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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 321-335
 Header Item Care of the Elderly
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Autism Support Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
 Header Item Hospital Facilities
 Header Item Addiction Treatment Services
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Health Services
 Header Item Protected Disclosures
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 78 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 321-335

Care of the Elderly

 321. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when Monasterevin day care centre will reopen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17750/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 322. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if cases of a double mutant variant of the novel coronavirus similar to that found recently in the Indian state of Maharashtra have been detected in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17756/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 323. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will address a matter regarding the case of a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17767/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Government has introduced more stringent measures applying to international travel in order to mitigate against the risk of new variants being imported through travel and to protect the progress we are making in suppressing transmission domestically.

Passengers arriving into Ireland from overseas may be required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form, to present evidence of a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival and to observe mandatory home quarantine.

Uruguay is currently a designated state under the Health (Amendment) Act 2021. Passengers who have been in a designated state within 14 days of arrival to Ireland must observe a period of quarantine in a designated facility. Limited exemptions from this requirement are set out in the Act including for international transport workers, members of An Garda Síochána or the Defence forces travelling in course of their duties and for persons travelling for urgent, unavoidable and time sensitive medical reasons.

Vaccination Programme

 324. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the HSE is advising students who are currently in their final semester of college and on placement within a HSE setting that they will not be allowed to remain on placement unless they are vaccinated despite this vaccination not being mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17770/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the HSE for consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme

 325. Deputy Neale Richmond Information on Neale Richmond Zoom on Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if those with a BMI of 40+ fall into a specific Covid-19 vaccine cohort; if they will be vaccinated based on their age or other health conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17771/21]

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.

  On the 23rd of February, I announced an update to Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy. In comprising the initial Vaccine Allocation Strategy, the NIAC listed several conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease and death. In the intervening period, national and international evidence has become available which has enabled a more detailed analysis of underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing severe disease or death. The NIAC has now been able to more comprehensively identify those medical conditions and to distinguish between those which place a person at very high or high risk of severe disease if they contract the virus. Medical conditions and the magnitude of the risk they pose will continue to be monitored and periodically reviewed.

  On the 30th of March, the Government approved a further update to the COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Strategy. Based on clinical, scientific and ethical frameworks produced by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and the Department of Health, following the vaccination of those most at risk, future groups will be vaccinated by age, in cohorts of 10 years (i.e., 64-55; 54-45, etc.).

  The move to an age-based model better supports the programme objectives by:

  - protecting those at highest risk of severe disease first, which benefits everyone most;

  - facilitating planning and execution of the programme across the entire country;

  - improving transparency and fairness.

  Further details are available here:

  https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/93f8f-minister-donnelly-announces-update-to-irelands-vaccination-prioritisation-list/

Autism Support Services

 326. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when a child (details supplied) will receive therapy services. [17772/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

 327. 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 when the €100 weekly payment to student nurses will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17774/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly In the context of COVID-19, I appointed Professor Tom Collins to undertake a short-term review of the current allowances available to student nurses and midwives. His report was submitted to me on 31 December 2020.

The key recommendation in this Report is that an additional and exceptional Student Nurse/Midwife Pandemic Placement Grant of €100 per week for each week spent on supernumerary placement be introduced from January 2021 for the duration of the pandemic.

I have confirmed my full acceptance of the Report’s recommendations and my Department has directly engaged with nursing/midwifery union representatives in this respect.

The position on the implementation of the Collins report remains that I have accepted the recommendations of the report and my Department officials are continuing to engage with representative bodies. I am hopeful this engagement will conclude shortly which will allow for the implementation of these additional measures which will further assist student nurses and midwives during this challenging time.

Hospital Facilities

 328. 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 will include a palliative care unit in the new 50-bed care of the elderly unit in St. Anthony’s in South Tipperary General Hospital which is currently under construction (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17778/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler In conjunction with South Tipperary Hospice Home Care Team, the HSE's Older Persons Services are currently providing two Level 2 palliative care beds in St Anthony’s Unit, Clonmel, an 18 bed residential care unit for older people.   

  Level 2 palliative care is provided by healthcare professionals with additional training and experience in palliative care, in both acute and community settings. Level 3 palliative care is the provision of palliative care to patients with more complex and demanding care needs. This care is provided by an interdisciplinary team under the direction of a consultant physician in palliative medicine. Such care is provided in specialist inpatient palliative care units, or hospices, as well as primary care settings and acute hospitals.

  As part of the national community nursing unit replacement programme, it is planned that a new 50 bed unit for Older Persons Services under Public Private partnership will commence in the third quarter of 2021 with an expected completion and occupation date of 2023. This unit will replace the existing St Anthony’s Unit. It is planned that two Level 2 beds will continue to be provided in this new unit.

  I understand that Level 2 Palliative Care beds will continue to be provided in St Theresa’s District Hospital Clogheen, Cluain Arann Nursing Unit Tipperary and Dungarvan Community Hospital.

  An additional 20 Level 3 in-patient beds will be provided in the new South East Regional Palliative Care Unit in University Hospital Waterford, which is due to open on 31st July 2021.

  With this development, it is not envisaged that Level 3 beds will be provided outside of this specialist regional palliative care unit. It is intended that there will be an ongoing requirement for limited Level 2 beds and the HSE will continue to liaise with Home Care Team with regard to these beds.

Addiction Treatment Services

 329. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the steps his Department is taking to address increased drug and alcohol misuse among young persons in an area (details supplied) particularly in the home; if additional supports and funding will be provided to community and youth services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17786/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Frankie Feighan): Information on Frankie Feighan Zoom on Frankie Feighan The Department of Children administers the UBU Your Place Your Space scheme. This is a targeted youth funding scheme which provides out-of-school supports to marginalised, disadvantaged or vulnerable young people between the age of 10 and 24, with a particular focus on use of drugs. The scheme consolidates a number of previous funding schemes and the initial application process was open only to services that had been funded under those schemes. It became operational on 1 July 2020 under its policy and operating rules. The UBU Your Place Your Space scheme funding for 2021 is €41.79 million.

  The Department of Children has advised that a total fund of €1 million has been allocated for the establishment of up to 8 new UBU Your Place Your Space services in 2021. Full year funding for each of these new services is to be a maximum of €120,000 per service. Youth services in the area should engage with the City of Dublin Youth Services Board to identifying local needs .

  The Department of Health and the HSE support drug and alcohol task forces to assess the extent and nature of the drug problem and to initiate appropriate responses, so that there is a coordinated approach involving all sectors to the problem of substance misuse in local communities.

  The 2021 overall funding allocation from the Department and the HSE for the task force in the area referred to is €901,237. Of this, the Department €263,277 for four projects, three of which target children/young people at risk and their families.

In 2019, additional funding was allocated for 14 strategic initiatives to address priorities set out in the National Drugs Strategy. Each initiative will receive funding of €190,000 over 36 months until mid-2022. Two initiatives are funded in CHO 9: Ante and post-natal care partnership for women using drugs and/or alcohol and Service User participation Programme to optimise service users recovery and treatment.   

  Budget 2021 allocated an additional €1m for targeted drug and alcohol initiatives through the network of drug and alcohol task forces. The allocation of this additional funding will be informed by the priorities arising from the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy, which my Department is undertaking in conjunction with stakeholders.

  I believe that the impact of problem drug and alcohol use is a national issue, affecting people from all walks of life. In line with Sláintecare, I am committed to a population-based approach to allocating resources for drug and alcohol services. This will ensure funding is allocated on an equitable and rational basis in accordance with health and social needs.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 330. Deputy Seán Canney Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if a proportionality assessment has been carried out on all the current Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17794/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland’s response has been guided by seven ethical principles: solidarity, fairness, minimising harm, proportionality, reciprocity, privacy and a duty to provide care. In March 2020, the Department of Health published the Ethical Framework for Decision-making in a Pandemic, setting out these principles. This Framework can be found online: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/dbf3fb-ethical-framework-for-decision-making-in-a-pandemic/.

  The NPHET, in considering and making recommendations on COVID-19 restrictions, is at all times guided by these ethical principles, including proportionality.

  As the Deputy will appreciate, Ireland’s epidemiological situation remains uncertain as a number of disease indicators are now static or potentially disimproving. Ireland is still experiencing high levels of infection across the country and the health service remains under pressure. Level 5 restrictive measures therefore remain in place. Any measures introduced are aimed at limiting the spread and damage of COVID-19, and are necessary to protect our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

On 30   March the Government announced a slight easing of restrictions from 12 April in recognition of the significant impact that the extended period of Level 5 restrictions is having on people. The focus of this slight easing of measures is on enabling more outdoor activities so as to improve the health and wellbeing of society. This move reflects the continuing focus on proportionality and reducing harm as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Services

 331. Deputy Gino Kenny Information on Gino Kenny Zoom on Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will take immediate steps to reopen the gay men’s health service based at the Meath primary care centre which has been closed for over a year; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the clinic is one of the busiest sexual health services and the only one specifically serving LGBTQ+ persons and is the only public sexual health service that has not reopened since March 2020; the plans for its reopening; his plans to set up new sexual health testing centres nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17798/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Frankie Feighan): Information on Frankie Feighan Zoom on Frankie Feighan The COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented interruption to normal healthcare activity in 2020/2021, affecting the provision of all healthcare services including public STI clinics and the GMHS.

Over the last year, the HSE has reconfigured STI services, establishing online booking systems and providing virtual appointments, in order to support STI service provision in line with the social distancing and infection prevention control requirements due to COVID-19.

Public STI clinics have prioritised those with symptoms and who require treatment, in order to treat active infections and minimise onward transmission. The GMHS website and other resources such as www.man2man.ie and www.sexualwellbeing.ie are regularly updated to reflect current service delivery and to signpost users to the HSE list of approved STI and PrEP services.

All PrEP service providers have maintained existing PrEP service users in the programme, providing virtual consultations, postal prescriptions and attendance for screening or treatment where necessary. It is difficult to predict the level of any number of infectious diseases including STIs that will occur post pandemic, but with the resumption of normal service, there is an expectation that increased testing will bring increased diagnoses.

The HSE is continuing to progress a number of initiatives that aim to reduce the level of HIV and STIs nationally and improve access to services for those in need.

- The promotion of safer sex messages to the public via a range of social media platforms including twitter, facebook and Instagram.

- During the pandemic, the public has been advised about STI clinic restrictions and encouraged to consider safer sexual practices to reduce the risk of HIV and STI transmission.

- Those who are symptomatic are advised to contact a clinic directly for an emergency appointment.

- Guidance was issued around sex and COVID-19 which advised the public to limit numbers of partners to reduce transmission of HIV/STIs as well as COVID-19 during the pandemic.

- Condoms are freely available to NGO partners and service providers via the National Condom Distribution service and a number of NGOs established postal services to make condoms and lubricant accessible to service users throughout the pandemic while venues were closed.

- Free rapid HIV testing is available in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick through community NGO partners HIV Ireland, Sexual Health Centre Cork, Sexual Health West and GOSHH. NGO partners have adapted their services and are currently providing free rapid HIV testing from their offices or alternative venues.

- STI/HIV testing is currently available through a HSE home STI testing pilot project in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. Tests are being made available in a phased manner to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local clinics for service users who may need follow-up treatment or support.

At the outset of Covid-19, staff in the Gay Men’s Health Service were reassigned, by reason of necessity, to other HSE services. Some staff continue to be redeployed to Covid-19 services, including to the COVID-19 vaccination programme which commenced in recent months. COVID-19 has placed increased demands on HSE services which are required to be delivered in accordance with current restrictions.

Community Healthcare East re-opened the GMHS in January 2021 on a phased basis, and in line with Government and HSE Guidelines. Existing PrEP users continue to be seen in the GMHS. The Clinic’s Consultant in Infectious Diseases (Gay Men’s Health service (GMHS) and GUIDE Clinic, St James’s Hospital) and other doctors are providing virtual consultations and PrEP service users attend the GMHS for STI screening and blood testing. Those with diagnosed STIs, or requiring Hepatitis and/or HPV vaccine, continue to be treated in GMHS also.

Previously the GMHS relied heavily on agency staff. This is no longer the situation. The funding allocated to the HSE in respect of the GMHS PrEP programme was received in 2020 as recurring funding. This has facilitated a recruitment campaign to fill the posts for the GMHS PrEP programme to commence in the latter part of 2020. This recruitment is ongoing.

HSE Community Healthcare East will continue to reinstate services in the GMHS on a phased basis and in line with the HSE’s Safe Return to Health Services. HSE Community Healthcare East has made every effort to restore, and maintain services as far as possible and will continue to do so, subject to current demand for health services, and subject to resources available.

Decisions concerning the provision of sexual health services are made in line with the objectives and strategic vision of the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015 - 2020 (NSHS), which aims to improve sexual health and wellbeing and reduce negative sexual health outcomes by ensuring that everyone living in Ireland has access to high quality sexual health information, education and services throughout their lives.

The current Strategy was intended to cover the period from 2015 – 2020, but has now been extended to 2021. It is the intention of my Department to conduct stakeholder consultations and a review of the NSHS this year. The outcome of the consultations and the review will determine the future direction of the Strategy.

It should be noted that the HSE is currently piloting a free home STI/HIV testing service, supported by the Sláintecare Integration Fund, in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. The first phase of tests was made available early January 2021. As a result of very high initial demand for the service, tests will now be made available in a phased manner to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local clinics for service users who may need follow-up treatment or support.

Decisions in relation to the manner and location of future sexual health services will be made in the context of the above factors.

Protected Disclosures

 332. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the status of a protected disclosure by a person (details supplied). [17801/21]

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

 333. Deputy Patrick Costello Information on Patrick Costello Zoom on Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the steps being taken to ensure vaccinations carried out by private hospitals are in keeping with HSE protocols. [17802/21]

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

 334. Deputy Ged Nash Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will consider the request of an organisation and persons (details supplied) for cardiac patients to be given priority access to the vaccine reflecting the medical need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17804/21]

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.

  On the 23rd of February, I announced an update to Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy. In comprising the initial Vaccine Allocation Strategy, the NIAC listed several conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease and death. In the intervening period, national and international evidence has become available which has enabled a more detailed analysis of underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing severe disease or death. The NIAC has now been able to more comprehensively identify those medical conditions and to distinguish between those which place a person at very high or high risk of severe disease if they contract the virus. Medical conditions and the magnitude of the risk they pose will continue to be monitored and periodically reviewed.

  On the 30th of March, the Government approved a further update to the COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Strategy. Based on clinical, scientific and ethical frameworks produced by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and the Department of Health, following the vaccination of those most at risk, future groups will be vaccinated by age, in cohorts of 10 years (i.e., 64-55; 54-45, etc.).

  The move to an age-based model better supports the programme objectives by:

  - protecting those at highest risk of severe disease first, which benefits everyone most;

  - facilitating planning and execution of the programme across the entire country;

  - improving transparency and fairness.

  Further details are available here:

  https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/93f8f-minister-donnelly-announces-update-to-irelands-vaccination-prioritisation-list/

Covid-19 Pandemic

 335. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if he will introduce regulations to back up the existing guidance in respect of nursing home visits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17819/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler It is important to note that 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. Public health guidance has been developed in order to assist and support providers in this regard.

  While the current guidance provides for visiting on critical and compassionate grounds, this new guidance now expands the scope of visiting on general compassionate grounds. It also refines the guidance across Levels 1 to 5, which now provides for increased visiting at Levels 3, 4 and 5, subject to risk assessment and no open outbreak.

  Residents may be facilitated to receive:

- Two visits per week   where 8 out of 10 of every resident and healthcare worker in the nursing home has completed their vaccination schedule.

-    There is no requirement to limit visits to less than one hour.

  I have written to all nursing home providers, through HIQA’s communication portal, to emphasise the need for all providers to follow the revised guidance on visitation. The adoption of a holistic and person-centred approach, noting the key role that visiting, social connections and communication with family and friends has in the context of residents’ overall health and wellbeing must be sustained. I expect every effort to be made to ensure visits are facilitated to the greatest extent possible, in line with the revised guidance and public health advice. Providers are also encouraged to frequently communicate with residents and families on the matter of visiting and to respond to phone calls by family members, in so far as is practicable, given the constraints on staff.

  In addition, I have requested that in the ongoing monitoring, regulatory and inspection processes, that the Chief Inspector of Social Services (HIQA) would place a particular focus, as appropriate, on the visiting arrangements in place. I have requested that, in the event that the Chief Inspector evidences any concerns of a systemic nature, that the Department would be kept informed of the issues and proposed responses to same.

  Finally, the Department of Health also wrote to the representative body for private and voluntary nursing homes on 24th of March, emphasising the importance of all long-term residential care services making every effort to fully apply the suite of guidance that has been made available, to support providers to meet their obligations in this regard.


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