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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 572-592
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Self-Harm Prevention
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists
 Header Item Cancer Services
 Header Item Health Services Reports
 Header Item HSE National Service Plan
 Header Item Protected Disclosures
 Header Item Health Services Provision
 Header Item Respite Care Services
 Header Item Hospital Facilities

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 88 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 572-592

Vaccination Programme

 572. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the way in which the vaccine task force is defining housing overcrowding; if it will include persons living in direct provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43318/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I presume the Deputy is referring to the COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy.

  The Strategy sets out a provisional priority list of groups for vaccination once a safe and effective vaccine(s) has received authorisation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

  The Allocation Framework was developed to consider how to prioritise different groups. It is based on (1) ethical principles and (2) epidemiological considerations, and takes account of the current and evolving understanding of distinctive characteristics of COVID-19 disease, its modes of transmission, the groups and individuals most susceptible to infection and the characteristics of the candidate vaccines. The primary aim of the allocation strategy is focus on the prevention of sickness and mortality, and to preserve the health of people, by prioritising those at highest risk.

  The Strategy is a further component to the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will evolve and adapt with more detailed information on the vaccines and their effectiveness.

  With the benefit of the Vaccine Allocation Strategy approved by Government, the HSE, in conjunction with immunisation experts, is evaluating the further stratification and sequencing of specific cohorts, including those living in direct provision, for vaccination.

  Further information on the Strategy can be found at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/

  Question No. 573 answered with Question No. 513.

Vaccination Programme

 574. Deputy Neasa Hourigan Information on Neasa Hourigan Zoom on Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if patients with cerebral palsy are included in the 18 to 64 years of age group with medical conditions Covid vaccine allocation group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43323/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional priority list of groups for vaccination once a safe and effective vaccine(s) has received authorisation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

  The Allocation Framework was developed to consider how to prioritise different groups. It is based on (1) ethical principles and (2) epidemiological considerations, and takes account of the current and evolving understanding of distinctive characteristics of COVID-19 disease, its modes of transmission, the groups and individuals most susceptible to infection and the characteristics of the candidate vaccines. The primary aim of the allocation strategy is focus on the prevention of sickness and mortality, and to preserve the health of people, by prioritising those at highest risk.

  The Strategy is a further component to the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will evolve and adapt with more detailed information on the vaccines and their effectiveness.

  With the benefit of the Vaccine Allocation Strategy approved by Government, the HSE, in conjunction with immunisation experts, is evaluating the further stratification and sequencing of cohorts for vaccination.

  Further information on the Strategy can be found at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/

Vaccination Programme

 575. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the reason medically vulnerable persons aged under 65 years of age have been placed in vaccine group 7; the group persons with cystic fibrosis and immunocompromised conditions are in; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43317/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional priority list of groups for vaccination once a safe and effective vaccine(s) has received authorisation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

  The Allocation Framework was developed to consider how to prioritise different groups. It is based on (1) ethical principles and (2) epidemiological considerations, and takes account of the current and evolving understanding of distinctive characteristics of COVID-19 disease, its modes of transmission, the groups and individuals most susceptible to infection and the characteristics of the candidate vaccines. The primary aim of the allocation strategy is focus on the prevention of sickness and mortality, and to preserve the health of people, by prioritising those at highest risk.

  The Strategy is a further component to the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will evolve and adapt with more detailed information on the vaccines and their effectiveness.

  With the benefit of the Vaccine Allocation Strategy approved by Government, the HSE, in conjunction with immunisation experts, is evaluating the further stratification and sequencing of cohorts for vaccination.

  Further information on the Strategy can be found at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/

  Question No. 576 answered with Question No. 471.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 577. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the actions he will take to ensure older persons will get their full visit entitlement under the Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43349/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The importance of continued social interaction of residents and their families cannot be overstated and every effort should be made, in line with public health advice, to ensure that these interactions continue. The Plan for Living with COVID-19 Framework has been developed to help us to go about our daily lives as much as possible, with measures aimed at the key priorities of protecting health, strengthening employment, and supporting communities. The system is communicated through a numbered system of alert Levels, from 1 to 5 with Level 1 being the lowest with the least amount of restrictive measures in place and Level 5 being the highest with the most restrictions in place.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre published updated guidance on visitations to long term residential care facilities on 30 November. The new guidance which came into effect from 7 December, aims to further support long-term residential care services, including nursing homes and residents in planning visits across all levels of the framework for restrictive measures in the government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19.

This new guidance outlines an updated definition for ‘critical and compassionate circumstances’, which now provides that, subject to risk assessment, residents may be facilitated to receive:

- up to one visit by one person per week under Levels 3 and 4 of the framework;

- up to one visit by one person per two weeks under Level 5.

It also notes that at all framework levels every practical effort should be made to accommodate an additional visit on compassionate grounds during the period of a major cultural or religious festival or celebration of particular significance to the resident, such as the Christmas/New Year period.

Given the importance of facilitating visiting over the Winter period and over Christmas, the Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme (TAPS) has been expanded on a once-off basis to allow a claim of up to €2,500 per eligible nursing home. This will enable them to create additional safe visiting spaces and enhance current visiting spaces.

Enhancement of safe visiting spaces is aligned with the overriding aim of TAPS, which is to support nursing homes in keeping residents safe and reduce the risk of infection and transmission into the nursing home. It is recognised that residents and their families will prioritise visiting over this period and these spaces will provide for these visits to be undertaken in a way that reduces the health and other risks of outdoor visiting on residents and their visitors, who may themselves be older and more vulnerable.

Nursing home providers are ultimately responsible for the safe care of their residents. Under Regulation 11 of the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2013 it is the legal responsibility of each registered provider to make arrangements for a resident to receive visitors, having regard to any risks that may present for the resident or other residents. I encourage all nursing homes to remain familiar with the latest public health advice and support, and to make every effort to continue to facilitate visitors in line with public health advice and to communicate with family and friends on an ongoing basis in order to support positive mental health and wellbeing. I have communicated with the sector outlining the need for them to be flexible, innovative and to facilitate visiting arrangements, in line with public health advice.

Notwithstanding this, it is also important to be cognisant of the wider epidemiological situation and the risks associated with same. On 19 November, the European Centre for Disease Control published its latest risk assessment with regard to long-term care facilities across Europe. It highlights that the probability of COVID-19 introduction into a long-term care facility depends on the level of COVID-19 circulation in the community, with a higher risk associated with higher incidence rates in the community.

This highlights the importance of suppressing the level of the virus in the community as one of the primary measures for protecting nursing homes. As citizens, we all have a responsibility in this regard and our actions across all of society can directly impact the outcomes for nursing home residents.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 578. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of the maternity restrictions in Mayo University Hospital as there are currently no reported cases in MUH; his plans to allow birthing partners attend scans and births, as this is causing major anxiety to couples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43353/20]

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

 579. Deputy Alan Dillon Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when the Covid-19 report will be available on Mayo University Hospital; the recommendations that have been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43354/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Saolta University Health Care Group advise that a report on Covid-19 at Mayo University Hospital is due to be formally signed off in the coming weeks and that it will be available thereafter.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 580. Deputy James Lawless Information on James Lawless Zoom on James Lawless asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will provide clarification on the position of posted workers (details supplied). [43359/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Currently, all passengers entering Ireland from orange, red, and grey regions are requested to restrict their movements for 14 days. This general request to restrict movement for 14 days does not apply to certain defined categories, including travellers with an essential function or need as set out in paragraph 19 of EU Council Recommendation 2020/1475.

  Paragraph 19 lists categories of travellers with an essential function or need who should not be required to undergo quarantine while exercising this essential function. These include:

  Workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including health care workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  The guidelines referred to are contained in the Official Journal of the European Union, issue 63. The guidelines list workers in critical occupations, including frontier and posted workers, as those exercising the following occupations:

  - Health professionals including paramedical professionals;

  - Personal care workers in health services, including care workers for children, persons with disabilities and the elderly;

  - Scientists in health-related industries;

  - Workers in pharmaceutical and medical devices industry;

  - Workers involved in the supply of goods, in particular for the supply chain of medicines, medical supplies, medical devices and personal protective equipment, including in their installation and maintenance;

  - Information and Communications Technology Professionals;

  - Information and Communications Technicians and other technicians for essential maintenance of the equipment;

  - Engineering professionals such as energy technicians, engineers and electrical engineering technicians;

  - Persons working on critical or otherwise essential infrastructures;

  - Science and engineering associate professionals (includes water plant technicians);

  - Protective services workers;

  - Firefighters/Police Officers/Prison Guards/Security Guards/ Civil Protection Personnel;

  - Food manufacturing and processing and related trades and maintenance workers;

  - Food and related products machine operators (includes food production operator);

  - Transport workers, in particular:

  - Car, Van and Motorcycle Drivers, Heavy Truck and Bus Drivers (includes Bus and tram drivers) and ambulance drivers, including those drivers who transport assistance offered under the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and those transporting repatriated EU citizens from another Member State to their place or origin;

  - Airline pilots;

  - Train drivers; wagon inspectors, maintenance workshops’ staff as well as the infrastructure managers’ staff involved in traffic management and capacity allocation;

  - Maritime and inland navigation workers;

  - Fishermen;

  - Staff of public institutions, including international organisations, in critical function.

Self-Harm Prevention

 581. Deputy Michael McNamara Information on Michael McNamara Zoom on Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the data obtained by his Department relating to self-harm presentations to emergency departments per day and emergency departments during the period 27 March to 31 August 2020, collected and collated by the HSE national clinical programme for the assessment and management of patients presenting to emergency departments following self-harm, as opposed to the scant data collected and collated by the national self-harm registry, which has been provided to this Deputy pursuant to Parliamentary Question No 196 of 18 November 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43364/20]

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

 582. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if the incident report has been prepared with regard to the serious incident review as referred to in a HIQA response (details supplied) relating to the tragic Covid-19 outbreak in a nursing home in 2020; and if so, if a copy of the report will be released. [43372/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler I have been advised by the Health Information and Quality Authority that on 8 September 2020, HIQA inspectors of social services carried out a follow-up inspection of the nursing home referred to by the Deputy.

As part of this inspection, a report was written which states that a serious incident review of the management of the COVID-19 outbreak had been completed by the registered provider and was reviewed by inspectors during the inspection. This review informed the contingency planning for potential outbreaks in the future and identified the learnings required.

The serious incident review referenced in the report was a review carried out by the provider and as such, any request for a copy of that report would have to be made to the provider.

  Question No. 583 answered with Question No. 471.

Hospital Waiting Lists

 584. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of the scoliosis waiting list; if there is a waiting list for treatment; if so, if the waiting list is being addressed; if not, the reason; if there is a facilities shortage; and if there is a funding shortage relating to same. [43387/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I sincerely regret that children can experience a long waiting time for treatment for scoliosis, and I am conscious of the burden that this places on them and their families.

  In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Children’s Health Ireland had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity between March and May of this year. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

  Physical distancing measures and Infection Prevention and Control requirements have a material impact on the available physical space to deliver all hospital services.   

  Despite these challenges, by December 4th, Children’s Health Ireland had carried out 304 scoliosis procedures, 150 of which were spinal fusions, 25 fewer than the same period last year. 154 other spinal procedures were carried out, 27 fewer than last year.

  Children’s Health Ireland has advised my Department that as of 4 December, there were 120 patients on the spinal fusion waiting list, an increase of 21 compared to the start of the year. There were 74 patients on the waiting list for other spinal procedures, which is a decrease of 10 patients since the start of 2020.

  Children’s Health Ireland is exploring initiatives to increase access to scoliosis services, such as transferring additional patients to the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh for treatment. The National Treatment Purchase Fund is trying to source additional capacity in Private Hospitals.

  In recent years there has been an increased investment in paediatric orthopaedics and scoliosis services, which has improved access to surgery and outpatient appointments. In 2018 Children’s Health Ireland (CHI; previously the Children’s Hospital Group) was provided with an additional €9 million in funding to address paediatric orthopaedic waiting lists, including the provision of scoliosis services. Scoliosis activity accounts for 20% of overall orthopaedic activity across CHI.

  This funding supported the recruitment of approximately 60 WTE in 2018 and 2019 to enable the expansion of paediatric orthopaedic services including scoliosis services. The posts relate to the multi-disciplinary team at diagnosis, pre-assessment, during surgery in theatre, and post operatively. The majority of posts were allocated to each hospital in 2018.

  Children's Health Ireland has also advised that a General Orthopaedic Surgeon, based at CHI Crumlin and Tallaght sites, took up post in Q3, 2020. This surgeon will help address waiting times for children for general orthopaedic outpatient appointments, including scoliosis.

Cancer Services

 585. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will arrange for a public health nurse to call again to a person (details supplied); if this can be arranged as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43397/20]

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.

Health Services Reports

 586. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the date on which the national adult critical care capacity and activity census report 2020 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43401/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The report the Deputy refers to is prepared on an annual basis by the Critical Care Programme of the HSE. I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly in relation to their plans for the publication of the 2020 iteration.

HSE National Service Plan

 587. Deputy David Cullinane Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the date on which the national service plan 2021 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43402/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The HSE formally submitted the 2021 National Service Plan on the 24th November, 2020 for my approval. The Legislation (Health Act 2004 as amended), provides 21 days for me to examine the proposed plan and either:

  a) approve the service plan in the form it is submitted,

  b) approve the service plan with such amendments as I, having consulted with the Executive, may determine, or

  c) issue a direction to the Executive to amend the plan.

  I am currently giving consideration to the submitted Plan.

  If the Plan is approved, it must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas within 21 days of its approval. Once the Service Plan is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, the HSE will ensure it is published at the earliest possible time.

Protected Disclosures

 588. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of the investigation into a protected disclosure made by a worker from a HSE facility (details supplied); if there has been engagement with the whistleblower; the details of this engagement and any future engagements planned; the estimated date for completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43403/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler As Minister I cannot make any comment on protected disclosures received that could in any way identify the person who made the protected disclosure.

   The Protected Disclosures Act (2014) precludes the Department from discussing any matter in relation to the protected disclosures that could identify that person.  However, I can assure you that  that all protected disclosures received in the Department are dealt with in the appropriate manner, in line with the legislation and the Departments policy and procedures to ensure appropriate actions are taken.

Health Services Provision

 589. Deputy Richard Bruton Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he is satisfied that children who are fostered do not face obstacles in accessing services provided by his Department, for example, by requiring additional documentation or compliance requirements; and if he will consider the policies and practices now in place to ensure no unnecessary obstacles stand in the way of children who are likely to have priority needs.  [43411/20]

  Awaiting reply from Department.

  Question No. 590 answered with Question No. 551.

Respite Care Services

 591. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of plans to use the old Wicklow district hospital building for respite and long-term care support in the form of a day care centre for the elderly of County Wicklow. [43413/20]

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.

Hospital Facilities

 592. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of plans to reopen 20 beds in the former Wicklow district hospital in Wicklow town; and his plans for same. [43414/20]

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.


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