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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 328-348
 Header Item Medical Cards
 Header Item Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge
 Header Item Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge
 Header Item Hospital Staff
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Departmental Functions
 Header Item Hospital Staff
 Header Item Nursing Home Accommodation
 Header Item Nursing Home Accommodation
 Header Item Disability Support Services
 Header Item Nursing Home Accommodation
 Header Item Disability Support Services
 Header Item Disability Support Services
 Header Item Medical Aids and Appliances
 Header Item Hospital Waiting Lists
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Hospital Services

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1002 No. 6

First Page Previous Page Page of 110 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 328-348

Medical Cards

 328. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will progress the renewal of medical cards for persons (details supplied) as no progress has been made since October 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43854/20]

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.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

 329. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Sláinte Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly cad iad na pleananna atá ag a Roinn chun seirbhísí faoina riar a chur ar fáil trí Ghaeilge, chun cur le líon na seirbhísí atá ar fáil trí Ghaeilge faoina riar, agus chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn, le linn 2021. [43894/20]

 330. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Sláinte Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly sonrú a dhéanamh ar gach post atá sainaitheanta mar phost a bhfuil riachtanas Gaeilge leis ina Roinn faoi láthair, líon na bhfostaithe ina Roinn a bhfuil cumas sa Ghaeilge acu, agus líon iomlán na bhfostaithe ina Roinn. [43895/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 330 together.

Tá mo Roinn tiomanta a chinntiú gur féidir custaiméirí ar mian leo a gcuid gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge a éascú a mhéid is féidir. Leagtar amach i Scéim Teanga reatha na Roinne a mhéid atá seirbhísí na Roinne ar fáil trí Ghaeilge faoi láthair, agus aithnítear réimsí le feabhsú sa todhchaí. Is iad seo a leanas samplaí seirbhísí a sheachadtar trí Ghaeilge: Tugtar freagra i nGaeilge ar gach comhfreagras i scríbhinn a chuirtear chuig an Roinn agus tarchuirtear aon cheisteanna teileafóin chuig duine de na baill foirne atá inniúil i nGaeilge; cuirtear gach preasráiteas a eisíonn an Roinn ar fáil i nGaeilge a luaithe is féidir tar éis a eisiúna; foilsítear agus nuashonraítear ábhar gréasáin de réir mar is gá sa dá theanga ag an am céanna agus eisíonn an Roinn fógraí meán sósialta i nGaeilge go rialta chomh maith le gach ábhar treorach sa dá theanga ag an am céanna. Tá athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ar an Scéim Teanga faoi láthair chun an tréimhse 2021-2023 a chlúdach agus seolfar í go luath i 2021 chuig an tAire Turasóireachta, Cultúir, Ealaíon, Gaeltachta, Spóirt agus na Meán lena ceadú.

Ba é líon na foirne sa Roinn ag deireadh mhí na Samhna 2020 ná 589 Coibhéiseanna Ama Iomlána agus den líon sin, tá 12 bhall foirne nó 2% den líon iomlán in ann a gcuid dualgas a chomhlíonadh trí mheán na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla. Deirtear i Scéim Teanga reatha na Roinne go n-aithneoidh an Roinn aon phoist a bhfuil inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge ina riachtanas dóibh. Ag am a forbartha, d'aithin an Roinn post amháin den sórt sin agus ina dhiaidh sin cheap sí ball foirne don ról sin. Tá céimeanna breise glactha ag an Roinn i mbliana lena chinntiú go gcoinníonn sí croíghrúpa foirne a bhfuil inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge acu agus d'earcaigh sí go réamhghníomhach beirt bhall foirne a bhfuil inniúlacht Gaeilge acu ag leibhéal an Phríomhoide Cúnta agus an Oifigigh Fheidhmiúcháin. Ag eascairt as sin, níl aon fholúntais sa Roinn faoi láthair i bpoist a éilíonn inniúlacht sa Ghaeilge. Ina theannta sin spreagann an Roinn a foireann chun a scileanna Gaeilge a fheabhsú trí leas a bhaint as cúrsaí Gaeilge arna soláthar ag Gaelchultúr agus thug 10 mball foirne faoi na cúrsaí seo i 2019 agus i 2020.

Seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge

 331. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Sláinte Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly sainiú a dhéanamh ar na fadhbanna is práinní i leith seirbhísí faoi riar a Roinne a sholáthar trí Ghaeilge sna ceantair Ghaeltachta, agus cad atá beartaithe aige chun iad a réiteach. [43896/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Ní riarann an Roinn Sláinte seirbhísí sláinte i gceantair Ghaeltachta, mar is é seo freagracht reachtúil an FSS. Dá réir sin d'iarr mo Roinn ar an FSS freagra díreach a thabhairt don ionadaí faoi na saincheisteanna a ardaíodh.

Hospital Staff

 332. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of consultant oncologists with a special interest in sarcoma currently in St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin; and his plans to appoint an additional consultant. [43906/20]

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.

  Question No. 333 answered with Question No. 289.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 334. 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 if a national plan is in place to deal with persons with long Covid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43912/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I have asked the HSE to examine the matters raised by the Deputy and to provide him with a direct response as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 335. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his plans to conduct Covid-19 tests on students before colleges finish for Christmas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43157/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly In Ireland, the National Testing Strategy for COVID-19 involves testing people who meet the case definition (people with symptoms), their identified close contacts, and established serial testing programmes. It is directed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and coordinated by the HSE. Samples are taken by healthcare professionals in healthcare settings, community test centres, workplaces or in the patient’s home.

There are no plans to conduct the type of testing the Deputy describes. It should be noted that testing for Covid-19 only provides a point-in-time result. It confers no guarantee that an individual with a 'not detected' result is not incubating the infection or the level of virus is below detectable levels at the time of the test. It is for this reason, for example, that testing of close contacts of a confirmed case is carried out on two separate occasions, when they are first identified and again 7 days after their last contact with the person.

I have been informed that Covid-19 testing has recently been offered at a third level institution. This was done in response to an ongoing outbreak in the student population there. A Public Health Risk Assessment (PHRA) was undertaken, and it was recommended to provide an opportunity for students to self-refer for Covid-19 testing. The decision to provide a similar testing facility at any other third-level educational institutes would be based on the undertaking of an appropriate risk assessment. The risk assessment applied in educational settings may be dynamic and change as new information becomes available, and the testing strategy may evolve as information unfolds.

Ireland is pursuing a robust testing strategy under the guidance of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). On an ongoing basis, NPHET considers and reviews, based on public health risk assessments, how best to target testing to hunt the virus in populations where it’s most likely and where it will do most harm.

The testing strategy in use in Ireland remains under consideration by NPHET on an ongoing basis.

Departmental Functions

 336. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if disability functions will be transferred to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; and if so, the timeline for same. [43962/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Following the Government's announcement in June regarding the establishment of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability and Integration, arrangements are underway for the transfer of disability services to the new Department.

There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration in planning for this transfer of functions. Given the scale of the functions being transferred and the significant budget involved (c. €2bn in 2020), there are multiple financial, HR, policy, legal and governance workstreams underway within my Department to sequence the range of tasks necessary to effectively complete the transfer of responsibility between both Departments.

Both Departments are engaged in regular meetings to provide effective oversight and co-ordination of the various tasks involved in the transfer of policy and budgetary responsibility. While significant progress has already made in advancing the transfer, work to-date has emphasised the complexity and interconnected nature of the service and financial arrangements currently in place. In addition to progressing the above workstreams, the drafting and enactment of primary legislation will be central to underpin and complete the timely transfer of policy and financial responsibility to the new Department. Taking account of all of these factors it is now considered that the first half of 2021 represents the most feasible timeframe for completion of all components needed to achieve the transfer of disability services to the new Department.

Hospital Staff

 337. Deputy Sorca Clarke Information on Sorca Clarke Zoom on Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if his Department will provide funding for the recruitment of an additional paediatric endocrinologist for Temple Street Children's Hospital, Dublin. [43965/20]

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.

  Question No. 338 answered with Question No. 285.

Nursing Home Accommodation

 339. 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 the process which must be gone through, such as notification to the home itself by letter or otherwise, before HIQA and the HSE decide to become directly involved in the running of a nursing home due to concerns about that home; the legal process and consents required in which consent is given by the nursing home; the process in cases in which it is refused by the nursing home concerned; the role of HIQA and the HSE regarding same; the further process when either the HSE or HIQA disagrees with the decision; the internal reporting within both organisations; if his Department is informed of same; the level at which his Department is informed; the process gone through by HIQA and the HSE regarding the HSE taking over the operational control of a nursing home (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43983/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Since 2009 the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider.

This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.

The functions and powers of the Chief Inspector are set out in Parts 7, 8 and 9 of the Health Act 2007 (as amended). The Statutory powers include the cancellation of registration under section 51 of the Act and the urgent action under section 59 of the Act to attach, vary or remove a condition of registration or cancellation of registration.

In the first instance, the primary responsibility for the provision of safe care and service to nursing home residents rests with individual nursing home operators. If the Chief Inspector cancels a registration under section 51 and the cancellation takes effect, or if the Chief Inspector obtains an order to cancel a registration in accordance to section 59 and the cancellation takes effect then under section 64 of the Act the Chief Inspector notifies the HSE of the cancellation of the registration and of the date on which this takes effect. The HSE must make alternative arrangements, as soon as practicable for residents where registration has been cancelled and closure orders have been secured by HIQA. Pending these alternative arrangements, the HSE, either with the consent of the registered provider or by order of the District Court shall take the charge of the designated centre.

HIQA is the health and social care regulator and does not operate hospitals or social care services such as nursing homes. When the Chief Inspector pursues the cancellation of a service’s registration, she applies through the District Court under section 59 and a notice of proposal to cancel & notice of decision to cancel registration are made under section 51. I understand that HIQA would usually ensure that the HSE is aware of the proposed cancellation of a service, noting that the HSE may be required to take over operation of the designated centre. Where the Chief Inspector decides to apply to cancel the registration of a nursing home, it is normal for my Department to be informed, for information purposes.

HIQA has advised the Department that when the Chief Inspector intends to make a section 59 application, she always ensures that notice is given to the registered provider of her intention. Notification of this is given both verbally and in writing (in the form of an Affidavit). A service can appeal to a District Court or take a judicial review. HIQA and the HSE have no role in the appeal process. Section 59 is a decision by the District Court and under section 64 the District Judge will then require the HSE to assume responsibility for the residents. The court can mandate, if required, that the provider cooperates with its decision. The length of this process is highly dependent on the level of risk posed. HIQA has further advised that the decision of the Chief Inspector to pursue cancellation is independent of HIQA, as it falls under section 51. However, the cancellation of a nursing home is the decision only of the District Court, as it falls under section 59.

As the RCSI Hospital Group took over the operational management of the home in question in April, outside of the process set out above, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to his specific queries raised.

Nursing Home Accommodation

 340. 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 the process which must be gone through before HIQA and-or the HSE decides to become directly involved in the running of a nursing home due to concerns about that home (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43988/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Since 2009 the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider.

This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.

The functions and powers of the Chief Inspector are set out in Parts 7, 8 and 9 of the Health Act 2007 (as amended). The Statutory powers include the cancellation of registration under section 51 of the Act and the urgent action under section 59 of the Act to attach, vary or remove a condition of registration or cancellation of registration.

In the first instance, the primary responsibility for the provision of safe care and service to nursing home residents rests with individual nursing home operators. If the Chief Inspector cancels a registration under section 51 and the cancellation takes effect, or if the Chief Inspector obtains an order to cancel a registration in accordance to section 59 and the cancellation takes effect then under section 64 of the Act the Chief Inspector notifies the HSE of the cancellation of the registration and of the date on which this takes effect. The HSE must make alternative arrangements, as soon as practicable for residents where registration has been cancelled and closure orders have been secured by HIQA. Pending these alternative arrangements, the HSE, either with the consent of the registered provider or by order of the District Court shall take the charge of the designated centre.

HIQA is the health and social care regulator and does not operate hospitals or social care services such as nursing homes. When the Chief Inspector pursues the cancellation of a service’s registration, she applies through the District Court under section 59 and a notice of proposal to cancel & notice of decision to cancel registration are made under section 51. I understand that HIQA would usually ensure that the HSE is aware of the proposed cancellation of a service, noting that the HSE may be required to take over operation of the designated centre. Where the Chief Inspector decides to apply to cancel the registration of a nursing home, it is normal for my Department to be informed, for information purposes.

HIQA has advised the Department that when the Chief Inspector intends to make a section 59 application, she always ensures that notice is given to the registered provider of her intention. Notification of this is given both verbally and in writing (in the form of an Affidavit). A service can appeal to a District Court or take a judicial review. HIQA and the HSE have no role in the appeal process. Section 59 is a decision by the District Court and under section 64 the District Judge will then require the HSE to assume responsibility for the residents. The court can mandate, if required, that the provider cooperates with its decision. The length of this process is highly dependent on the level of risk posed. HIQA has further advised that the decision of the Chief Inspector to pursue cancellation is independent of HIQA, as it falls under section 51. However, the cancellation of a nursing home is the decision only of the District Court, as it falls under section 59.

In the case of the nursing home in question, HIQA has advised that there was a COVID-19 outbreak which meant that the registered provider was unable to sustain the ongoing delivery of services. The Chief Inspector pursued the cancellation of registration, and the HSE assumed responsibility of the running of this nursing home. I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on the operational issues raised that come within its remit.

Disability Support Services

 341. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number on waiting lists for assessments of need in counties Cavan and Monaghan to date; the proposals to reduce the waiting lists and provide more timely appointments for children in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43991/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Anne Rabbitte): Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, recognises the need to improve services for both children and adults with disabilities through better implementation and by working together across Government in a better way.

  The Government commits to prioritising early diagnosis and access to services for children and ensuring that the most effective interventions are provided for each child, to guarantee the best outcomes.

  As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Nursing Home Accommodation

 342. 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 the name and number of nursing homes taken over by the HSE and HIQA since January 2020; the reason for doing so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43992/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Since 2009 the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider.

This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.

The functions and powers of the Chief Inspector are set out in Parts 7, 8 and 9 of the Health Act 2007 (as amended). The Statutory powers include the cancellation of registration under section 51 of the Act and the urgent action under section 59 of the Act to attach, vary or remove a condition of registration or cancellation of registration.

In the first instance, the primary responsibility for the provision of safe care and service to nursing home residents rests with individual nursing home operators. If the Chief Inspector cancels a registration under section 51 and the cancellation takes effect, or if the Chief Inspector obtains an order to cancel a registration in accordance to section 59 and the cancellation takes effect then under section 64 of the Act the Chief Inspector notifies the HSE of the cancellation of the registration and of the date on which this takes effect. The HSE must make alternative arrangements, as soon as practicable for residents where registration has been cancelled and closure orders have been secured by HIQA. Pending these alternative arrangements, the HSE, either with the consent of the registered provider or by order of the District Court shall take the charge of the designated centre.

I understand that HIQA would usually ensure that the HSE is aware of the proposed cancellation of a service, noting that the HSE may be required to take over operation of the designated centre. Where the Chief Inspector decides to apply to cancel the registration of a nursing home, it is normal for my Department to be informed, for information purposes.

HIQA has advised the Department that the Chief Inspector has applied to cancel the registration of two nursing homes since January 2020, one located in Wicklow, the second in Kerry. In both cases, there was a serious risk to the health or welfare of persons resident in the nursing home because of an act, failure to act or negligence on the part of the provider. Applications for cancellation were made to the District Court under section 59 of the Health Act 2007 (as amended) . The District Court granted the cancellation of registration under section 59 of the Health Act 2007 (as amended) and the Chief Inspector notified the HSE to assume responsibility of the nursing home under section 64 of the act.

I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to any nursing homes it took operational responsibility for outside of this process.

Disability Support Services

 343. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his plans to have an orderly resumption of day services for persons with a disability in counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43993/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Anne Rabbitte): Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte All day service locations with the exception of those being utilised as COVID-19 Isolation or testing centres have reopened since August.

   There are currently 7 day service locations nationally that are being used for COVID-19 isolation or testing centres: one in CHO1; two in CHO2; one in CHO3 and three in CHO9.

   Service users that usually received their supports from these locations are now either receiving supports at another location or receiving outreach or home-based supports. A further location will resume as a day service location in the coming weeks as an alternative COVID-19 test facility has been procured.

   Day services re-opened at 39% capacity throughout August and early September. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency day service capacity is reduced, this is due to the physical limitations of the buildings available, the lack of mainstream community activities, and the continued restrictions imposed by social distancing guidance. Many people with disabilities have underlying health conditions, and as the threat of COVID-19 remains, unfortunately so too does the need for these restrictions.

  In September, Minister Donnelly and I announced that €7.5 million is being made available in 2020 to increase disability day services by one day a week for 14,940 adults. I also secured funding under the Budget to maintain this increase in 2021.

   The funding will be used to augment staffing levels so that adults that currently live at home with their families will receive an average of an additional day of service at a day service location over and above what they have been receiving since day services resumed in August. Chief Officers were asked to immediately progress plans with the service provider sector to expedite the recruitment of the staff in this regard.

Disability Support Services

 344. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if there will be no costs on persons with a disability availing of transport to day services or training centres in any region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43994/20]

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

Medical Aids and Appliances

 345. Deputy Pa Daly Information on Pa Daly Zoom on Pa Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if a pain patch will be approved for a person (details supplied). [44000/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicinal products under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013.

  Following a review, the HSE introduced a new system for the reimbursement of the lidocaine 5% medicated plaster (Versatis), which is licensed only for the localised relief of post-shingles pain in adults.

  Patients are reviewed by the Medicines Management Programme (MMP) for reimbursement approval, on foot of an application by the patient’s clinician, through the HSE online system.

  In exceptional circumstances, the product may be approved for supply for unlicensed uses.

  If an application is refused, the clinician may make an appeal, making a clear clinical case for the patient to the MMP at mmp@hse.ie.

  This process ensures the appropriate use of the patch and that post-shingles patients, and other patients as clinically appropriate, can continue to have this treatment.

Hospital Waiting Lists

 346. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if additional resources and increased hospital capacity will be provided to reduce waiting times for patients in counties Cavan and Monaghan awaiting orthopaedic assessments and procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44001/20]

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.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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

In addition the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) is currently reviewing strategies to maximise activity and benefit for patients, to include, increased use of private hospitals, funding weekend and evening work in public hospitals, funding “see and treat” services where minor procedures are provided at the same time as outpatient consultations, funding hybrid services where public and private hospitals contribute to the treatment of patients, virtual clinics and clinical validation.

In addition to core HSE activity, the NTPF have advised my department that they have also approved 2 outpatient insourcing initiatives for funding for orthopaedics at Cavan General Hospital, so far in 2020, which will facilitate treatment for 290 patients on Orthopaedics waiting lists.

Budget 2021 provided an additional €240 million for an Access to Care Fund, €210m of which will be allocated as required to the HSE and €30m to the National Treatment Purchase Fund for the provision of treatment in both private and public hospitals in order to address capacity issues in acute hospitals and waiting lists.

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to continuing investment in our health care services in line with the recommendations of the Health Service Capacity Review and the commitments in Project Ireland 2040.

This winter is expected to be particularly challenging due to the presence of Covid-19 and the uncertainty around the level of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 healthcare demands. The Department of Health is working with the HSE to increase acute capacity in hospitals throughout the country to meet this and other health demands. Government allocated €236 million revenue and €40 million capital expenditure as part of Budget 2021 to fund additional acute beds on a permanent basis. This funding will provide, by the end of 2021, an additional 1,146 acute beds from the baseline at the start of 2020.

A proportion of these beds will be funded as part of the HSE’s Winter Plan 2020/21. The Winter Plan aims to provide additional health service capacity across a range of services. Initiatives comprise additional acute and community beds to increase acute capacity, help reduce admissions and facilitate egress.

This represents a significant step towards achieving the recommendations in the 2018 Health Service Capacity Review which found that an additional 2,100 inpatient acute beds were required, in a reform scenario, by 2031. The National Development Plan provides for the addition of the full 2,590 beds by 2027.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 347. Deputy Joe McHugh Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if his Department and the HSE plan for an educational messaging strategy to explain the development and speed in bringing the Covid-19 vaccine to reality, assurances regarding public health and safety and the importance of maximising the take-up of the vaccine when it is offered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44002/20]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Deputy raises an important and valid question regarding educational messaging in Government’s response to this pandemic.

COVID-19 is a new disease, at the moment there is no cure. Government will only use a vaccine if it meets the required standards of safety and effectiveness. All of the recommended vaccines used in Ireland are licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority. They are licensed for use only when they have been shown to be both safe and effective.

Due to the urgency posed by the pandemic, unprecedented efforts are ongoing to develop COVID-19 vaccines and make them available as soon as possible. Unprecedented levels of scientific research and collaboration, investment and early and proactive engagement between vaccine developers and regulators has helped speed up development and ensured that quality, safety and effectiveness are not compromised.

Vaccines are a proven, cost-effective intervention to protect public health; second only to the provision of clean water. Worldwide, they save at least 2-3 million lives each year – and many more from crippling and lifelong illnesses.

Certain priority groups will be vaccinated first. For example, frontline healthcare workers and people who are most at risk from serious infection if they catch COVID-19. Once these priority groups have been vaccinated, the vaccine will be available to the rest of the population.

While a vaccine is to be welcomed, no vaccine is a silver bullet. It is the pharmaceutical intervention to complement our ongoing adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions – the public health advice telling us to wash our hands, cough into our elbows, maintain 2 metres social distance and wear face coverings.

  Yesterday, I published the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy , which outlines Ireland’s high-level plan for safe, effective and efficient vaccination of the population, while safeguarding continued provision of health and social care services.

  The National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, which was prepared by the High-Level Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccination, was signed off by Cabinet yesterday.

  An integrated work programme, comprising of seven workstreams was established by the Task Force, one of these workstream focused on Communications and Engagement.

  The communications and engagement strategy the Department of Health is undertaking has two main objectives. The first is preparing for the vaccine, emphasising the safety and regulatory processes that are taking place in Ireland, Europe and across the world, engaging with people who have genuine hesitancies around the vaccine and communicating the Government Plan from acquisition to prioritisation to distribution.

The second objective will focus on the implementation of the vaccine programme – encouraging the public to get the vaccine, informing who will administer it and where, identifying people of trust to act as ambassadors for the vaccine.

The communications strategy will build on the public trust the ongoing COVID-19 communications campaign has generated through open and transparent communication led by experts, ongoing understanding of public sentiment, clear and consistent communication to empower the public and collaboration between my Department, the HSE and the HPRA.

Key learning from the recent HPV campaign shows the importance of listening to the public, acknowledging and addressing their fears, delivering clinical advice with empathy and ensuring that the vaccine is logistically and financially easy to access.

Understanding, reacting and responding to public sentiment had been a core element of the COVID-19 and HPV campaign to date through a weekly quantitative Tracker for my Department, prepared by Amarách, a fortnightly qualitative tracker utilising focus groups and in depth interviews and the work of the Behavioural Research Advisory Group.

Active expert participants in the campaign will come from my Department, the HPRA, and the HSE, ensuring clear and consistent communications from a trusted source, while the messaging will move from the yellow ‘alert of the COVID-19 campaign, to a blue for hope and control.

Hospital Services

 348. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if the orthopaedic clinic in St. Vincent's University Hospital is open; if not, when it will resume; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44007/20]

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.


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