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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 269-284
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Rare Diseases
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Health Services Staff
 Header Item Drugs Payment Scheme
 Header Item Suicide Incidence
 Header Item Mortality Rates
 Header Item Emergency Departments
 Header Item Nursing Staff
 Header Item Medicinal Products
 Header Item Medicinal Products
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Medical Cards
 Header Item Medical Cards

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1004 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 74 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 269-284

Vaccination Programme

 269. 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 he is considering including phlebotomists as a category eligible to vaccinate persons for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10659/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The HSE are building and deploying its workforce in order to be prepared for the requirements associated with rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine programme.

  GPs, Pharmacists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and many healthcare professionals, will have a role to play in the vaccination programme.

  The vaccine roll out is being conducted on a 7-day week basis and to date, more than 7,400 staff have received training to operate as vaccinators. To support the expanded immunisation programme the HSE launched a vaccinator recruitment campaign last week.

  It is not intended that phlebotomists will be called upon to participate as vaccinators in the programme at this time.

Vaccination Programme

 270. 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 he is considering including veterinarians as a category eligible to vaccinate persons for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10660/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The HSE are building and deploying its workforce in order to be prepared for the requirements associated with rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine programme.

  GPs, Pharmacists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and many healthcare professionals, will have a role to play in the vaccination programme.

  The vaccine roll out is being conducted on a 7-day week basis and to date, more than 7,400 staff have received training to operate as vaccinators. To support the expanded immunisation programme the HSE launched a vaccinator recruitment campaign last week.

  It is not intended that veterinarians will be called upon to participate as vaccinators in the programme at this time.

Rare Diseases

 271. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons that presented with paediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome, PIMS, and-or Kawasaki disease in each of the years 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10663/21]

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

 272. Deputy Jackie Cahill Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when taxi drivers employed to drive patients for dialysis will receive the Covid-19 vaccine given they are essential front-line workers and if they cannot work due to illness ambulances have to be used to transport these patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10664/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

  Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

  The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

  The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

  The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus.

  The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in front-line services often caring for the most vulnerable.

  The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group started in February. 

  All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

  The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

Health Services Staff

 273. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of psychologists per grade in primary healthcare; the number per capita of population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10665/21]

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.

Drugs Payment Scheme

 274. Deputy Michael Lowry Information on Michael Lowry Zoom on Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his plans to add Cariban to the approved drugs list under the drugs payment scheme; the medicines available under the drugs payment scheme to treat hyperemesis gravidarum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10666/21]

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.

Suicide Incidence

 275. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of deaths from suicide in County Galway disaggregated by location, city and county, age cohort and gender in each of the years 2017 to 2020. [10667/21]

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.

Mortality Rates

 276. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of deaths from drug and alcohol overdose in County Galway disaggregated by city and county, age cohort and gender in each of the years 2017 to 2020. [10668/21]

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.

Emergency Departments

 277. Deputy Mairéad Farrell Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons presenting in accident and emergency departments in County Galway with mental health related emergencies in each of the years 2017 to 2020. [10669/21]

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.

Nursing Staff

 278. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if the pay arrangements put in place for student nurses in 2020 will be implemented (details supplied). [10670/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Student clinical placements across a variety of care settings are a vital part of nursing and midwifery learning in the educational programmes. Clinical placement learning makes up 50% of these programmes. Placements, where students are immersed in the care environments, enables students to develop the practical knowledge, clinical skills and professional behaviours required to qualify and be eligible to join the professional register. Supernumerary clinical student placements ensure learning takes place on the front line and that the experience is gained under the supervision of a registered nurse or midwife. I want to protect their status as students and protect their graduate programme which has delivered so many benefits.

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020 our healthcare system had to re-configure quickly. This resulted in many staff being redeployed, including some staff required for the supervision and support of students in the clinical setting. Following redeployment, the student support infrastructure was impacted significantly and all clinical placements were suspended by the HSE on 10 April 2020. Redeployment, sick leave and COVID 19 related absence also led to a workforce crisis at that time.  One measure used in responding to the workforce demand at the time was that student nurses and midwifes were offered a 3-month contract as Healthcare Assistants (HCAs). This initiative was on a voluntary basis and 1,200 (approx. 30%) took up a contract. As we moved into 2021 the HSE, despite the continuing challenges associated with the pandemic, was in a much stronger position in terms of staffing.  The HSE hired an additional 1,158 Health Care Assistants in 2020 as well as 1,712 Nurses and Midwives to respond to the additional challenges faced on the front line. At the end of the December 2020, the health sector workforce had a total of 126,174 WTE. This is an increase of 6,357 WTE since the end of December 2019.

To further assist student nurses and midwives on clinical placements, I appointed Profes­sor Tom Collins to carry out an independent review of the clinical placement allowance spe­cifically during COVID-19, a more stressful time of which we are all aware. Professor Collins reported back to me on 31 December, 2020 and made several recommendations which I have accepted. One of which was his recommendation to implement a pandemic placement grant, which is the non-taxable €100 per week for each supernumerary placement week during the pandemic. He provided an option for me to backdate this to the start of September. Therefore, the recommendation is that the 12 weeks of placement essentially would be subject to a non-taxable payment of €1,200. As stated I have accepted the recommendations and work is ongoing to implement Professor Collins’s recommendation for  a pandemic placement grant by making the associated payments. We continue the engagements with the representative bodies on this matter and the long term review.

The long-term review of the placements and allowances to be carried out, I believe this is very important. This will go some way to addressing some of the issues that have been raised by Deputies and others around supporting students to be students and assisting with some of the financial barriers that can impact students while they are undertaking their placements particularly when the placements are away from the base hospital. 

That is one of the points that is going to be examined in the long-term review. The work has commenced and I have asked that I receive a report in June. That will give us some time to work with the students themselves, the representative bodies, the educators and all the stake­holders and work to implement any recommendations from the start of the academic year this coming September.

I do not underestimate the difficulties that student nurses and midwives have had over the past year. Without question, it continues to be a difficult time. My Department and I, in conjunction with the HSE, higher education institutes, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, our clinical partners and representative organisations, will continue to focus on sup­porting our students, keeping them safe and ensuring they have the best possible education that they can have.

As the Deputy is aware, supernumerary clinical placements for 1-3rd year nursing and midwifery students were temporarily suspended from 18 January to support the HSE request to release senior, qualified staff employed to support student placements who had the necessary experience to help directly with the COVID-19 response.   However, placements with the necessary supports in place, have been gradually resuming and  this week 99%  of the nursing and midwifery students who were due to be on clinical placement were on placement. Intern and 4th year supernumerary placements have continued uninterrupted during this time.

Medicinal Products

 279. 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 extent to which the recommendations of the report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on evaluating orphan drugs have been implemented; if an impact assessment has been conducted on those which have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10674/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Deputy will recall that in February 2018 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health issued its report which contained a significant number of recommendations with respect to the evaluation of orphan drugs.

   On 21 November 2018, Departmental and HSE officials, at a hearing of the Committee, reported on progress on the implementation of the various recommendations.

In view of the passage of time since that hearing, I have asked my officials to prepare an updated report for the Deputy on the extent to which each of the recommendations have been implemented.

Medicinal Products

 280. 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 process for the approval of new drugs; his plans to review or alter this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10675/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly All medicines must be authorised before they can be marketed and made available to patients. In the European Union, there are two main routes for authorising medicines:  a centralised route and a national route.

Under the centralised authorisation procedure, pharmaceutical companies submit a single marketing authorisation application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This allows the marketing authorisation holder to market the medicine and make it available to patients and healthcare professionals throughout the EU on the basis of a single marketing authorisation.

While the majority of new, innovative medicines are evaluated by the EMA and authorised by the European Commission in order to be marketed in the EU, most generic medicines and medicines available without a prescription are assessed and authorised at national level in the EU. In addition, many older medicines available today were authorised at national level because they were marketed before the EMA was created.

The Oireachtas put in place a robust legal framework, in the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, which gives full statutory powers to the HSE to assess and make decisions on reimbursement of medicines, taking account of a range of objective factors and expert opinion as appropriate. In line with the 2013 Health Act and the national framework agreed with industry, a company must submit an application to the HSE to have a new medicine added to the reimbursement list.

Reimbursement is for licensed indications which have already been granted marketing authorisation by the EMA or the Health Products Regulatory Authority. In making a relevant reimbursement decision, the HSE is required under the Act to have regard to a number of criteria including efficacy, the health needs of the public, cost effectiveness and potential or actual budget impact.

HSE decisions on which medicines are reimbursed by the taxpayer are made on objective, scientific and economic grounds, on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE). The NCPE conducts health technology assessments (HTAs) for the HSE and makes recommendations on reimbursement to assist HSE decisions. The NCPE uses a decision framework to systematically assess a drug's clinical and cost effectiveness as a health intervention.

As Minister for Health, I have no role in decisions relating to either the authorisation or reimbursement of medicines.

Vaccination Programme

 281. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when workers in categories (details supplied) will receive Covid-19 vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10677/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

  Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

  The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

  The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

  The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus.

  The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in front-line services often caring for the most vulnerable.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group started in the week beginning the 15th of February. 

  All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

  The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

  Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in direct patient contact roles will be vaccinated in Group 2. This includes HCWs working in public, private, and voluntary settings. Other HCWs, not in direct patient contact, will be vaccinated in Group 4.

Medical Cards

 282. 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 when a renewed medical card will issue in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10678/21]

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.

Medical Cards

 283. Deputy Mark Ward Information on Mark Ward Zoom on Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if there is a process by which a person who holds a medical card who has paid privately for cataract surgery due to long waiting lists can claim reimbursement from the State in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10681/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Health Act 1970 (as amended) provides for two categories of eligibility for persons ordinarily resident in the country, i.e. full eligibility (medical card holders) and limited eligibility (all others). Adults with full eligibility can access a range of services including GP services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards, including consultants’ services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultants’ services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, and maternity and infant care service.

Persons with limited eligibility are eligible for in-patient and outpatient public hospital services including Consultant services, Emergency Department or minor injury care, are subject to certain charges. Other services such as allied healthcare professional services may also be made available to persons with limited eligibility.

Where a person accesses private healthcare in Ireland there is no facility for the cost of that care to be reimbursed by the public health system.

  Question No. 284 answered with Question No. 240.


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