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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 663-677
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Health Products Regulatory Authority
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Home Help Service
 Header Item Medical Cards
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Care of the Elderly
 Header Item Hospital Appointments Status
 Header Item HSE Data
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Covid-19 Tests
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 663-677

Covid-19 Tests

 663. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his plans to upgrade the Covid-19 testing system here by using a new test (details supplied) that only takes 15 minutes to provide results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28307/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The HSE is not currently using rapid antigen tests. However, it is continuously examining the issues involved in their potential use, including sensitivity, as many of the antigen tests developed to date have low sensitivity.

The HSE advises that antigen testing may well have a potential role in testing of both symptomatic and asymptomatic people in the future. Studies of these tests, similar to the one mentioned, are now starting in order to ensure that if and where deployed they would be of appropriate quality and sensitivity. However, this will not replace the requirement for large scale PCR testing which remains the “gold standard” for community testing for Covid-19.

It is also worth noting the current rapid Health Technology Assessment (HTA) which the Health Information Quality (HIQA) is currently doing for NPHET on alternative diagnostic approaches. It will consider antigen tests.

Health Products Regulatory Authority

 664. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his views on a study conducted on levels of vitamin D (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28308/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly My Department continues to welcome and consider international research and evidence surrounding COVID-19 and immune protection. It is important to note that this research is similar in focus to recent national research from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) regarding Vitamin D deficiency and implications for immune protection for Covid-19. Rates of deficiency within the older population at different ages and during wintertime were considered. TILDA is funded by my Department and this research was published in April 2020.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 665. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if ballet schools come within the definition of schools, early learning and childcare services as defined in the Plan for Living with Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28319/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As the Deputy is aware, the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 was published by the Government on 15 September, 2020. This Plan provides a framework setting out Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

  The framework sets out five levels of response, each with a number of measures designed to help us all lower COVID-19 transmission and setting out what is permitted at that moment in time. It is framed to account for periods during which there is a low incidence of the disease, with isolated clusters and low community transmission, through to situations where there is a high or rapidly increasing incidence, widespread community transmission and the pandemic is escalating rapidly in Ireland and globally. It recognises the need for society and business to be allowed to continue as normally as possible and is designed so that either national or county level restrictions can be applied.

  The Plan reflects a careful consideration of the impact of the introduction of restrictions on employment and livelihoods, keeping as many businesses open as possible at different stages, while acknowledging that some businesses and services are critical. It acknowledges that sports, arts and other social activities are central to our well-being and that sports and arts are also the world of work for our many in our communities.

  As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. For this reason, we are all asked to be extra careful when socialising and working with others. For now, we must act like we have the virus to protect those around us from infection.

  Dance classes/schools are classified as exercise and sporting events under the Plan. Under Level 2 restrictions, indoor dance classes, training and exercise can take place in pods of up to 6 people, once sufficient space is available and strict public health protocols are in place.

  Under Levels 3, 4 and 5 indoor training is only permitted on an individual basis, therefore exercise and dance classes cannot take place.

  Under Level 1 of the Framework, there is no specific capacity limit, with capacity guided by what can be accommodated safely in the venue while ensuring all protective measures are in place, including social distancing.

  Further information on exercise and sporting events under the Plan is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/resilience-and-recovery-plan-for-living-with-covid-19-your-questions-answered/#exercise-and-sporting-events

  The Deputy may also wish to note that the Plan is clear that sectoral guidance also applies and in the above case guidance from Sport Ireland should also be considered: https://www.sportireland.ie/news/sport-ireland-issues-practical-guidance-for-sport-on-covid-19-measures.

Home Help Service

 666. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons on the home help waiting list in County Mayo as of 29 September 2020; the number of persons awaiting homecare packages in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28329/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler As this is an operational matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Medical Cards

 667. Deputy Marian Harkin Information on Marian Harkin Zoom on Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if medical cards will be provided for those women that have had severe life altering and ongoing complications from transvaginal mesh implants (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28340/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I understand that complications from a mesh implant are very distressing and painful for those involved. Ensuring that all women who develop mesh-related complications receive high quality, multi-disciplinary and patient-centred care is a priority for me and my Department. I would assure the Deputy that considerable work has been done to date in this country and continues to progress on patient safety in relation to mesh implants as set out below.

  I am aware that in response to concerns raised in Ireland regarding complications associated with the use of mesh devices in late 2017, the then Minister for Health requested the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to prepare a report on the clinical and technical issues involved in ensuring both the safe and effective provision of mesh procedures in urogynaecology and an appropriate response to women who suffer complications as a result of undergoing such procedures. The report was informed by the available national and international evidence and the personal experiences of women who have suffered complications following mesh surgery.

  In July 2018, in advance of publication of the full report, the CMO requested the HSE to pause all mesh procedures where clinically safe to do so. This pause was instigated pending implementation of initial recommendations regarding (i) professional training requirements, (ii) patient information and consent and (iii) the development and maintenance of a national data set for all mesh procedures carried out in HSE funded hospitals.

  The CMO report, published in November 2018, made a number of recommendations, the implementation of which will provide significant assurance that both women presenting for treatment and who develop mesh-related complications, receive high quality, multi-disciplinary patient centred care in accordance with the evidence and supported by robust clinical governance mechanisms.The HSE published a detailed Implementation Plan for the recommendations in the report in April 2019. The HSE’s National Women & Infants Health Programme (NWIHP) is progressing treatment pathways and referral services for women suffering from mesh-related complications. The HSE has published a dedicated webpage about vaginal mesh implants, including contact information regarding the pathways for women suffering complications. This can be found on the HSE website.

  A multidisciplinary National Specialist Centre is being developed over 2 sites at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) and the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) Dublin. In addition, two translabial scanners, were procured by the HSE in late 2019, and are now onsite in both hospitals. However, the first scanning clinic, which was due to take place last March had to be postponed, due to the pandemic.

  The pathways for women experiencing mesh complications, established by the HSE, have been in place for over a year. All appointments offered to women through these pathways have been to the public system. I would strongly encourage all women affected by mesh to engage with the relevant HSE contact points provided, to ensure that their service needs can be identified and provided for.

  To address the question of medical cards, under the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is primarily based on residence and means. The Act does not provide for an automatic entitlement to a medical card based on having a particular disease or illness. The HSE's Expert Group on Medical Need and Medical Card Eligibility previously examined the issue of awarding medical cards and concluded that it was not feasible, desirable, nor ethically justifiable to list medical conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility. In following the Expert Group’s advice, a person’s means remains the main qualifier for a medical card.

However, every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take full account of the difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of the income guidelines. The HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds his or her income threshold, where he or she faces difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from an illness. Furthermore, if the HSE is made aware that persons have particular requirements, assistance will be afforded to help that person to complete their application. This assistance can be availed of through a person's local health office.

Covid-19 Tests

 668. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of staff in counties Cork and Kerry that have been redeployed to testing and tracing; and the locations in which staff have been redeployed from in tabular form. [28344/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

 669. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of the recruitment process for 60 new staff to be assigned to testing and tracing in counties Cork and Kerry; and the way in which the figure of 60 was deemed to be sufficient. [28345/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

 670. Deputy Thomas Gould Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when the staff that have been redeployed to testing and tracing in Cork will be returned to their original posts. [28346/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Vaccination Programme

 671. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if the nasal flu shot will be rolled out in schools; if parental consent must be sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28348/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Given the potential for the winter flu season in 2020/2021 to coincide with a resurgence of COVID, and the importance of minimising hospital attendance, the Government is expanding the provision of vaccination without charge to all of those in the at-risk groups, including healthcare workers, and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years.

The expanded programme will ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of influenza will have access to vaccination without charges. By providing vaccination to those most at-risk, and those most likely to require hospitalisation if they contract influenza, it is anticipated that the programme will see a reduction in the number of influenza-related hospital admissions, as well as a reduction in the overall spread of influenza in the community.

This programme is being offered through GP’s and pharmacists and is not being delivered as a schools-based programme, as not all eligible children are of school age.

Prior to administering an influenza vaccination to a child aged under 16 years old, informed consent must be obtained from the child’s parent or legal guardian.

Care of the Elderly

 672. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he plans to reopen day care centres for the elderly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28358/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler We all know that community services such as day care and respite services play an important role in enabling older people to continue living in their communities and maintain their social connections. These services contribute to positive ageing and better overall health. However, the introduction of physical distancing, isolation and restricted contact with family and loved ones has changed the usual dynamic of social interaction.

The HSE continues to work closely with providers and community staff to identify where service is most required and has been undertaking risk assessments of local services. This is to ensure, insofar as possible, that Day Care services and respite services can resume in the context of COVID-19 and having regard for Public Health advice.

Services will resume when it is safe to do so; when all infection prevention and control measures and the requirements of physical distancing can be maintained, so as to protect service users and staff and prevent any further spread of the virus. Some day centres may not be suitable for reopening due to the constraints of their physical environment and it will be necessary to continue or expand alternative service delivery models developed during recent months. Issues identified by the HSE include

- Day Care Centres operated in shared public facilities where other groups are also accessing the building and the risk of infection spread.

- A number of HSE Day Care Centres are attached to HSE Residential Care Units and the clients of both the Day Care Centres and the residents from the Residential Care Unit are in the same location and use shared facilities.

- Transport of clients to the Day Care Centres where family cannot assist.

- Availability of isolation areas, should a client or a member of staff become unwell.

I understand the impact that the continued delay in the re-opening of day centres and the restoration of respite services is having on older people and the important role this service can play in their lives. I have asked the HSE to ensure that it continues to assess the risks and benefits of re-opening, as well as continuing to expand and explore alternative ways of delivering services to this vulnerable group. I am also continuing to meet with groups that work with and on behalf of older people to see how they can best be supported during this challenging time.

Hospital Appointments Status

 673. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly further to Parliamentary Question No. 995 of 14 July 2020, if an urgent appointment for surgery at Temple Street Hospital will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28359/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of this year. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

The resumption of services from June onwards has allowed for increased activity, with the HSE utilising innovative methods including telemedicine to facilitate patient appointments. Patient safety remains at the forefront of service resumption. To ensure services are re-introduced in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols which has resulted in reduced capacity and activity

The HSE continues to optimise productivity through alternative work practices such as the use of alternative settings including private hospitals, community facilities and alternative outpatient settings.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has also recommenced arranging treatment in both private and public hospitals for clinically suitable patients who have been waiting for long periods on public hospital waiting lists.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy is a standardised approach used by the HSE to manage scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures. It sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists and was developed in 2014 to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care.

In relation to the particular query raised, regarding an update on an appointment date, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

HSE Data

 674. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly further to Parliamentary Question No. 773 of 15 September 2020, the statistics gathered on staff derogations from requirements to self-isolate; and the basis on which they are collated, if by service or geographic area. [28364/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on this operational matter.

Covid-19 Tests

 675. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of Covid-19 tests taken in a location (details supplied) to date; the number of positive cases at the same location; the number of persons that failed to show up for Covid-19 tests; the average waiting period for a test at this location; the average waiting time for the return of results at the location; the number of staff by qualification at the location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28375/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

 676. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the hospitals that carry out a Covid-19 test to all persons admitted to the hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28376/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 677. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the details of all Covid-19 cases for the period of March 2020 to date in County Wexford by county council electoral divisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28377/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Since the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met for the first time, a commitment was given to collect and publish as much relevant data as possible while ensuring individual patient confidentiality is maintained at all times. While the nature and scale of the Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented, the collection of timely and comprehensive data has been instrumental in developing the health service response to Covid-19 and to the advice provided by NPHET and the Department of Health to assist Government decision-making in the wider response to the disease in Ireland.

  Comprehensive national statistics, information and data about Covid-19, including a timeline of confirmed cases by date, is published on a daily basis on the Department of Health website at www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-health/ and on the Covid-19 Data Hub and Dashboards available at https://covid19ireland-geohive.hub.arcgis.com/. The published data are based on official figures provided by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

  All datasets, charts and maps are updated on an on-going basis and in line with newly published data.

  The Deputy may wish to note that the COVID-19 Data Hub now offers regularly updated Local Electoral Area (LEA) data. However, care is required to ensure patient confidentiality is preserved and that no potential identification of individual cases arises. As a result, the data relating to confirmed cases by LEA is published weekly on a Thursday, reflecting new cases notified in each LEA for the 14-day period up to midnight on the previous Monday.

  The Deputy may also wish to note that a range of data on the epidemiology of Covid-19 in Ireland, including data on county incidence levels and trends in transmission, is published in the daily report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) available at: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casesinireland/epidemiologyofcovid-19inireland, while a daily report on the last 14 days in cases available at: www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/casesinireland/epidemiologyofcovid-19inireland.


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