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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 153-171
 Header Item Care of the Elderly
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Alcohol Pricing
 Header Item Vaccination Programme
 Header Item Commencement of Legislation
 Header Item Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
 Header Item Medicinal Products
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Health Services Staff
 Header Item Disabilities Data
 Header Item Disabilities Data
 Header Item Disabilities Data
 Header Item Disabilities Data
 Header Item Disabilities Data
 Header Item Physiotherapy Services
 Header Item Speech and Language Therapy
 Header Item Speech and Language Therapy

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1006 No. 1
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 82 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 153-171

Care of the Elderly

 153. 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 being taken to ensure the safe reopening of day care centres for the elderly; the timeline for the reopening of these centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20985/21]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler It has been a key priority for the HSE to ensure that the focus on resuming Day Care Services for Older People can occur as soon as it is safe to do so. It is acknowledged that the Day Care Services provided across the country are a fundamental support structure for older people. Day Care Services have been closed since March 2020. The HSE has advised the Department that additional supports including home support, meals on wheels, telephone support, additional public health nursing, virtual activities etc. have been provided for most vulnerable clients during this period. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association of Ireland have been providing ‘Day Care in the Home’ across the country for clients with Dementia.

Since November 2020, a Day Care Focus Group Office has been in place with representation from across the HSE and voluntary organisations to put in place a plan for the reopening of Day Care Services for Older People in line with the COVID roadmap. The Group has met on 6 occasions with the focus on putting in place guidance and plans for the resumption of Day Care Services, as soon as possible. The group was originally concentrating on what services could be delivered under current guidance and in line with the current COVID Roadmap and have now extended their approach based on the COVID vaccination programme and the impact this can provide on how services can re-open.

As a result of the vaccination programme currently being rolled out to persons over 70 years of age, further guidance has been sought from Public Health in relation to the provision of Day Care Services and how these can be operated safely and in line with the measures in place to ease restrictions over the next few months.

Day Care Service been also been asked to assess what can currently be delivered and requirements to reopen. A sub-group has also been established to develop an individualised Risk Assessment that can be carried out in respect of clients returning to the services. It will not be feasible at present under Level 5 restrictions and current guidance in place to deliver a service in a congregated setting but plans will be put in place in conjunction with Public Health advice by each service in relation to the resumption of services so that Day Care Services can resume as soon as it is considered safe to provide the service.

Areas to be focused on will include:-

- Safe transport

- Protection of carers who have not been vaccinated and the impact of this.

- Identification of clients who are safe to return to Day Care Services.

- Supports for clients who will not be in a position to return to Day Care Services.

The HSE has reassured the Department that it will continue to focus on the re-opening of Day Care Services as a priority and the Focus Group in place will continue to drive a plan to resume these services as soon as possible. The Focus Group are due to meet again on 28th April 2021 and the HSE work will continue to work with services to ensure that as many services as possible can re-open as soon as it is safe to operate within a congregated setting.

It is a priority for me as Minister with special responsibility for older people for day services to resume as soon as possible and I continue to engage with senior officials within the Department and HSE on this very important matter.

Vaccination Programme

 154. Deputy Sean Sherlock Information on Sean Sherlock Zoom on Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the updated advice for pregnant women to receive the Covid-19 vaccination (details supplied). [20986/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The immunisation programme in Ireland is based on the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). The committee's recommendations are based on the prevalence of the relevant disease in Ireland and international best practice in relation to immunisation. It makes recommendations on vaccination policy to my Department. The NIAC review all data relating to COVID-19 vaccines on a rolling basis.

Pregnant women are at a similar risk to non-pregnant women of contracting COVID-19 disease. Most pregnant women who are infected with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and the risk of passing COVID-19 virus to the baby is low.

However, pregnant women who become ill from COVID-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital, to need care in an ICU, and to die when compared with non-pregnant women patients. Women from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds may be more likely than other pregnant women to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 disease.

Pregnant women who are healthcare workers or who have medical conditions which put them at high risk of severe disease are included in the respective priority groups. The priority for other pregnant women will be determined when more evidence is available.

Pregnant women who are between 14 weeks and 36 weeks of gestation may receive COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Pregnant women who meet the priority criteria for vaccination and their obstetric caregivers should engage in shared decision-making in advance of vaccination. Counselling should balance available data on vaccine safety, risks to pregnant women from SARS-CoV-2 infection, and a woman’s individual risk for infection and severe disease. Where the risk/benefit is favourable, the two doses should be given 28 days apart. The two dose schedule should be given between 14 and 36 completed weeks of gestation.

It is important to emphasise that vaccination is only one part of our response to the prevention of COVID-19 infection. People who are vaccinated need to continue with all the public health measures that have been proven to reduce the risk of infection, i.e., limiting our social contacts, physical distancing, wearing a mask, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and avoiding non-essential travel until a sufficiently large proportion of the population are immune.

Alcohol Pricing

 155. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the progress made in the past three months in relation to introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol as provided for in legislation; the steps that have to be taken before this section of legislation can be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20988/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol products is currently subject to a Government Decision which envisaged that it would be introduced in Northern Ireland and in the Republic simultaneously.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann recently set out that he and his Department do not have capacity to implement minimum unit pricing in Northern Ireland during his mandate. On that basis I intend to explore alternative approaches to the introduction here of this very important public health measure.

Vaccination Programme

 156. Deputy Alan Kelly Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when those who act as community first responders in their local communities will be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccination. [20995/21]

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

  Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in direct patient contact roles are being vaccinated in Group 2. This includes HCWs working in public, private, and voluntary settings.

Commencement of Legislation

 157. Deputy Emer Higgins Information on Emer Higgins Zoom on Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when the sections of the Health Identifiers Act 2014 which have not been commenced will commence; the current impediments stopping the progress of the sections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20999/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Health Identifiers Act provides the legal basis for the introduction of a system of unique health identifiers for (a) individuals and (b) health services providers in Ireland. The Individual Health Identifier (IHI) is a key enabler for integrated care and eHealth as it facilitates joining of disparate health records about the same patient from different healthcare settings.

To date, Sections 7(2)-(6), 10(3), 11(1)-(5), (7), 12-20, 24, 35-39 have not been commenced. None of these are required in order for the HSE to implement current and immediately planned, deployments of the IHI but will be commenced as soon as they are required.

The IHI has already started to prove its value since the start of the pandemic and is core to the national covid vaccination programme. It was used to uniquely identify records for people who went through the test and trace process, to ensure the health service established unique records on a national basis and regardless of where patients were treated. The IHI also proved valuable as people progressed through the covid care pathway.

As people use the covid vaccination portal they are asked for their PPSN. Combined with their firstname, lastname and date of birth, this enables the HSE to identify their IHI and create national vaccination records with unique record numbers. As services start to return to normal, there are plans to deploy the IHI into GP practice systems and into hospital patient administration systems later this year and into 2022. This will also assist in the management of outpatient waiting lists.

The HSE have operational responsibility for implementing the I.H.I. They plan to deploy the IHI on a phased into a number of national systems following deployment to GP practice systems and hospital PAS systems. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the further planned implementation of the IHI to other national systems was paused and instead, priority for was switched to Covid-19 related initiatives.

The IHI forms part of the Covid-19 Case Tracker and is included on all Covid-19 referrals for tests or assessments, embedded in transactions from the point of referral for a Covid-19 test to the communication of test results to clinicians and to the individual.

The HSE IT system for the national Covid-19 vaccination programme has been developed at an exceptional pace and the IHI acts as the unique identifier assigned to an individual’s vaccination record.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

 158. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore Information on Jennifer  Whitmore Zoom on Jennifer  Whitmore asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the plans in place to reform the current pathway for trans healthcare for persons under 18 years of age who currently must go through CAMHS which does not have the experience to deal with gender dysphoria; the plans in place to establish a gender service in Ireland for those under 18 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21001/21]

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

Medicinal Products

 159. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if clarification will be provided on a matter regarding long-term immunosuppressants group 4 in relation to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21004/21]

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

 160. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly when he plans to review the restrictions that apply to the numbers that can attend weddings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21007/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Level 5 restrictive measures currently remain in place. Any measures introduced at any level of the Plan 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.

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 easing of measures is on enabling more outdoor activities in order to improve the health and wellbeing of society. The situation will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation, the impact of the reopening of priority services, and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness. The NPHET and the Government will consider the position again at the end of this month and it is anticipated that a roadmap for the further easing of measures over the coming months will be agreed, including in relation to weddings.

Significant progress has been made on suppressing the virus due to the huge effort of our citizens. By working together, we have saved lives and limited the impact of the disease on society in Ireland. We all must continue to do everything possible to avoid the virus spreading.

The Government's guidelines for weddings at all levels of the Framework are available at: www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 161. Deputy Cathal Crowe Information on Cathal Crowe Zoom on Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if a directive will be issued to operators of caravan and mobile home parks on a potential safe reopening date for their residents; and if those who own a mobile home within their own county will be permitted to visit and stay in the home during the county boundary restrictions on travel. [21013/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Level 5 restrictive measures currently remain in place. Any measures introduced at any level of the Plan 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.

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 easing of measures is on enabling more outdoor activities in order to improve the health and wellbeing of society. The situation will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation, the impact of the reopening of priority services, and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness. The NPHET and the Government will consider the position again at the end of this month and it is anticipated that a roadmap for the further easing of measures over the coming months will be agreed.

Significant progress has been made on suppressing the virus due to the huge effort of our citizens. By working together, we have saved lives and limited the impact of the disease on society in Ireland. We all must continue to do everything possible to avoid the virus spreading.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 162. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly if clarification will be provided on a matter (details supplied) in relation to a fully vaccinated person coming into the country who now does not have to quarantine but they will be travelling with their two children who are not vaccinated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21014/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As per the Health Act 1947 (Exempted Traveller) (COVID-19) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2021, persons who are fully vaccinated, as well as any dependents who accompany them, are now exempt from the requirement to undergo quarantine in a designated facility. All such persons and dependents are however still required to adhere to all other current travel and public health advice, including the need to quarantine at home or in a suitable location, following their arrival.

It is important to note that such persons are considered fully vaccinated only when they have received all required doses of a European Medicines Agency approved vaccine and that the required amount of days have passed since their final dose of that vaccine. It should also be noted that the required amount of days varies by vaccine.

The Government continues to evaluate wider policy on international travel as informed by the epidemiological situation and public health advice, including the possibility of future exemptions.

Neither I as Minister for Health nor my Department have a role in decisions relating to whether individual persons must enter mandatory quarantine or whether individual persons are exempted travellers. All such decisions are to be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Health Services Staff

 163. 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 clarity will be provided on the pay restoration in section 39 workplaces (details supplied); and if those workers excluded from this process will be included in the new process during the second round of discussions which begin in May 2021. [21015/21]

 176. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly his plans to ensure issues (details supplied) regarding section 39 pay restoration are addressed. [21024/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 176 together.

In October 2018, an agreement was reached by the parties at the Workplace Relations Commission in relation to a process of pay restoration for staff employed in a pilot group of 50 section 39 organisations who are funded by way of a Service Level Agreement (SLA). A further WRC agreement followed in December 2020 in relation to a final phase of 250 SLA funded organisations who were identified as part of the earlier agreement.

The objective of the pay restoration exercise is to restore pay reductions made to those eligible employees at a certain point in time. It is not an exercise to facilitate pay progression.

Only organisations who received in excess of an agreed, specified amount from the HSE by way of the Service Level Agreement process were included in this section 39 pay restoration exercise. Grant aid organisations were not included in this process. Pay restoration is absolutely limited and only applicable to those included in the WRC agreement.

I can confirm that there is no scope to revisit the eligibility criteria for the process. Any further discussion will relate solely to those organisations identified in the WRC agreement.

Disabilities Data

 164. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons with disabilities in receipt of home support hours in each LHO area as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available; the number currently on the waiting list for same in each LHO area; and the number waiting 0 to 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months in tabular form. [21030/21]

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, as soon as possible.

Disabilities Data

 165. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons with disabilities in receipt of personal assistance hours in each LHO area as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available; and the number waiting 0 to 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 12 and more than 12 months in tabular form. [21031/21]

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, as soon as possible.

Disabilities Data

 166. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of residential places for persons with a disability currently being provided as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available by CHO in tabular form. [21032/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.

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

Disabilities Data

 167. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of new emergency places provided to persons with a disability as of 1 April 2021, by LHO in tabular form. [21033/21]

Minister for Health (Deputy Stephen Donnelly): Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.

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

Disabilities Data

 168. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of children as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available that were awaiting a first assessment from the HSE under the Disability Act 2005, in each LHO area in tabular form. [21016/21]

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, the PQ has been referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy.

Physiotherapy Services

 169. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons on the physiotherapy waiting list in each local health area as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available; the number waiting less than 4, 4 to 12 and more than 12 months; and the number waiting aged 0 to 4, 5 to 17, 18 to 64 and aged 65 plus in each category in tabular form. [21017/21]

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.

Speech and Language Therapy

 170. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons on the speech and language therapy assessment waiting list in each local health area as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available; the number waiting less than 4, 4 to 12 and more than 12 months; and the number waiting aged 0 to 17 and 18 years of age and above in each category in tabular form. [21018/21]

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.

Speech and Language Therapy

 171. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly the number of persons on the speech and language therapy initial treatment waiting list in each local health area as of 1 April 2021 or the latest date available; the number waiting less than 4, 4 to 12 and more than 12 months; and the number waiting aged 0 to 17 years and those aged 18 years of age and above in each category in tabular form. [21019/21]

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, the PQ has been referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy.


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