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Covid-19, Mental Health and Older People: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1006 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] I have already raised this with some hospital managers. The justification is that the computer systems are not talking to each other. Since the test carried out in the community by the HSE is not accessible by the hospital, the hospital is insisting on a separate test being carried out. Hospitals will not accept the text message that comes back from the HSE. This is a procedural bureaucratic issue that is putting additional hardship on patients in advance of going in for a hospital procedure. It is exposing our acute hospitals to unnecessary and additional risk in the context of Covid-19 infection. I want to see this issue addressed.

I have another comment on the issue of bureaucracy. On 21 April, the Minister for Health replied to Parliamentary Question No. 2083 with a the list of vaccines that would mean people who are fully vaccinated have an exemption from mandatory hotel quarantine. Included in that list is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. If a person has it in advance of coming into the country, then 15 days after the second dose the person is exempt from mandatory hotel quarantine. Nowhere in the reply to which I refer is there a reference to where the vaccine is manufactured. It is only when we get into the detail that we find out. The Department of Foreign Affairs has informed an Irish citizen that four versions of European Medicines Agency approved vaccines are manufactured under licence by other companies and that these do not qualify for exemption in the context of the mandatory quarantine. We are saying that these vaccines are good enough to be used in this country to inoculate people. However, versions that are manufactured in facilities elsewhere will not be accepted for the purposes of mandatory quarantine. For example, the manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the Serum Institute will not be accepted as exempt in the context of mandatory quarantine, even though anyone inoculated with it is considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19. As a result of the location in which the vaccine is manufactured, it is not being accepted. That needs to be changed in the context of mandatory quarantine.

There is a third issue I want to raise. On Friday night last, a constituent of mine who was in mandatory quarantine was in unbearable pain. The person contacted reception at the quarantine facility seeking medical help. A nurse called to the room but told the person she would be unable to issue any medicine, including paracetamol. The person was informed that a nurse would call the following morning to facilitate the ordering of pain relief. Eventually, after contacting reception again on Saturday morning, the medicine was ordered at 2 p.m. It was only after further calls to reception seeking the assistance of a doctor that the medicine arrived at 9.40 p.m. That was 24 hours after the person first reported being in unbearable pain. No doctor ever arrived and no vital signs were checked. The person was told that the nurse would be back later that night to check the vital signs. It is 110 hours since the commitment was given but no doctor has arrived and no vital signs have been checked. What medical service is available to people who are being quarantined? The constituent in question came here from quarantine in New Zealand, where they were checked on every day by nursing staff. The person's temperature was checked every day. Yet, this person could not access paracetamol or get access to a doctor in quarantine here and their vital signs were not checked. There is something wrong with the system.

There is a final point that I would like to bring to the attention of the Government. It relates to the trauma report approved this week by Cabinet designating the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital as the major trauma centre in this country, something I very much welcome. However, there is a fundamental issue here. How do we get patients to the trauma centres in the Mater Hospital or in Cork? We have not been investing in our ambulance service. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, has already said that ten ambulances are involved in the vaccination of the housebound. That number is being doubled to 20. This means 20 ambulances are being taken off our roads. We do not have an effective air ambulance service. We are centralising the trauma services but not figuring out how we are going to get ill patients into those hospitals.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Can I have a few minutes to respond?

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The Minister of State will have time at the end.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler Unfortunately, the Deputies are asking many questions and I will have no time to respond.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart I know that but the Minister of State will have time.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Unfortunately, the senior Minister is not here.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler I wish to make a point of order. We are dealing with Dáil statements on the impact of Covid-19 on mental health and older people. That is what is happening today.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten It has been agreed by the Business Committee that all issues relevant to Covid-19 can be raised here. The Ceann Comhairle can clarify that for the House.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart The Acting Chairman can clarify that Deputy Niamh Smyth is the next speaker.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I begin by congratulating our colleague, the Minister for Justice, and her husband, Paul, on the birth of their new baby boy. It is wonderful news and of course she is making history.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, for all the tremendous work she is doing for mental health and older people. She has hit the ground running in her Department and the areas under her remit and delivery. I can vouch for that. I think that the tenor of the previous contribution was most unfair.

I would like to speak today about mental health, especially mental health services for Cavan and Monaghan. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of State to the fact that we are lucky to have seen a new SOSAD branch open in Monaghan town. I acknowledge the work of Margaret McGowan and her team in SOSAD in Monaghan. A new service is open this week and I know that will be a terrific advancement in services in Cavan and Monaghan. We have the service in Cavan as well. The Minister of State kindly joined a Zoom meeting last October with all the stakeholders within Cavan and Monaghan. It involved those who are at the coalface of delivering a service and, more important, support for those affected by suicide and mental health issues. As the Minister of State knows, we have a great team of people there. At that meeting, some issues were raised with her and I hope we can progress them a little.

I listened to my colleague, Deputy Cahill, earlier. He talked about the delivery by the Minister of State of the Jigsaw service for Tipperary. Will the Minister of State assist in ensuring that we get the delivery of that type of service for Cavan and Monaghan? I am not exaggerating when I say we have an acute need for the service, especially for young people across the constituency.

My time is limited. I wanted to mention the suicide crisis assessment nurse post. I believe the role is very useful and helpful for people in community healthcare organisations. I am also asking for more primary care. I wish to remind the Minister of State that I have written to her on the matter. I am seeking a reply on the jigsaw element and I would appreciate a response.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I wish to raise a point of order. I have two minutes. Can I ask the Minister of State to answer my question in those two minutes?

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Absolutely.

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I will use one minute and leave one minute for the Minister of State to respond. I want to bring up one specific matter. Mental health issues cross every age group and cohort. I want to zone in on a particular group. I am referring to the young students and office workers who are working from their bedrooms. I am certain that this is a hidden mental health issue. I want to know what the Minister of State is doing to ensure that when this cohort - the students and workers who are operating from their bedrooms - come out of the pandemic, they will be able to go back into the office environment. Social interaction is vital. What specific policy initiative is the Minister of State pursuing to ensure that this issue is addressed?

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The Deputy raises a valid point. I have a 23-year-old daughter who has been working from the bedroom for the past 14 months. She is looking forward to getting back into the workplace.

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