten-free foods can be taken into account for tax purposes.

Home Help Service Provision

 458. 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 if an application for an additional hour per day of home help will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51886/13]

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

Hospital Appointments Administration

 459. 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 expedite a hospital appointment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford.  [51887/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly For 2013, a maximum waiting time target of 12 months has been set for a first time consultant-led outpatient appointment and this is reflected in the HSE Service Plan. The SDU and the NTPF are working closely with hospitals towards achievement of the maximum waiting time.

Should a patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he or she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved. In relation to the specific hospital appointment query raised by the Deputy, as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

HSE Expenditure

 460. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly if he will clarify the number of Health Service Executive contract companies that are registered offshore; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [51968/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly As this is a service matter I have requested the Health Service Executive to investigate and respond directly to the Deputy.

Organ Donation

 461. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Health Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly further to Parliamentary Question No. 665 of 26 November 2013, if he will confirm if there will be categories of persons excluded, for whatever reason, from being organ donors if and when the opt-out organ donation system is introduced.  [51972/13]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly My Department is currently developing legislative proposals for the introduction of an opt-out system of consent for organ donation. I believe that the opt-out system is integral to changing our awareness of, and attitude towards, organ donation. It is hoped to make organ donation the norm in Ireland.

My Department recently undertook a public consultation on the practicalities of introducing an opt-out system of consent for organ donation. As part of this consultation, views were sought on a range of issues, including who might be excluded from an opt-out system of consent. Decisions on any possible exclusions have not been made and the views received from the public consultation process are being considered in my Department and will inform the development of the legislative proposals.

Marine Safety

 462. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the person in his Department who was aware of concerns about the effectiveness of emergency position indication radio beacons in use by Irish fishermen.  [51514/13]

 463. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the date on which his Department was made aware of problems associated with the emergency position indication radio beacons in use by Irish fishermen.  [51515/13]

 464. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the date on which his attention was drawn to the problems associated with the emergency position indication radio beacons in use by Irish fishermen and the immediate action he undertook.  [51516/13]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 462 to 464, inclusive, together.

In July 2010, my Department contacted the supplier of a particular type of Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, known as an EPIRB, seeking information on false alerts and potential battery failure because of concerns arising from possible tampering or improper battery replacement by vessel owners.  In the ensuing examination, there was no suggestion that there might have been a defect within an EPIRB unit itself.

On 13 June 2013 a radio surveyor from my Department became aware of a defective EPIRB when carrying out a survey on a passenger ship. Shortly after that, two further EPIRBs from the same manufacturer were identified as defective. Following contacts with the manufacturer by my officials, the three units were sent to the company’s plant in Australia. A fourth unit was subsequently identified as being defective and it too was sent to the manufacturer in October 2013.

My Department engaged closely with the manufacturer and at the end of October the manufacturer informed my Department that an analysis had shown a micro processor within the unit to be defective. On 4 November the manufacturer then issued a formal safety alert advising all owners of the EPIRBs in question to undertake certain checks to confirm their equipment is working. My Department issued a Marine Notice on 11 November drawing the attention of Irish vessel owners and maritime stakeholders to the existence of the manufacturer’s safety notice and advising them to undertake the checks recommended by the manufacturer.

The Department also requested the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, the international organisation governing port state control throughout Europe, to promulgate the safety alert to other member states and also informed the European Commission. This represented a precautionary and expeditious approach by the Department, as we were the only country to initiate action regarding these particular EPIRBs.

I became aware of concerns regarding EPIRBs on 21 November 2013 and sought, and subsequently received, from my Department officials a detailed report on the matter.  My Department will continue to examine EPIRBs on vessels as part of its normal surveying activities.  Furthermore, as a precautionary measure, I have requested my Department to inform everyone on the EPIRB register of the relevant marine notice to emphasise the importance of undertaking the necessary periodic self-checks in line with manufacturer's recommendations.


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