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 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists Data (Continued)
 Header Item Medicinal Products Availability
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Bord na Móna

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 5

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris] We will also continue to utilise public hospitals with non-emergency departments and smaller public hospitals, including Cappagh Hospital and some of the level 2 hospitals, in order that it is not all about insourcing. I will be more than happy to correspond with the Deputy on the issues he has raised.

Deputy Jack Chambers: Information on Jack Chambers Zoom on Jack Chambers My example goes outside the criteria listed by the Minister. I have seen a number of cases in which people who were given appointments for planned procedures have had those procedures systemically cancelled by the hospital system in a manner which is devastating for them. The hospitals in question have stated in their correspondence that they will be in touch in due course, but they have not given the patients another date. I will explain what I think is happening. I suggest the hospitals are removing particular patients from the planned electives list when they give them appointments, only to cancel the procedures the following week. Are we seeing a vacuum in the statistics caused by the systematic cancellation of apparently scheduled appointments? If so, it is a cause of serious concern for me and everybody else. This does not relate to the criteria listed by the Minister. I think it goes to the heart of the problems we are seeing with the HSE. I do not blame the Minister personally for this; the health care system is broken and disintegrating. It seems we are going to see implementation of the Sláintecare report, but I do not know whether the HSE is fit for purpose in the context of its delivery. The HSE has the biggest budget we have seen, but we are not seeing the output. We need to have a broader debate about the how the HSE, as an entity, can implement a better public health strategy.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Obviously, the NTPF is responsible for the auditing of waiting lists. I will be more than happy to pass on to it any information the Deputy might have. Very strict rules apply to the waiting list protocols. They govern how patients are added to lists and how they can be removed from them after they have undergone procedures, clinical decisions have been made or validations carried out. These strict rules should be applied consistently across the system. I will be very happy to pass on to the NTPF any information the Deputy might have on its audit function. I agree with what he has said about Sláintecare and the HSE. I do not believe the HSE, as constructed, is fit for purpose. The Sláintecare group shares that view. When I went before the committee, I said we needed a much slimmed-down HSE. I accept that there are things that need to be done at national level such as having cancer standards, maternity standards, procurement and central budgeting systems. There are also things that need to be devolved to the hospital group structure, as constituted, which we hope will become regional structures that will include community care, primary care and acute hospital services. That is the Sláintecare way. I hope we can make quick progress on some of this in the coming weeks and months.

Medicinal Products Availability

 13. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris when life-saving drugs (details supplied) will be made available to people here.  [40782/17]

 61. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris if the overspend in the HSE budget will affect the provision of the nine life-saving drugs (details supplied) the HSE stated it would fund in July 2017.  [40783/17]

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 61 together.

The HSE has notified my Department it has decided, following an assessment under the process set out in the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, to fund the nine treatments referred to by the Deputy in the public health system. Its decision to fund each treatment followed an examination of all relevant information submitted by the applicant companies and took into account expert opinions and recommendations under the evaluation and advisory structures it has put in place. It is in the process of concluding the commercial arrangements and prescribing process for each treatment. I have informed it of the importance I place on the speedy resolution of this process in order that the treatments may be available at the earliest possible dates. As I told the Deputy yesterday, my understanding is that they will be available from 1 November. A number of them could be available before that date. I have stressed this to the HSE. We often criticise companies with good reason in this House, but in this case I thank the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and its member companies for working with us to try to make sure some of the drugs can be available in advance of that date.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly This question has been overtaken by the remarks made by the Minister at a committee meeting yesterday. I would like to mention two issues. The announcement made in July was a stunt, given that, for budgetary reasons, the changes cannot be made until November. When the announcement was made, it should have been made clear that it would take a number of months for the arrangements to be put in place. It is not right to behave in that way and it should not have happened. I am happy that the Minister has said he hopes to pressurise the companies into bringing forward some of the drugs.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Yes.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly In some cases the process is not that complicated, but in others it can be more complicated. I would appreciate it if the Minister identified the drugs in question. We are overpaying for drugs, as the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform accepts. It is quite obvious that we are overpaying for them and we cannot go through this again. The process used to make drugs available which involves reimbursements and making decisions led to an embarrassing situation between the Department of Health and the HSE. What happened in the case of the national clinical care programme cannot be allowed to happen again. What process will the Minister put in place to ensure the reimbursement process for drugs will work properly in the future? I will work with him on any such process.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I would welcome the opportunity to work with the Deputy and others on this matter. The Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 which was passed by the House for good reasons has resulted in these matters being passed back and forth between the HSE which has all of the statutory power and the Department of Health, to which the HSE must revert if it requires funding. They often have to be considered by the Government. The process is rather unedifying and occasionally creates delays. I do not think it is the best one. As an Oireachtas, we need to look at it. I do not want to name the drugs in this House because they are subject to contractual discussions, but I am conscious that some patients are urgently awaiting some of them.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Yes.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I do not want such patients to be deprived of the drugs they need for bureaucratic reasons. I have conveyed this message to the HSE in the strongest possible terms. I am aware that contacts with the pharmaceutical companies are ongoing and hope resolutions can be reached speedily in those cases.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly Will everything be done by November?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am informed that it will be done from 1 November.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to announce for the information of the House that Deputy Joan Collins has replaced Deputy Mick Wallace as the Independents 4 Change member of the Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Frank O'Rourke - the urgent need for a drug treatment centre in Kildare; (2) Deputies James Browne and Mick Wallace - the position on the application for a new special school at St. Patrick's, Drumgoold, Enniscorthy; (3) Deputy Niamh Smyth - the purchase of the Yeats family collection; (4) Deputy Imelda Munster - the charges on patients for venesections and the inclusion of haemochromatosis in the long-term illness scheme; (5) Deputy Thomas Byrne - concerns about Bus Éireann services in County Meath and the eastern region; (6) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the need to tackle joyriding and criminal anti-social behaviour in Dublin Bay North; (7) Deputy Noel Rock - the status of the primary care centre in Finglas; (8) Deputy Carol Nolan - to discuss the cuts to home help hours in County Offaly; (9) Deputy Michael McGrath - the status of the provision of an Educate Together school in Rochestown, County Cork; (10) Deputy Willie Penrose - the need for insolvency and liquidations concerns about insurance companies to be addressed in upcoming legislation; (11) Deputy Gino Kenny - the availability of the drug kuvan for phenylketonuria sufferers in Ireland; (12) Deputy Jackie Cahill - Bord na Móna's plans to build a plant in the United States; (13) Deputy Brian Stanley - the delay in making a decision on 24-hour emergency services at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Portlaoise; (14) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the need for an open debate in the upcoming abortion referendum; (15) Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan - developments for people living in direct provision centres and the Reception and Integration Agency; (16) Deputy Clare Daly - the need to discuss the controversial allocation of the Aer Lingus supplementary B scheme; and (17) Deputy Catherine Connolly - the cancellation of orthopaedic procedures following the closure of two theatres at Merlin Park Hospital in Galway.

The matters raised by Deputies Jackie Cahill, Frank O'Rourke, Imelda Munster and Catherine Connolly have been selected for discussion.

Topical Issue Debate

Bord na Móna

Deputy Jackie Cahill: Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill It was with grave concern that we learned of Bord na Móna's plans to invest €60 million in the construction of a plant in Georgia in the United States. It seems that the woodchip which will be manufactured at this plant will be imported into Ireland for the purposes of biomass energy production. This concern is coupled with dismay in the light of the closure by Bord na Móna of its plant in Littleton, County Tipperary which led directly to the loss of 65 jobs and many other part-time jobs in the vicinity. It appears that there are no plans for the future utilisation of the plant and the 1,100 acres of land available with it.

There is major concern across Europe about the negative environmental impacts of misguided policy supports for wood biomass energy production. A recent investigation in the United Kingdom found that wood was being sourced from a timber company, Enviva, from mature hardwood saw logs in the south east of the United States to feed UK biomass energy production. Essentially, the UK taxpayer is subsidising the mass logging of mature hardwood forests in the United States for wood pellets to be shipped to the United Kingdom for inefficient power production. My concern is that Bord na Móna has embarked on this very strategy which is considered across Europe to be a failed one.

In 2016 Bord na Móna imported 35,647 tonnes of wood from Africa. The company, which is ultimately owned by the taxpayer, now seems to have decided that it makes more commercial sense to invest €60 million in a new biomass plant in the United States than to make a similar investment in Ireland. This should be of concern to the Government. We all accept that Bord na Móna must diversify from its core peat supplying activity. Biomass will be at the centre of this diversification. The company's recent media promotion of a new bioenergy division is proof of this development. While all of this is welcome, there is concern that Bord na Móna is taking its plans in the wrong direction. The investment of €60 million in the manufacture of woodchip in the United States for transport to Ireland across the Atlantic Ocean, while making Irish workers redundant, is neither efficient nor environmentally friendly.

As a semi-State company, Bord na Móna is responsible through its mandate for the development of rural Ireland and its resources. I believe there is an Irish solution to this problem. I suggest it should be considered by the company as an opportunity to fulfil its responsibility to its main shareholder - the State and the people. This alternative opportunity is in the agriculture and agrifood sectors which produce waste on a scale that could fuel the biomass energy sector indefinitely. Ireland is facing into penalties of €5.5 billion from the European Union by 2030 for non-compliance with emissions regulations. Urgent action needs to be taken now to avoid this potentially catastrophic result.

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