Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 30, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 31 to 77, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 78 to 86, inclusive, answered orally.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the provision of adequate surgical and medical beds in the future with particular reference to increased requirements during the winter months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35453/05]

John Gormley

Question:

128 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of the 3,000 promised beds which have been delivered; the time line for the delivery of beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35446/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

165 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in view of the Government’s stated commitment to providing an extra 3,000 beds and of Professor Drumm’s statements on the lack of need for extra beds in the health service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35457/05]

Phil Hogan

Question:

168 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date on the 1,000 bed plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35389/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87, 128, 165 and 168 together.

The Health Service Executive, HSE, is advancing the implementation of a series of measures to improve the delivery of accident and emergency services. These measures take a wide-ranging approach and are aimed at improving access to accident and emergency services, improving patient flows through accident and emergency departments, freeing up acute beds and providing appropriate longer-term care for patients outside of the acute hospital setting.

A particular focus has been placed on those patients in acute hospitals who have completed their acute phase of treatment and are ready for discharge to a more appropriate setting. The HSE is making sustained efforts to arrange for the discharge of these patients in order to have more acute beds available in hospital for emergency patients.

New and extended units have been funded through the ten point accident and emergency plan. The following initiatives have been taken with regard to care of the elderly: 48 high dependency beds have been contracted in private nursing homes for those patients with more demanding care needs; 427 patients have been discharged through 100 intermediate care beds for six to eight weeks stays since contracts with private providers commenced in May; 70 long-term patients in St. Mary's, Phoenix Park, have been transferred to private nursing homes. The beds freed up has allowed for the discharge from the Mater Hospital and Beaumont Hospital of 35 high dependency patients each; 45 public long stay beds in nursing facilities on the southside of Dublin have re-opened; additional home care packages and enhanced subventions have facilitated the discharge of 429 patients in the Dublin area.

An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to expand public hospital beds in line with the health strategy commitment to increase total acute hospital bed capacity by 3,000 by 2011. Substantial investment in additional bed capacity in acute hospitals has already taken place. Funding has been provided to open an additional 900 inpatient beds-day places in public acute hospitals throughout the country. The HSE has informed my Department that as of 14 October 2005, 806 of these beds-day places were in place and the remaining 94 beds-day places will come on stream over the coming months.

In addition, a further 450 acute bed-day places are in various stages of planning and development under the capital investment framework 2005-09. The recently published Estimates include €60 million to open new acute hospital facilities some of which will provide additional beds. I announced in July this year an initiative which will provide up to 1,000 additional beds for public patients in public hospitals over the next five years. These additional beds-day places will go most of the way to achieving our commitment in the programme for Government to increase total acute hospital capacity.

Hospital Staff.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

88 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a consultant urologist will be appointed; when a urology unit will be established at Mayo General Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the situation where patients have to wait in excess of three years for assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35129/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of hospital services which is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE. The HSE has informed me that there are three consultant urologists based at University College Hospital, Galway who provide a urology service for the region. These consultants provide outpatient clinics at Mayo General and at the County Hospital, Roscommon.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund, as part of its outpatient waiting list initiative has taken 250 patients off the urology outpatient waiting list in the region since the beginning of October this year. It has also provided inpatient treatment for 286 urology patients from the region this year. The National Treatment Purchase Fund will continue to source inpatient and outpatient services for urology patients on waiting lists at Mayo General Hospital.

I also understand that the National Hospitals Office-Comhairle is examining the existing arrangement for the provision of consultant urological services nationally with a view to making recommendations on the future organisation and development of urological services.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

89 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the situation regarding cardiology services in County Kerry where the national cardiovascular strategy recommended a full-time cardiology appointment to Kerry General Hospital as a matter of priority in 2003; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is 0.4 cardiologist in Kerry for a population of 126,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35461/05]

In April 2004 funding of €500,000 was allocated to the former Southern Health Board under the cardiovascular health strategy. The funding enabled the board to establish a consultant-led cardiology service for patients in Kerry for the first time. A consultant cardiologist was appointed in March 2005 by way of a sessional partnership between Bon Secours Hospital Tralee and Kerry General Hospital. I understand that an application has been forwarded to the National Hospitals Office-Comhairle na nOspidéal to seek approval and funding for a full time consultant cardiologist post for Kerry General Hospital.

Hospital Accommodation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

90 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which she reconciles the fact that public hospitals have extra capacity for elective surgery when the surgery comes under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35414/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

101 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the recent report from the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35378/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General the way in which a hospital with a long waiting list for operations can have the spare capacity to do private work; if these hospitals, if funded properly, could do the same work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35410/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 101 and 108 together.

In the context of his examination of my Department's appropriation account for 2004, the Comptroller and Auditor General carried out a review of the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, in 2004. The responses from the fund and my Department to the issues raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report have been fully recorded in the text of the report and are a matter of public record.

The NTPF was established as one of the key actions for dealing with public hospital waiting lists arising from the 2001 health strategy. The strategy envisaged that the NTPF might also make use of any capacity within public hospitals to arrange treatment for public patients. It was recognised that during the start-up phase of the fund, the use of public capacity could account for 30% of total NTPF activity, once public core service planned activity was not compromised. The Department has recently advised NTPF that use by the fund of public facilities should be limited to 10% of its total referrals for treatment.

Elective activity in hospitals does not take place 24 hours per day and seven days a week. Therefore, using theatres and beds outside of normal working hours is one way of creating extra elective capacity in the public system. There are several reasons it was imperative for the fund to use public capacity for shortening waiting times for surgery. It is acknowledged that minimal paediatrics capacity exists in the private sector. In order to offer the benefits of NTPF to children there may be no other option but to utilise spare capacity.

Other situations that compelled the use of public or in-house capacity were cases where, for reasons of clinical or patient complexity, it was clearly best practice to have certain patients treated by their own consultant in the hospital where they were on the waiting list. Not to have used this facility would have effectively barred this cohort of patients from accessing the NTPF scheme.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

91 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if figures can be provided to explain the discrepancy between Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 7 April 2004 and the Health Service Executive’s business plan 2005 which shows a cutback of 2 million hours of home help in 2004 and to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35392/05]

With reference to Parliamentary Question No. 27, note the 2004 figure of 8.9 million home help hours relates to projected figures for year end 2004. In some cases due to different recording mechanisms in different HSE areas some home help figures also incorporated home help hours inclusive of all disciplines, that is, mental health, disabilities, children and families.

The 6.9 million home help hours figure in the 2005 national service plan section for older people, which referred to activity for last year and this year, relates only to older persons and, therefore, that figure and the 8.9 million are not comparable. Also, the HSE on examining the figures in the national service plan 2005 realised that the 6.9 million was understated by 665,821 hours and the national figure should be more than 7.5 million for this year for older persons.

Given that there have been difficulties in collating information nationally the necessary revisions are being made to systems and procedures by the HSE to ensure that routine information can be produced which verifies for the purposes of public accountability and management decision-making the level of home help service delivered on an ongoing basis.

Health Service Staff.

Simon Coveney

Question:

92 Mr. Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of staff that have been recruited under the 2001 primary care strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35375/05]

Employment information is collected by my Department every quarter on the basis of grade and employing agency and does not include any data on a programme by programme basis as requested by the Deputy. The latest available verified data is in respect of end-June 2005, when employment levels stood at 100,934 personnel in whole-time equivalent terms. The Deputy may wish to note that, since end-2001 there has been an increase in the level of employment in the health services generally of 10,632, or 11.8%, excluding home helps.

The implementation of the primary care strategy is first and foremost about developing new ways of working and of reorganising the resources already in the system in line with the service model described in the strategy. It is in that context that additional staffing resources can be deployed to best effect. The whole-system nature of the approach to implementation is such that change will be required in many sectors in the health service, and not solely within primary care itself. It is therefore neither feasible nor appropriate to attribute particular appointments to the primary care strategy.

To support the continued development of primary care services in line with the principles of the strategy, the Government is providing an additional €16 million in 2006. Among the developments this funding will permit is the appointment of some 300 additional front-line personnel to work alongside general practitioners in the improved delivery of community primary care services. The additional resources will be invested to ensure that they are focused on meaningful developments with maximum front-line impact.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

93 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the review of the ambulance command and control centre in central Dublin which called for the establishment of a joint ambulance control in Dublin staffed by the Dublin fire brigade and Health Service Executive staff if this report has been dismissed; the report which she expects to receive from the Health Service Executive on this matter; the levels of involvement of staff in any report on this subject; the interim measures which are to put in place to ensure that the concerns from the Devine report are addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35475/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, under the Health Act 2004. As part of the reform of the health service a national ambulance office has been established under the auspices of the National Hospitals Office within the HSE. The office has responsibility for the provision of pre-hospital emergency care nationally.

Ambulance services in the eastern region are provided by the HSE and Dublin City Council through Dublin fire brigade, DFB. The HSE eastern regional area provides services in Counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow, while the DFB largely operates in Dublin city under an arrangement with the executive. The HSE has overall responsibility for the provision of ambulance services and allocates funding annually to Dublin City Council.

In 2004, the former Eastern Regional Health Authority commissioned an external review of an integration agreement relating to the operation of the ambulance command and control centre at Townsend Street, Dublin. The centre is staffed by ambulance personnel from the HSE and the DFB. The review was commissioned arising from difficulties which had arisen in operating the centre in a fully integrated fashion. The review was conducted by an independent management consultant and was completed earlier this year.

The principal recommendation arising from the review was that discussions should take place at senior management level between Dublin City Council and the Health Service Executive. Among the issues recommended for consideration were: the need to establish a fully integrated joint ambulance control based in Townsend Street, staffed jointly by the HSE and DFB; the need to ensure that previously agreed protocols on the dispatch of emergency ambulance services are implemented and monitored; and the need for a single information and communication technology system to be introduced for the dispatch of emergency ambulances.

The review further recommended that, in the absence of agreement to the resolution of difficulties which have arisen in the operation of a fully integrated centre, the HSE should commission a risk management audit to assess the risks to patients arising from a continuation of the existing arrangements at Townsend Street.

My Department is advised that the National Hospitals Office and Dublin City Council have met to discuss the implications of the report and have recently established a senior management group as recommended. The executive has advised that the findings of the external review will be considered, in conjunction with other relevant reports, by the senior management group. The executive has further advised that ambulance personnel will be given the opportunity to make submissions to the group in advance of any recommendations being finalised and that they will also be asked to participate in the development of any implementation plans resulting from the work of the group.

I hope any difficulties which have arisen in delivering a fully integrated response by the ambulance service in the eastern region can be resolved quickly by the HSE in conjunction with Dublin City Council and other relevant parties. I also consider that risk management-audit should form an integral part of any future arrangements governing the provision of ambulance services both in the eastern region and nationally. I will continue to seek reassurance from the HSE that any current difficulties are not compromising in any way the provision of a timely and quality response by the ambulance service to persons in the eastern region.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

94 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to reduce the waiting lists for neuroservices in Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35399/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

129 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds dedicated to neuroservices in Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35401/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

146 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of investment that her Department has given to neuroservices in Beaumont Hospital since 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35400/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 129, and 146 together.

The Deputies' questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department is advised by the HSE that in the period 1997 to 2004 the total expenditure on inpatient and outpatient neuroscience services at Beaumont Hospital was almost €194 million. The HSE has also advised that there are currently 30 beds allocated to neurology and 90 beds allocated to neurosurgery at Beaumont.

There are currently six consultant neurosurgeons in the department of neurosurgery at Beaumont. The HSE is currently in discussions with the hospital in relation to a seventh consultant neurosurgery post on the basis of increasing demands and workload.

So far this year, the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, has arranged treatment for some 234 patients who had been awaiting neurosurgical procedures at Beaumont. Comhairle na nOspidéal is currently finalising its review of neurosurgical services to assess the future national requirements for this service. As part of this review, it is examining future resource requirements in terms of consultant and support staffing, inpatient, adult and paediatric beds and specialised services, including ICU. The findings from this report will inform future investment decisions in the service.

The Comhairle report on neurology and neurophysiology services, published in April 2003, recommended significant enhancement of these services, including increases in consultant staffing. Since the publication of the report, two additional consultant neurology posts have been approved bringing the total to 16. Two consultant neurophysiology posts have also been approved, one of which is a new post shared between Beaumont Hospital and Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown.

Additional funding was made available in 2005 to support the development of neurology-neurophysiology services in the eastern, the north western, the mid-western and the southern regions, having regard to agreed priorities. In 2006, additional funding of €3 million is being allocated specifically for the further development of neurology and neurophysiology services. The additional funding will allow the Health Service Executive to further progress the implementation of the Comhairle recommendations in respect of this service.

Hospital Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

95 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on a report that Irish hospital consultants earn five times the average income here compared with just twice the average income in Norway and just under three times in Germany; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this does not include additional income from private practice which can be higher again; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35464/05]

The OECD report, Health at a Glance, to which the Deputy refers, states that data gathering and calculation methods vary across countries and therefore warns that "cross-country variations in remuneration levels should be interpreted with a lot of caution". In Ireland, hospital consultants' salaries are determined by the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector. This is an independent body established in 1969 to act as a standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government from time to time on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to hospital consultants and other high level public sector posts. The Government is committed to implementing pay increases as recommended by this review body. The most recent report of this review body is Report No. 40, the O'Brien report, which recommended a 7.5% increase to consultant salaries. Consultant salaries also receive general pay round increases in line with other public sector posts.

The basic salary for consultants holding the 1997 common contract ranges from €129,000 to €168,000, excluding allowances. Consultants with contracts which substantially restrict access to private fees — geographical whole-time without fees and category I contracts — receive higher public salaries but earn less from private practice. Consultants with greater access to private fees hold the category II contract and receive lower public salaries.

The Deputy will be aware that negotiations will commence very shortly on a new consultant contract. One of the objectives of a new contract will be to achieve a much greater degree of precision in the contractual arrangements between health service employers and this valued, highly skilled and highly paid group of employees and, in particular, agreement to changes in consultants' work practices for the benefit of patients. This should also cover integral involvement of consultants in governance, management and accountability frameworks in acute public hospitals.

Health Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

96 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 250 new clients have contacted the support organisation One in Four since the Ferns Report; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the Rape Crisis Centre has seen a 50% increase in calls across the country seeking help; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35472/05]

I am aware that since the publication of the Ferns Report a significant number of additional clients have contacted One In Four and the Rape Crisis Centre. The Taoiseach and I met One in Four on Thursday last. My Department has been in contact with the HSE concerning its response to these issues. These contacts will continue including monitoring that the necessary services are provided effectively and appropriately to those who need them.

The Government responded positively to the publication of the Ferns Report and accepted all of its recommendations. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and I jointly announced the setting up of a commission of investigation which will examine these issues in the Dublin Archdiocese and as appropriate in other dioceses in the State.

The publication of the Ferns Report and associated media coverage has been a distressing experience for many individuals, both those directly affected and their immediate family members. At a time of raised public awareness many individuals feel especially vulnerable and reach out for assistance.

In each region the HSE provides a professional counselling service within the framework of the national counselling service. This service provides expert counselling and psychotherapeutic support for individuals who are victims of previous abuse. The HSE also supports the work of a number of partner agencies with a specialist skill in this area, including the Rape Crisis Centre and One in Four. The HSE provide funding for these services in the context of service level agreements. The level of service demand and usage is monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. The national counselling service is a community based service for adults who were hurt by childhood abuse in Ireland. The NCS is a free, confidential service.

All counsellors employed by the national counselling service are health care professionals from clinical backgrounds such as medicine, nursing, social work and psychology. All counsellors are accredited and are committed to providing an excellent quality service. They have considerable experience in dealing with a broad range of issues including, child abuse, sexual, physical, emotional and neglect, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt and shame, post traumatic stress disorder, relationship difficulties, suicidal feelings, fear, eating disorders and mental health problems. The national counselling service offers individual counselling, couple counselling, counselling for family members, group therapy and information about other services within the community.

Infectious Diseases.

Dan Boyle

Question:

97 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if MRSA will become a notifiable disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35447/05]

John Gormley

Question:

208 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if MRSA will become a notifiable disease; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35665/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 208 together.

MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a resistant form of staphylococcus aureus. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HPSC, formerly known as the National Disease Surveillance Centre collects data on MRSA bacteraemia also known as blood stream infection or blood poisoning as part of the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, EARSS. Since 1 January 2004, MRSA bacteraemia is now included in the revised list of notifiable diseases under the infectious diseases regulations. The reporting process for MRSA bacteraemia remains the same for now, that is, direct reporting to the HPSC via the EARSS protocol which is done on a quarterly basis.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

98 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will clarify that the waiting times for procedures under the National Treatment Purchase Fund is three months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35413/05]

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has reported that in most instances anyone waiting more than three months for a routine surgical procedure will be facilitated by the fund. A patient may contact the fund directly or through his or her general practitioner, hospital or consultant to have his or her treatment arranged. The fund has pointed out, however, that in certain cases, for reasons of clinical or patient complexity, it may not be possible for the fund to arrange treatment immediately.

Up to the end of October, 36,300 patients have had treatment arranged for them by the National Treatment Purchase Fund. The fund has made significant progress in reducing waiting times for patients.

I launched the NTPF new patient treatment register, PTR, in early September. The PTR is a new national database of patients waiting for admission to hospital for treatment. The register will allow for more accurate identification of waiting lists, and more importantly, waiting times. The first phase of the register was implemented in September 2005. Phase 1 of the project includes data from seven hospitals which, under the previous waiting list system, accounted for approximately 40% of the total number of patients waiting nationally. The published data for the seven hospitals showed that, on average, patients are waiting between two to four months for their operation for 17 out of the 20 most common surgical procedures.

Departmental Funding.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

99 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the nature of the relationship between her Department and the Nutrition and Health Foundation; if taxpayers’ money is going to this organisation; if her Department fully endorsed this new organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35442/05]

There is no formal relationship between my Department and the Nutrition and Health Foundation. My Department has not given money to this organisation and has not endorsed it.

Hospital Transfer.

Joe Costello

Question:

100 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to transfer the Central Mental Hospital to the Thornton Hall site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29766/05]

In 2003, the Minister for Health and Children established a project team, chaired by the former East Coast Area Health Board, to progress the re-development of the Central Mental Hospital. The team reported to the Department of Health and Children via the former Eastern Regional Health Authority in May 2004 and recommended that the Central Mental Hospital be relocated to a new purpose built facility in the greater Dublin area, as this was judged to be the most appropriate option for delivery of patient care. In November 2004, the Government decided in principle to develop the new Central Mental Hospital adjacent to the new Mountjoy Prison replacement complex.

I emphasise that the new Central Mental Hospital will be a health facility, providing a therapeutic forensic psychiatric service to the highest international standards in a state-of-the-art-building. The hospital will remain under the aegis of the Department of Health and Children and will be owned and managed by the Health Service Executive. Furthermore, I have asked my officials to examine the option of providing a separate governance structure for the hospital, by way of its own board, reflecting its importance as a national, tertiary psychiatric service. It is intended to develop the Central Mental Hospital, independently of the prison complex, by means of a separate capital development project, managed and directed by the Health Service Executive. A new Central Mental Hospital on the 150 acre site would have its own grounds with a separate entrance, access road and address.

My Department is preparing detailed proposals for Government in relation to the development of the new hospital and the disposal of the property at Dundrum. It is my intention that the proceeds from the sale of the existing site will go towards the provision of the new hospital in the first instance, with the balance of funds to be invested in health facilities, in particular community mental health facilities.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

102 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the mechanisms which have been put in place between her Department and the Health Service Executive to ensure equality of service is achieved between different parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35107/05]

The delivery of health services is an operational matter and is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Under section 31 of the Health Act 2004, the executive must prepare and submit to me its service plan for the coming year and must, among other things, indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services to be provided by the executive for the duration of the plan on a national basis. A dedicated unit has been established in my Department to monitor and evaluate the provision of services, including performance, monitoring of the financial position and evaluating efficiency and effectiveness. This role includes regular meetings between my Department and the executive to review progress at a national level. The issue of the provision of services on a regional basis is addressed through regular meetings between the line units of my Department and their counterparts in the executive.

Hospital Accommodation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures she will take following the revelations by the OECD that Ireland is sixth from the bottom in the ratio of acute care beds to 1,000 population as it states that Ireland has only three beds per 1,000 population compared with 12.3 in Germany; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35466/05]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

193 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures she will take following the revelations by the OECD that Ireland is among the worst rates for hospital overcrowding in Europe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35465/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 193 together.

The recently published OECD report, Health at a Glance 2005, stated that the number of acute care beds in Ireland in 2002 was three per 1,000 population and that the average occupancy rate for acute hospital beds was 84%. The average number of beds per 1,000 population in the OECD countries in 2002 was 4.2 and the average occupancy rate was 75%.

However, it should be noted that the OECD advises caution in the interpretation of the cross-country data provided in the report. Health care systems differ significantly across the range of OECD countries. The Irish data on the number of acute beds do not include acute beds located in private hospitals. Some other countries include acute beds in private hospitals and beds which may be used for long-term care.

The report points out that the number of acute hospital beds does not provide a comprehensive measure of capacity — for example, it does not capture the capacity of hospitals to provide services on a day basis. Day activity is now a significant component of hospital-based care. There has been a rapid movement in the last few years towards day case work where a variety of routine and complex treatments, surgery and diagnostic tests can now be performed with the patient being admitted and discharged from hospital on the same day. Evidence shows that much of the growth is the result of technological and medical innovations, such as less invasive surgery and advances in anaesthetics.

An Agreed Programme for Government includes a commitment to expand public hospital beds in line with the health strategy commitment to increase total acute hospital bed capacity by 3,000 by 2011. Substantial investment in additional bed capacity in acute hospitals has already taken place. Funding has been provided to open an additional 900 inpatient beds-day places in public acute hospitals throughout the country. The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that as of 14 October 2005, 806 of these beds-day places were in place and the remaining 94 beds-day places will come on stream over the coming months.

In addition, a further 450 acute beds-day places are in various stages of planning and development under the capital investment framework 2005-09. The recently published Estimates for the health services in 2006 includes provision for €60 million revenue funding to open new beds and treatment facilities throughout the country.

I announced in July this year an initiative which will provide up to 1,000 additional beds for public patients in public hospitals over the next five years. The HSE has been asked to develop an implementation plan and to prioritise proposals with reference to the public hospitals' requirement for additional bed capacity. My Department, in conjunction with the HSE, intends to review public capacity requirements in the acute hospital sector in the light of developments since the health strategy was published and the progress of the initiative I announced in July.

This Government has provided additional capacity and has plans in place to deliver an additional 2,350 inpatient beds-day places over the period of the health strategy. We will continue to advance proposals to increase capacity in the acute hospital sector to cater for the needs of the population.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

104 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Government’s failure to develop a coherent strategy for outpatient waiting lists with special regard to rheumatology, neurology, urology, orthopaedic and dermatology waiting lists will be addressed; her views on whether this urgently needs to be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35128/05]

The management of outpatient waiting lists is, in the first instance, a matter for the National Hospitals Office and the individual hospitals concerned. However, earlier this year I asked the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, to examine the position with a view to further assessing the needs of patients waiting longest on outpatient waiting lists and the most appropriate clinical pathways and protocols required for their care.

As a result the NTPF set up a number of pilot projects around the country. The intention is that the longest waiters in a number of specialties will receive consultations at outpatient level in private hospitals. It is envisaged that between 4,000 to 5,000 patients will have outpatient appointments arranged for them. Monitoring and evaluation arrangements will be put in place by the NTPF in order to assess the outcome of the out-patient pilot projects. I understand that the pilot projects are well under way and I expect to receive a report from the NTPF in due course.

Paul McGrath

Question:

105 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people awaiting neurosurgery in Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35402/05]

Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly with the information requested.

Ministerial Correspondence.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

106 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from the Irish Heart Foundation or National Heart Alliance regarding the Nutrition and Health Foundation; if the letter was critical of this new organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35441/05]

Correspondence has been received from the Irish Heart Foundation and the National Heart Alliance regarding the Nutrition and Health Foundation. In the light of the publication of the report of the national task force on obesity, my Department is currently developing an implementation plan which will involve participation of all relevant stakeholders, including the food industry.

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

107 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to address the under-resourcing of Louth County Hospital, including the need for a CT scanner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35434/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has again requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Hospital Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

109 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is fair that Irish trained nurses are failing to have their part-time contracts increased into full-time contracts at Wexford General Hospital while at the same time, foreign nurses have been brought in on short term full-time contracts; if this is happening in other hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35394/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

110 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for improved respite care here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35383/05]

The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined all issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. The group will comment on respite care for older people in this report. It is expected that the report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Primary Care Strategy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

111 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends abandoning the primary care strategy unless funding will be received from the private sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35390/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

155 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of fully operational primary care centres that have been established under the 2001 primary care strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35373/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

179 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of primary care centres that have been established under the 2001 primary care strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35372/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

189 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the primary health care strategy is still Government policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35371/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 155, 179 and 189 together.

The Government remains fully committed to the implementation of the principles in the primary care strategy. The strategy provides a template for the reform and development of primary care services over a period of ten to 15 years. The chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive has also emphasised the importance of developing our primary care services, both as the appropriate service for the delivery of the majority of people's health and social care needs and to complement services provided by our acute hospitals. This is an important priority of the executive which has my full endorsement.

Implementation of the primary care strategy will require sustained investment, over a period, to expand capacity and enable primary care to become the cornerstone of our health system. Three broad approaches will be taken to enable this to happen, namely, the substantial reorganisation of existing resources; further revenue and capital investment by the State; and a structured role for the private sector in the development of facilities and possibly also the delivery of integrated primary care services in line with national policy.

The deployment of additional resources in primary care must take place in the context of developing new ways of working and of reorganising the resources already in the system in line with the service model described in the strategy. In order to support the continued development of primary care services in line with these principles, the Government is providing an additional €16 million in 2006. The additional resources will be invested to ensure that they are focused on meaningful developments with maximum frontline impact. The extra funding will permit the appointment of some 300 additional frontline personnel to work alongside GPs in approximately 75 to 100 teams in the improved delivery of community primary care services, the establishment of an additional 22 GP training places and the further development of general practitioner out-of-hours co-operatives to enable an estimated 350,000 additional persons to benefit from such services.

Beginning in 2002, work was undertaken by the health boards, and continued by the HSE, to establish an initial group of ten primary care teams, with funding to enable existing staff resources within the public system to be augmented. These teams, which are already in operation, enable the primary care model to be demonstrated in action and also allow practical experience to be gained of the process involved in developing a primary care team and providing an expanded range of services in the community. The HSE will build on the experience gained in these ten projects as it develops team-based primary care services on a wider scale.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

112 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the stage of the tender process for out-of-hours general practitioner services in north county Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35374/05]

John Deasy

Question:

127 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to put out-of-hours services in other areas out to tender following from her decision to put the out of hours services in north Dublin out to tender; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35380/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

134 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if tenders for the out-of-hours services in north Dublin are at an advanced stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35409/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112, 127 and 134 together.

The provision of quality, responsive, accessible and patient centred general practitioner out-of-hours services is a key priority objective within the primary care strategy. Between 2000 and 2005 almost €105 million has been allocated to the Health Service Executive, HSE, to allow for the development of out-of-hours co-operatives. This does not include the fees of the participating general practitioners. As part of the 2006 Estimates, I was pleased to provide an additional €16 million for further primary care services developments, including out of hours co-operatives which will mean that approximately 2.7 million people will have access to such services.

Decisions on the geographical areas to be covered by out-of-hours co-operatives and any expansion are decisions for the Health Service Executive to make, having regard to the strategic, financial and other issues involved. In advancing the primary care strategy objective for out-of-hours services consideration will be given by the HSE to all options which will meet service needs appropriately and effectively, including competitive tendering.

The provision of more general practitioner out-of-hours services is an important element of the ten point plan for accident and emergency services. The decision of the HSE to engage in a competitive public procurement process to put in place arrangements, intended to complement and enhance existing out-of-hours general practitioner services for the North Dublin area has my support. The HSE has advised that tenders have been received and are currently being evaluated.

Hospital Staff.

Billy Timmins

Question:

113 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce public only contracts for consultants in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35420/05]

The report of the Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service, the Brennan report, recommended that the health service should "recruit a substantial proportion of Consultants on a public-only contract". The issue of the public-private mix will be one of the priority issues addressed in the impending consultant contract negotiations. In this context the recommendations of the Brennan report will inform the management position in the negotiations.

Care of the Elderly.

Willie Penrose

Question:

114 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her position with regard to residential care for the elderly, on the establishment of a statutory independent complaints and appeals procedure within the health and social services and the development of independent advocacy services for older people in residential care; the provision of more public long-term residential care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35477/05]

It is the intention of the Department to put in place a more robust regulatory system as quickly as possible to protect vulnerable older people and to provide for the highest possible standards of care for older people in long-stay facilities.

The process has begun to review the current system with a view to strengthening the powers available to those involved in inspecting facilities and to extend a strengthened inspection system to public facilities. It is intended that the Health Bill 2005 will establish both the health information and quality authority, HIQA, and the social services inspectorate, SSI, on a statutory basis and will contain provisions to underpin a more robust inspectorial system.

It is also intended that the Bill will provide for the setting and monitoring of standards for residential facilities for older people. To this end, the Department has commenced a review of the Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993 and will work in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, HSE, the SSI and other relevant bodies with the intention of developing a new set of standards that would apply to all residential services for older people.

Part 9 of the Health Act 2004 provides for the establishment of a statutory complaints framework to apply to complaints about the actions of the Health Service Executive or a service provider. Under the statutory framework provided for in the 2004 Act, an action is defined as "anything done or omitted to be done" by the HSE or by a service provider with whom it has an agreement for the provision of services. This framework initially seeks to resolve the complaint at local level but provides for access to independent review if the complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of the complaint. It also provides for access to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Office of the Ombudsman for Children if the complainant is still dissatisfied following the outcome of the review.

The provisions of the statutory framework will apply to the HSE and all service providers providing services on its behalf. There is also provision that where a person is unable to make a complaint because of illness or age or disability, a complaint may be made on his or her behalf by certain specified persons. Complaints must be made within 12 months of the actions giving rise to the complaint.

The provisions of the 2004 Act require the making of regulations to give effect to the provisions of the statutory framework. A consultation process on the handling of complaints made to the HSE was undertaken and a draft report of its findings has been received in this Department. The Tánaiste expects the final report to be available shortly. The report will greatly assist this Department in the drafting of the regulations.

The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined all issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. It is expected that the report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future. The group will comment on residential care for older people in this report.

Hospital Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

115 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when Comhairle na nOspidéal will report on the review of neurosurgery services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35398/05]

At the request of the Department of Health and Children, a committee was established by Comhairle na nOspidéal to review the existing arrangements for the provision of neurosurgical services and consultant staffing nationally and, following consultation with the interests concerned, to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of neurosurgical services. My Department has been informed that the national hospitals office, Comhairle, is in the process of completing its report.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Pat Breen

Question:

116 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in 2005 in reducing the waiting lists for diabetes consultants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35369/05]

The management of outpatient waiting lists is, in the first instance, a matter for the national hospitals office of the Health Service Executive, HSE, and the individual hospitals concerned. My Department has, therefore, asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to reply to the Deputy directly in relation to this matter.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

117 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she supports the retention and development of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35436/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

265 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the proposed plan for Crumlin Children’s Hospital; the provision for a new hospital; the timeframe for a new hospital; the location of the new hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35539/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 265 together.

It has been accepted that the current infrastructure at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children does not generally meet the standards required for a modern paediatric hospital. The available facilities do not satisfactorily accommodate the range and extent of current clinical and associated activity. In recognition of this, a project team was established to plan for the overall future development of Our Lady's Hospital, either on the existing hospital site or at an alternative green field location.

The project team has undertaken a detailed examination of the potential to redevelop the hospital on its present site. The project team concluded that the existing clinical services could be retained and developed on the present site but also set out the implications of such an approach in terms of time, cost and disruption to services. As a consequence, it is likely that the new hospital will be located at an alternative site.

I have asked the Health Service Executive to arrange for a review to be undertaken of highly specialised paediatric services to ensure that they are provided in the most efficient and effective manner. The outcome of this review will help to inform the decision in the range of services to be provided at the new Crumlin hospital. I expect this review to be completed as a matter of urgency.

It is proposed, when the review has been completed, that a site option appraisal study will be carried out, the focus of which will be to evaluate the options for the relocation of the hospital, leading to the acquisition of an alternative site, if such is recommended by the process. The study will be subject to public tendering procedures.

Pending final decisions with regard to the future location of the hospital, three clinical departments have been identified as requiring urgent upgrade or expansion. The three departments are haematology-oncology, radiology, including MRI, and cardiology. The haematology-oncology project consists of the provision of new accommodation for day and outpatient services. The radiology project will provide new MRI facilities in Crumlin. The cardiology project will provide dedicated inpatient cardiac beds, together with diagnostic, outpatient and administration facilities. Additional revenue funding is required in 2006 to commission the MRI facilities and I confirm that this funding is available to the Health Service Executive.

Health Service Executive.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

118 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the widespread unease within the Health Service Executive at the repeated changes in administrative structures that have dogged the Health Service Executive; her views on whether it was foolhardy to establish the Health Service Executive without a CEO in place; the measures she is taking to ensure no industrial action will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35485/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

185 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the restructuring of top level positions in the Health Service Executive, its impact on staff and service delivery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35367/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 185 together.

I decided to proceed with the establishment of the Health Service Executive, HSE, with effect from 1 January 2005 to ensure that the momentum of the health service reform programme was maintained. Arrangements were put in place to underpin this. The chairman of the interim HSE was appointed as interim chief executive officer until such time as a CEO was appointed. In addition the chief executive officers of the former health boards played a lead role in facilitating the transfer of accountability and ensuring a safe passage to the new structures. Those CEOs who had not taken up other positions in the HSE agreed to remain in post until 15 June 2005 as chief officers for their respective areas. Professor Brendan Drumm took up appointment as chief executive officer on 15 August 2005.

An agreement was reached in December 2004 between the HSE and IMPACT, the union representing senior managers in the health boards, to assist co-operation with the new structures and the reforms generally and to provide for a genuine working partnership between IMPACT and the HSE in the interests of the users of services and the staff who ensure their provision.

I am advised that processes aimed at resolving any emerging difficulties are in place across the range of functional areas which form part of the HSE. In addition the HSE intends to have a communications and organisational development strategy in place from the start of next year and will seek to approach this in a participative fashion with IMPACT and other trade unions.

Significant progress has been made in bringing the HSE organisational structure to life and some restructuring has been necessary as the organisation bedded down and the health reform process took root. Decisions on the organisational structure are designed to: accelerate the pace of change within the HSE; involve clinical practitioners and patients in the development and monitoring of healthcare strategies; quickly deliver more relevant services to patients and clients; promote full and seamless integration between the main service-delivery units, National Hospitals Office and primary, community and continuing care, ensuring that patients can access services easily and that service-delivery is simplified; and provide greater job satisfaction to staff.

In this context, an assessment has been made by the HSE in relation to the organisation of acute hospital services on the basis of ten networks and all other health services on the basis of four regions. Reconfiguring the administrative regions in relation to acute hospitals has been identified as one of the revisions needed.

Reform of this magnitude will not be without some initial teething problems. However, we are already beginning to see the value of this fundamental reform in terms of accountability and decision-making with the HSE having both management and financial responsibility for our health service operations. I am determined that the pace of health reform matches the pace of funding increases. This is the key to ensuring better services, better value for money and taxpayers' support for further health spending increases.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

119 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients in County Kerry waiting for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35451/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply in relation to this matter issued directly to him.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

120 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost to date of the Lorenzo system; the amount consultants have been paid to introduce this system to date; if consultants have been retained to work on this system; when it is expected to be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35438/05]

I have been informed by the HSE that iSOFT is a major international supplier of IT systems to health care. It has a substantial portfolio of products and it has a product development programme known as Lorenzo. I am informed that under the terms of the HSE's contract with iSOFT, the company has already delivered its current version of the software and the implementation of this suite is under way for sites that must urgently replace their existing systems. However, the contract also provides for the HSE to have access to the new version of the system produced under the Lorenzo programme and I understand that work will begin on its implementation in St. Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny in January 2006 with an expected go live date in early 2007.

The HSE has informed me that the cost to date of the iSOFT project is €5.6 million. Of this, €4.3 million has been paid to iSOFT for software licences, implementation services and support. The remainder of the cost was principally for computer hardware and the internal implementation costs in the HSE areas and that none of this cost is in respect of consultants employed to introduce or to assist in introducing the system in 2005. The HSE has further advised that around €60,000 of this cost refers to consultancy and legal fees associated with the final stages of the procurement and contract process, including the cost of a financial due diligence of iSOFT in advance of entering into the contract.

The HSE has informed me that iSOFT personnel are providing the necessary technical services associated with deployment of their system and there are no other consultants involved. The cost of these services in 2005 is included in the above figure. Similarly the cost of these services is included in the overall ten year contract price of €56 million. The HSE's proposal is to deploy a standard version of the iSOFT system across all its hospitals over the next five years and to develop and enhance this over the full ten year term of the contract.

Hospital Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

121 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on recent reports that more than 10,000 surgical operations were cancelled in the first half of 2005 due to a shortage of beds and staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35411/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

162 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 80 operations and other scheduled procedures are cancelled every day in hospitals around the country due to shortages of beds and staff; the measures she intends to take following the figures that reveal that 10,368 treatments have been postponed or cancelled in the period between January and June in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35455/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 162 together.

It is regrettable that some patients have had their operations postponed as this can cause inconvenience and stress for some of those patients. Due to the nature of the demands on the acute hospital system, in some instances, it is necessary to reschedule planned treatment when priority has to be given to emergency cases or for a variety of other reasons such as infection control.

The figure of 10,368 postponed cases should also be considered in the context of overall acute hospital activity in the first six months of this year. The number of treatments postponed represents 2% of the total number of patients treated in acute hospitals in the first six months of this year — 527,000 provisional.

Eating Disorders.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

122 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to combat obesity in view of growing concerns of obesity in children; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that one in five children here aged between five and 12 is obese or overweight; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35467/05]

Results from the national children's food survey were recently presented by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance. The results showed that 11% of boys and 12% of girls aged five to 12 years are overweight; and 9% of boys and 13% of girls are obese, according to the UK 1990 criteria.

An implementation plan for the report of the National Taskforce on Obesity is currently being developed by my Department and additional funding of €3 million has been made available to the Health Service Executive, in the Book of Estimates, to support the implementation of the reports' recommendations.

Accident and Emergency Services.

John Deasy

Question:

123 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date on the ten point plan for the accident and emergency crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35379/05]

The Health Service Executive is advancing the implementation of a series of measures to improve the delivery of accident and emergency services. These measures take a wide ranging approach and are aimed at improving access to accident and emergency services, improving patient flows through accident and emergency departments, freeing up of acute beds and providing appropriate longer-term care for patients outside of the acute hospital setting.

A particular focus has been placed on those patients in acute hospitals who have completed their acute phase of treatment and are ready for discharge to a more appropriate setting. The HSE is making sustained efforts to arrange for the discharge of these patients in order to have more acute beds available in hospital for emergency patients.

The following new and extended units have been funded through the ten point plan: completion of a new accident and emergency unit at Portlaoise General Hospital; commissioning of the new accident and emergency unit at St. James's Hospital, Dublin; minor injury unit at St. John's Hospital, Limerick; a chest pain unit and a minor injury unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; paediatric emergency services in Limerick; medical assessment unit and soft tissue trauma clinic for Cork University Hospital; and new 25 bed unit at the Mater Hospital.

The following initiatives have been taken with regard to care of the elderly: 48 high dependency beds have been contracted in private nursing homes for those patients with more demanding care needs; 427 patients have been discharged through 100 intermediate care beds for six to eight weeks stays since contracts with private providers commenced in May; 70 patients in St. Mary's in the Phoenix Park were identified as suitable for transfer to private nursing homes. The beds freed up has allowed for the discharge from the Mater Hospital and Beaumont Hospital of 35 high dependency patients each; 45 public long-stay beds in nursing facilities on the southside of Dublin have reopened; and additional homecare packages and enhanced subventions have facilitated the discharge of 429 patients in the Dublin area.

The results of the national hygiene audit will form the basis for the changes that are required in both work environments and work practices so as to meet the highest possible standards of cleanliness in hospital settings. The HSE is making an initial capital grant of €20 million available to hospitals to implement the recommendations of the audit.

The HSE will also publish national infection control standards and national cleaning standards — a consistent and robust set of hygiene standards for hospitals. Where previously standards may have depended on the approach of a particular hospital or health board, the HSE can now ensure every hospital will share and meet the same high standards of cleanliness and infection control. The national hygiene audit of acute hospitals will be repeated in early 2006 in order to assess the extent of the improvements made at hospital level since the publication of the first audit report.

The assessment and analysis of clinical and organisational processes has been completed in the ten hospitals nationally. A draft overview report on the findings from the ten hospitals is being prepared at present for the Health Service Executive. In 2006 the National Hospitals Office will prioritise the implementation of the findings and recommendations of this report. An additional six palliative care beds have been commissioned in Blackrock hospital and recruitment of staff is complete. They are fully operational and the day hospice is also in operation. My Department and the Health Service Executive will continue to work closely to maintain a focus on the implementation of system-wide measures to improve the delivery of accident and emergency services.

Health Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

124 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the Age Action Ireland recommendation that the distinction between services for the elderly who are 65 and over and services for persons with disabilities who are under 65 should be reviewed as it puts limits on what could be provided for those over 65 with a disability or younger disabled persons ageing with a disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35478/05]

From a policy view point, my Department will give consideration to the matter in consultation with the Health Service Executive, having regard to issues relating to equity. There are genuine issues of need which will need to be discussed further between my Department and the HSE in regard to individuals who may not easily fit the normal categories of dependency. These are worth exploring perhaps in the context of the HSE service plan for 2006.

Health Reports.

David Stanton

Question:

125 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the implementation of the Hanly report is still Government policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35381/05]

The Report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing, the Hanly report, made a series of important recommendations about the development of hospital services. These covered issues such as: the changes needed in NCHD work patterns; reform of medical education and training; the need for a significantly revised contract for medical consultants and an increase in the number of consultants; and the reorganisation of acute hospital services.

My Department is working closely with the HSE to build on, and progress, these recommendations. I am very pleased that the IMO and IHCA have now agreed to enter into negotiations on a new contract for consultants. It is important that a new contract be put in place as soon as possible. I also want the discussions which have been under way for some time now about the work patterns of NCHDs to be brought to a successful conclusion at an early date. I am currently considering a report from the medical education and training group in relation to post-graduate medical education and training. I hope to bring proposals in this regard to the Government soon in conjunction with my colleague the Minister for Education and Science who is considering the recommendations of the Fottrel report.

These measures, combined with ongoing investment in acute hospital facilities, extra consultant posts and the organisation of services around hospital networks, are designed to provide patients with faster access to high-quality consultant provided services.

Hospital Services.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

126 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if hospitals are to be reconfigured into four hospital networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35408/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

132 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the establishment of four hospital networks as opposed to the ten previously announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35370/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

145 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a proposal from the Health Service Executive to establish four hospital networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35406/05]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

161 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will release the proposals from the Health Service Executive to establish four hospital networks to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35407/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

197 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the establishment of four hospital networks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35395/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 132, 145, 161 and 197 together.

The Health Service Executive is currently considering a proposal to put in place, as part of the National Hospitals Office, four administrative regions for hospital services, namely, the western region, Dublin-north east region, southern region and Dublin-mid-Leinster region.

My understanding is that this proposal, if implemented, would not necessarily mean a reduction in the existing ten hospital networks. The proposed administrative regions for acute hospital services would be the same as the existing four regional structures for delivering primary, community and continuing care.

The main aim of the proposal, under consideration by the HSE, is to achieve far greater co-ordination of service delivery at regional level. This thinking comes from a recognition of the problems to date with lack of co-ordination between the acute services and the community services. The aim, as I understand it, is to achieve a seamless delivery of services in meeting patient needs and requirements while at the same time avoiding situations where people access services in inappropriate settings. Responsiveness and appropriate delivery are key components in the spectrum of healthcare provision.

It is a matter for the board of the HSE to decide how best to organise the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Any measures which impact positively on patients will have my support.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 112.
Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Hospital Hygiene.

Dan Boyle

Question:

130 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the outsourcing of cleaning contracts should be reconsidered in view of the rising MRSA figures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35448/05]

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the management and delivery of health services is now a matter for the Health Service Executive. This includes responsibility for acute hospital services. The HSE has reported that the results of the national hygiene audit showed that good or bad hygiene was not dependent of whether the cleaning was carried out by staff in-house or by contract cleaners. The results of the hygiene audit will form the basis for the changes that are required in both work environments and work practices so as to meet the highest possible standards of cleanliness in hospital settings. The HSE is making an initial capital grant of €20 million available to hospitals to implement the recommendations of the audit.

The HSE will also publish national infection control standards and national cleaning standards — a consistent and robust set of hygiene standards for hospitals. Where previously standards may have depended on the approach of a particular hospital or health board, the HSE can now ensure every hospital will share and meet the same high standards of cleanliness and infection control. The national hygiene audit of acute hospitals will be repeated in early 2006 in order to assess the extent of the improvements made at hospital level since the publication of the first audit report.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

131 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce home subventions for elderly persons who wish to remain in their own home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35377/05]

I see as a priority supporting people to stay in their own homes and communities and moving away from the practice of placing people in residential care as a first option. This is the expressed wish of the majority of our older people.

The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined all issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care, such as home care packages, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. It is expected that the report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

133 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the implementation of the national cardiovascular strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35452/05]

Since the launch of Building Healthier Hearts in 1999 the Government has committed more than €60 million towards implementing its recommendations. The most recent report on its implementation, Ireland's Changing Heart, was published in March 2003. At present, my Department, with the assistance of the Health Service Executive, is preparing a paper for the advisory forum on cardiovascular health to report on progress in implementing the cardiovascular health strategy and to inform future policy in this area.

Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Hospital Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

135 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce more MRI scanners to the public health system; if so, the number of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35405/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

159 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of MRI scanners which exist in the public health service; the number in use in the public health system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35403/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

190 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of MRI scanners in the public service which are in use 24 hours a day seven days a week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35404/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135, 159 and 190 together.

The Deputies' questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department is advised by the HSE that there are 12 MRI scanners in the public hospital service around the country. Each hospital network has at least one MRI scanner which is available from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, hospitals have on-call arrangements in place to allow for the management of emergency cases outside of these hours. The introduction of additional MRI scanners to the public health system is a matter for the HSE in the context of its management of the health capital programme.

Care of the Elderly.

Enda Kenny

Question:

136 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for improving community services for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35393/05]

I see as a priority supporting people to stay in their own homes and communities and moving away from the practice of placing people in residential care as a first option. This is the expressed wish of the majority of our older people.

The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined all issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. It is expected that the report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Eating Disorders.

Michael Noonan

Question:

137 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in 2005 on the implementation of the National Taskforce on Obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35412/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

154 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in 2005 on the implementation of the taskforce on obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35444/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 154 together.

An implementation plan for the report of the National Taskforce on Obesity is currently being developed by my Department and additional funding of €3 million has been made available to the Health Service Executive, in the Book of Estimates, to support the implementation of the reports' recommendations. It is envisaged that this plan will involve the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

Medical Cards.

Michael Ring

Question:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that home helps might give up their jobs due to the fact that they could lose their medical cards because the proviso that allowed them to work up to ten hours per week was removed on 1 January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35417/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Hygiene.

Martin Ferris

Question:

139 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take in response to the Health Service Executive’s hospitals hygiene audit, in particular with regard to the widespread incidence of MRSA in hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35431/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

166 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take in response to the Health Service Executive’s hospitals hygiene audit, in particular with regard to the widespread incidence of MRSA in hospitals here. [35352/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 166 together.

The Deputies will be aware that responsibility for the management and delivery of health services is now a matter for the Health Service Executive. This includes responsibility for acute hospital services. The results of the national hygiene audit will form the basis for the changes that are required in both work environments and work practices so as to meet the highest possible standards of cleanliness in hospital settings. The HSE is making an initial capital grant of €20 million available to hospitals to implement the recommendations of the audit.

The prevention and control of health care associated infections, HCAIs, is a priority issue for the Health Service Executive. Effective infection control measures, including environmental cleanliness and hand hygiene, are central to the control of HCAIs, including drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA.

The HSE will also publish national infection control standards and national cleaning standards — a consistent and robust set of hygiene standards for hospitals. Where previously standards may have depended on the approach of a particular hospital or health board, the HSE can now ensure every hospital will share and meet the same high standards of cleanliness and infection control. The national hygiene audit of acute hospitals will be repeated in early 2006 in order to assess the extent of the improvements made at hospital level since the publication of the first audit report.

My Department is continuing to engage with the HSE to agree on a series of actions over the next period of time so that MRSA can be effectively dealt with so as to see a reduction in the incidence and effects of these infections.

Mental Health Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

140 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to combat the severe shortage of child appropriate care settings within the community and hospitals; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that more than 2,650 children and teenagers were admitted to adult psychiatric hospitals and units in general hospitals between 1998 and 2000 and that more than 200 of these were aged 15 and under; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35479/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

144 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she intends to take to improve mental health service to the young, following a study that up to 26% of teenagers have mental health issues; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that mental health problems is higher among children from lower socio-economic groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35471/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140 and 144 together.

The development of child and adolescent psychiatric services has been a priority for my Department in recent years. Since 1997, additional funding of more than €20 million has been provided to allow for the appointment of additional consultants in child and adolescent psychiatry, for the enhancement of existing consultant-led multi-disciplinary teams and towards the establishment of further teams. This has resulted in the funding of a further 23 child and adolescent consultant psychiatrists. Nationally, there are now 56 such psychiatrists employed.

The first report of the working group on child and adolescent psychiatry, published in February 2001, recommended that a total of seven child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric units for children ranging from six to 16 years should be developed throughout the country. Project teams have been established to develop child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric units in Cork, Limerick, Galway and one in the former Eastern Regional Health Authority area at St. Vincent's Hospital, Fairview. Design teams are in the process of being appointed for the units in Cork, Limerick and Galway. At present, inpatient services for children and adolescents are provided at Warrenstown House, Dublin and at St. Anne's in Galway.

The second report of the working group on child and adolescent psychiatry, published in June 2003, contained proposals for the development of psychiatric services for 16 to 18 year olds. It recommends that, in the further development of child and adolescent psychiatric service, priority should be given to the recruitment in each health board area of a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist with a special interest in the psychiatric disorders of later adolescence. The report emphasises the importance of co-operation and close liaison between child and adolescent mental health services and suggests that the current arrangements, whereby the adult services provide a service to the population of their catchment area, including the 16 to 18 age cohort, should continue on an interim basis, pending the development of the specialist services referred to earlier.

I am aware of concerns expressed regarding the practice of admitting children to adult psychiatric units. While there has been a significant decline in the numbers of children and adolescents admitted to adult psychiatric units in the period since 2000, I accept that the placement of any child with mental health problems in an adult facility is inappropriate. I am also aware that there is evidence to indicate that, as is the case with adults, the level of mental health problems is higher among children from lower socio-economic groups.

The future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, including child and adolescent psychiatry, will be considered in the context of the work of the expert group on mental health policy which is due to complete its work shortly.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

141 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take to address overcrowding in the accident and emergency department in Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35432/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

142 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the radiotherapy unit for Waterford General Hospital will be up and running; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35388/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

143 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the exact figures for MRSA in each hospital; the measures which are being taken to ensure that the levels of MRSA is recorded; the measures she is taking to combat the spread of infection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35476/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

308 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents of MRSA reported or suspected to date; her plans to improve the situation from a patients health view point; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35676/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 308 together.

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, is one of the most well known antimicrobial infections, which are present in hospitals here and internationally. It is also increasingly seen in community health care units such as nursing homes.

MRSA can exist without affecting people's health and information on the prevalence of such asymptomatic carriage is not routinely reported. For the purposes of the surveillance, prevention and control of this infection, however, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre collects data on MRSA bacteraemia, also known as bloodstream infection or blood poisoning, as part of the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, EARRS. EARSS collects data on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter. EARSS was designed to allow comparison of antimicrobial resistance data between countries and possibly regions but not between hospitals. In the first six months of 2005 there were 314 reported cases of MRSA blood-stream infection.

I have asked the Health Service Executive, HSE, to develop systems and methodologies of reporting of MRSA infections by hospital so that we may have a fuller picture of the location and extent of these infections. My Department continues to engage with the HSE to agree on a series of actions over the next period of time so that MRSA can be effectively dealt with so as to see a reduction in the incidence and effects of these infections. My Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the request for data on MRSA in each hospital.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 140.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 126.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

Private Health Care.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

147 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to publish a comprehensive review of private health care in the Irish health care system, which includes looking at cost benefit analysis, value for money, tax incentives, tax concessions and its influence on the cost of private health insurance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35397/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

186 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her health policy position on increased private sector involvement in health care here in view of comments made by the CEO of the Health Service Executive, Professor Drumm on his belief that health care services should be provided by the public system as much as possible and that it would be disastrous if it was not. [35483/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 186 together.

Private health care is a long established feature of the system of health care provision in Ireland and acts as a strong complement to the publically funded system. Private health care provision spans from general practitioner services through private beds in public hospitals and private hospitals to private nursing homes.

The Government is committed to exploring fully the scope for the private sector to provide additional capacity in the health system. The key objective is to provide the required extra capacity, whether this is in the public or private sector. A number of Government policies-initiatives support the co-existence of public and private health care such as: the designation of private and semi-private beds in public hospitals; income tax relief on private health insurance premiums; income tax relief on medical-dental expenses; National Treatment Purchase Fund sources capacity in private hospitals for public patients; and my initiatives to build private hospitals on public sites thereby freeing up beds for public patients.

Health Service Executive.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

148 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are guidelines in place as to the timeframe within which the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive must reply to parliamentary questions referred to them by her Department in view of the fact that there are strict deadline protocols in place for parliamentary questions themselves; if such guidelines do not exist she will introduce a system in order to ensure that the accountability of the Health Service Executive to Dáil Éireann is not compromised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35108/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

300 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which it is proposed to achieve accountability to Dáil Éireann by her Department in view of the fact that parliamentary questions put to her and her Department are referred to the Health Service Executive for reply; if it is intended that the chief executive of the Health Service Executive will come into Dáil Éireann to reply to such questions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35668/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 300.

Prior to the establishment of the Health Service Executive, parliamentary questions concerning access to services, by individuals or in specific geographic areas, were referred to the chief executive officer of the relevant health board ERHA for direct reply.

Pursuant to the Health Act 2004, the functions of the health boards-ERHA were transferred to the HSE. Under the Act, the HSE has responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. The establishment of the HSE brought into being a new unitary system for the delivery and management of health services at local, regional and national level. The move to the new structure presented an opportunity for an improved service for providing information to Oireachtas Members. Last April the HSE established a parliamentary affairs division which provides a central contact for all Oireachtas requests for information relating to matters within the statutory remit of the executive.

The executive has guidelines in place as to the timeframe within which final replies should issue direct to Deputies in relation to queries raised in parliamentary questions. In that connection, the executive aims to operate within a timeframe of twenty working days from the date of answer of a parliamentary question. This timeframe reflects the arrangements which the former health boards-ERHA had adopted prior to the HSE's establishment. This is a starting point and the HSE is committed to reducing this period as it develops its organisational and information capacity going forward. The HSE endeavours to provide more immediate responses in instances where the information sought in the question is of a routine nature or is readily available.

The Health Act 2004 provides that the chief executive officer shall, at the written request of an Oireachtas committee, attend before it to give an account of the general administration of the executive. Since its establishment on 1 January 2005, HSE senior management personnel have attended before Oireachtas committees on five occasions and the chief executive is due to attend the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children on 24 November.

I am satisfied that, in the organisational arrangements currently being made to complete the transition to the unitary system, due importance and attention is being given by the HSE's parliamentary affairs division to enhancing that organisation's capacity to respond in an efficient and timely manner to parliamentary questions from Members of the Oireachtas.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

149 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the many cancer patients who either endure long bus journeys for treatment or who are unable to travel for treatment; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that one cancer patient who was transferred from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin by bus to Letterkenny General Hospital after having a lung removed; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that one elderly person stopped travelling to the capital for chemotherapy due to the fact that they could no longer endure the trauma of the bus journey has since died; the steps taken to ensure equality of access and equitable transport to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35474/05]

There is a significant responsibility on our health services to ensure that patients, particularly cancer patients, are adequately supported clinically and, where necessary, in relation to proper transport arrangements. As I have previously indicated, I consider that appropriate transport arrangements for oncology patients should be made available, where necessary, by the Health Service Executive, HSE. My Department has raised this matter with the HSE to ensure that appropriate transport arrangements are put in place on a national basis for patients who are required to travel. Transport solutions are already a feature of the current provision of oncology services. My Department has asked the HSE to advise the Deputy directly in relation to current and proposed transport arrangements for oncology patients nationally, including patients in the north west.

Patients should not be referred unnecessarily to Dublin for chemotherapy. All major hospitals providing cancer care are supported by consultant medical oncologists, the experts involved in prescribing chemotherapy. In recent years we have seen a significant increase in the number of appointments of medical oncologists at major hospitals throughout the country. This is in line with my policy to ensure that cancer care is delivered appropriately and effectively at regional level in line with best international standards.

Last July I announced the Government's plan for a national network of radiation oncology services to be put in place by 2011 and commencing in 2008. The network will consist of four large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital.

The Government considers that the best option in terms of improving geographic access for patients in the north western area is to facilitate access for those patients to radiation oncology services as part of North-South co-operation on cancer. Last Tuesday I met the Minister for Health for Northern Ireland, Mr. Shaun Woodward, MP. We agreed that the new Belfast cancer centre, which is to open next March, will treat patients from Donegal. Details of the arrangements will be finalised in discussions involving the Health Service Executive, Belfast City Hospital and our respective Departments. This will involve assessment of the specific radiotherapy needs of cancer patients in Donegal and the development of clinical treatment protocols, including appropriate transport arrangements, to ensure best patient care. Discussions will also be necessary on the funding arrangements involving the hospital and the HSE.

Health Service Staff.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

150 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of employees retained in the health service since it was announced there would be a reduction of 500 persons in the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35490/05]

Employment information for the health service is collected on a quarterly basis and the latest available verified data is in respect of end-June 2005, when employment levels stood at 100,934 personnel in whole-time equivalent terms. Employment information in respect of year-end 2002 to end-June 2005 is as set out in the following table.

The Deputy may wish to note that there has been no alteration to Government policy on employment ceilings in the public sector, including the health service. Approved employment levels for the health service have been adjusted since 2002 in line with Government policy on public sector employment and also to take account of specific policy measures aimed at increasing service levels for patients. The employment ceiling for the health service currently stands at 97,550, in whole-time equivalent terms. This ceiling reflects not only the 600 post adjustment required by the Government decision on public sector numbers but also includes an increase of 1,200 posts in respect of the opening of new units in 2005. Further increases in the employment ceiling for the health service in 2005 are being finalised by my Department and the Department of Finance in respect of both the accident and emergency initiative and the Disabilities Act 2005.

I have repeatedly stressed the need for compliance with approved employment levels consistent with safeguarding and indeed enhancing the delivery of front line services and achieving an appropriate balance between clinical and non-clinical employment levels in the health service. The proper management of employment levels and skill mix together with the prioritisation of front line services is of course central to the organisation of human resources and is the most effective mechanism for ensuring the best use of resources overall within the health service. This has been underlined by my Department in direct discussions with the HSE's senior management team and in the context of the finalisation of the executive's national service plan for 2005. There is a general consensus that the organisation of human resources is critical to good service delivery. My Department will continue to work closely with the HSE in this matter.

Health Service Employment1

Date

Health Service Employment

31/12/2002

31/12/2003

31/12/2004

30/06/2005

Total

95,679

96,499

98,723

100,934

Source: Health Service Personnel Census.

Note 1: Excludes Home Helps.

Care of the Elderly.

David Stanton

Question:

151 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in 2005 on improving the inspection regimes for all residential nursing homes for the elderly in all health regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35382/05]

It is the intention of the Department to put in place a more robust regulatory system as quickly as possible to protect vulnerable older people and to provide for the highest possible standards of care for older people in long-stay facilities.

It is intended that the Health Bill 2005 will establish both the HIQA and the SSI on a statutory basis and will contain provisions to underpin a more robust inspectorial system. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993 made under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 set out the standards to which private nursing homes must adhere. The Health Service Executive currently carries out inspections in private nursing homes. In the context of the Health Bill 2005, the process has begun to review the current system with a view to strengthening the powers available to those involved in inspecting facilities and to extend a strengthened inspection system to public facilities.

It is also intended that the Bill will provide for the setting and monitoring of standards for residential facilities for older people. To this end, the Department has commenced a review of the Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993, and will work in conjunction with the HSE, the SSI and other relevant bodies, with the intention of developing a new set of standards that would apply to all residential services for older people.

In response to the progress to date on improving the inspection regime in 2005 for all residential nursing homes for the elderly in the HSE areas, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Organ Retention.

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will extend the organ retention inquiry’s remit to include all ages and stillborn children in view of concerns from Parents for Justice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35481/05]

On 3 May 2005, the Government decided to appoint Dr. Deirdre Madden, BL, to prepare a report on key issues relating to post mortem practice and procedures and to present her report to me by 21 December 2005. Dr. Madden's terms of reference reflect the practicability of her completing her report by that date.

Under her terms of reference, Dr. Madden's report will deal with children under 12 years who were born alive. However, it is envisaged that some of her findings will have general application. While I will not prejudge the content or the outcome of her report I understand Dr. Madden will meet her deadline and I intend that, subject to legal advice, her report will be made public.

Legislative Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

153 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to publish the new Medical Practitioners Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35396/05]

Work on the drafting of the new Medical Practitioners Bill is ongoing. Consultations are taking place between my Department and the Medical Council on a number of issues to be incorporated in the new Bill. Following these consultations, it is envisaged that the heads of Bill will be prepared by early next year.

Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 137.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

156 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the terms of reference of the independent review of events surrounding the death of a person (details supplied) in Monaghan General Hospital on 14 October 2005, which is to be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35351/05]

The Deputy will be aware that the Health Service Executive has commissioned an external review into the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Mr. Walsh. I met the family of the deceased on 25 October last, following which the executive consulted the family on a number of issues that were raised regarding the review. My Department is advised by the executive that the terms of reference for the review have been prepared and are being finalised in discussion with the family.

Care of the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

157 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps and funding she has provided to tackle abuse of the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35391/05]

As the Deputy may be aware, the report of the working group on elder abuse, entitled "Protecting Our Future", was launched on 11 November 2002. One of the recommendations in the report was the establishment of a national implementation group which was established in December 2003. Earlier this year, the Department appointed a senior policy advisor and a sectretary to assist the group in its work and more recently the Health Service Executive appointed a senior officer to assist the group with implementation issues.

The Government is fully committed to developing the services needed to tackle elder abuse and in 2003 provided funding of €0.8 million to commence the implementation of the elder abuse programme. In 2004, an additional €75,000 was allocated to each health board for its continued implementation of the programme and this year an additional €0.9 million has been allocated for the elder abuse programme.

The Health Service Executive advised that it has implemented a number of recommendations included in the elder abuse report. These include the establishment of steering groups in each former health board area to provide a common response to elder abuse throughout the State. Steering groups comprise representatives from the public sector, private organisations and voluntary organisations including groups for older people. Steering groups are in the process of developing clear policies and guidelines for the protection of vulnerable adults following wide consultations with staff and progress their work through sub-groups on legal aspects, policy and procedures and training.

The report recommends that a senior case worker be appointed to each former community care area and it is anticipated that the Health Service Executive will shortly recruit a senior case worker for each local health office area. Among the responsibilities of the senior case worker, in conjunction with the appropriate health service providers, will be the assessment of suspected cases of elder abuse referred to the local health office area.

The Health Service Executive has also advised that awareness training for Health Service Executive staff has been provided in line with paragraph 2.20 of the report and that it has been involved in awareness training with volunteer staff including the national senior citizens helpline. The issue of elder abuse is being incorporated into professional training courses including gerontology courses. In addtion, a number of research projects have been undertaken including the examination and review of medication in older persons in continuing care settings.

Statutory Retirement Age.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

158 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take in relation to the OECD recommendations on scrapping the current statutory retirement ages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35469/05]

I am aware of the OECD recommendations on retirement ages. My Department will take into consideration recommendations on all aspects of pensions policy. The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 removed the compulsory retirement age provision for new entrants to the public sector. However, with regard to existing public health sector staff, not covered by the 2004 Act, no revisions to retirement age provisions, which allow for retirement between the ages of 60 and 65, are planned.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

160 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on supporting general practitioners to build their own primary care units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35386/05]

There has historically been a mix of private and public facilities provision in general practice. In many cases general practitioners fund their own practice premises, while in others they practise from State-owned health centres, from which other health professionals also provide services.

The strategy Primary Care: A New Direction recognises that the provision of modern, well-equipped, accessible premises will be central to the effective functioning of primary care teams and networks. Therefore, one of the key objectives is to facilitate and encourage the development, where appropriate, of modern, well-equipped, user-friendly buildings in which the broad range of primary care services, including general practice, can be delivered.

The Government is committed to developing policy in such a way as to encourage innovative approaches to the provision of facilities and services to support the development and operation of primary care teams and networks in accordance with the objectives of the primary care strategy.

The indicative drug target scheme aims to encourage rational prescribing practices on the part of GPs in return for access to funds for approved practice developments, research and education and additional primary care expertise at practice level. In view of concerns raised regarding the liability to the Exchequer arising from the operation of the scheme in its present form, and in line with my commitment to the ongoing review of the operation of the GMS and community drugs schemes, my Department and the Health Service Executive have recently agreed terms of reference with the Irish Medical Organisation for a full review of the scheme. This review will encompass all aspects of the scheme and will consider the most appropriate future arrangements to encourage rational and cost-effective prescribing in general practice.

The nature and means of providing the physical facilities required to support the delivery of modern, high-quality general practitioner services in line with national policy on primary care will, it is expected, be among the matters to be considered in the review of publicly-funded primary care services involving general practitioners, which is currently taking place under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 126.
Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Care of the Elderly.

Tom Hayes

Question:

163 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for improved rehabilitation services for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35387/05]

An interdepartmental group on the funding of long-term care for older persons was established earlier this year by the Tánaiste and by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan. This group is chaired by the Taoiseach's Department and is currently examining a range of issues surrounding the care of older persons in Ireland. The report of the group is expected to be submitted to Government in the near future.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

164 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on having a pharmacist and general practitioner working from the same premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35385/05]

Damien English

Question:

188 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on primary care centres having a pharmacy and general practitioner surgery in the one unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35384/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 188 together.

The opening or establishment of all new pharmacies is governed by the Pharmacy Acts, subject to restrictions imposed by non-pharmacy legislation such as the Planning Act. There is no statutory prohibition on the provision of pharmacy and general practitioner services from collocated facilities. However, a community pharmacy contract may not be awarded to a pharmacy in which a GP practicing in the area has a beneficial interest.

The Government has accepted the recommendation of the pharmacy review group that there be no beneficial interest between prescribing and dispensing.

In June 2005 the Government approved the drafting of two pieces of pharmacy legislation. It is proposed to deal with most of the recommendations of the pharmacy review group in the second pharmacy Bill, dealing with pharmacy practice and the delivery of pharmaceutical services.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

167 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of places to be provided for disturbed young persons as a result of the Judge Peter Kelly judgment; the location of these centres; the number of beds in use; the number of beds vacant; when the regions will be published following the promise made by her in Dáil Éireann to promise regional fora; when these fora will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35482/05]

I assume the first part of the Deputy's question refers to the judgment of the High Court in the TD case, which, I should inform the Deputy, was overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2001.

Since 1997, €198 million has been provided to the former health boards and the Health Service Executive for the development of child protection and family support services by this Government and the previous Government. An additional €8 million is being provided to the HSE to develop children and family support services in 2006.

The provision of high support and special care services and the community-based alternatives for non-offending children in need of special care and protection under the provisions of the Health Act 2004 and the Child Care Act 1991, as amended, is the responsibility of the Health Services Executive. I have therefore asked the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the detailed information sought by the Deputy compiled and to communicate it directly to him.

As regards the second part of the Deputy's question, section 42 of the Health Act 2004 provides for the establishment of not more than four regional health forums. Membership of the forums will be based on nominations from city and county councils within the functional area of each forum.

My Department was engaged in a consultation process with the HSE and has now received the HSE's formal observations on the draft regulations. My Department is now finalising the regulations and the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children will be consulting with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as required under the provisions of section 42(1) of the Health Act 2004, prior to making the regulations.

On completion of this consultation, the Tánaiste will make the regulations and have them laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to establishing the forums as soon as possible.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 87.

Departmental Properties.

Billy Timmins

Question:

169 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the land and property sold off by the Health Service Executive in 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date 2005 and future plans to sell off land and property; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35419/05]

The Health Amendment (No. 3) Act 1996 enabled the former health boards to acquire or dispose of assets without the consent of the Minister for Heath and Children, which was not previously the case. This situation continued until the latter part of 2004 when, in the context of preparatory arrangements for the establishment of the Health Service Executive, boards were required to obtain approval from my Department for the sale of lands and property.

The question of the sale of land and property is now the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and furnish a reply direct to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

170 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to the mental health tribunals provided for in the Mental Health Act 2001, her attention has been drawn to the fact that the position of her role in appointing, directly or indirectly, tribunal members who decide if someone should be detained in a mental hospital may be in breach of the principle of natural justice and also of Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35463/05]

The Deputy appears to be referring to a legal opinion reported recently in the media. I am advised that the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001 are fully in conformity with this country's obligations under international law, including the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Medical Cards.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

171 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner only cards that have been issued; the numbers of general practitioner cards waiting to be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35459/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Information provided to me by the HSE's primary care reimbursement service indicates that 1,021 GP visit cards have been issued to date.

Report of Inquiry.

Liz McManus

Question:

172 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to look into the fact that it is six and a half years since an inquiry was established into alleged abuse (details supplied) in County Galway and we are still awaiting results; the steps which are being taken to review this inquiry process; when this review will be completed; and when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35456/05]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that, following a review of the inquiry process, a number of actions are being taken with the aim of having the report of the inquiry completed at the earliest possible date.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

173 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her position on the cost of drugs in the general medical scheme; if she intends to encourage the use of prescribing generic drugs; when the negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry begins and when she expects to have an agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35484/05]

I have expressed concern previously regarding the increasing cost of the State drug schemes and the need to ensure better value for money for this expenditure. All aspects of the drug delivery system, from the manufacturer to the patient, are under review. A number of issues, including access to generic drugs and supply chain costs, such as pharmacy mark-ups, are being considered with a view to addressing the rapidly rising costs in medicines expenditure both by the State and by private individuals. I must stress that no single measure will achieve this by itself. International experience has shown that this is a difficult task, as the sophistication and range of treatments continue to increase along with quite justifiably increased expectations on the part of patients.

As regards increased use of generic medicines, it is my intention to give patients, and ultimately the taxpayer as the biggest buyer of drugs, better access to generic drugs where this is possible and appropriate. My Department has begun preparatory work for the introduction of structures appropriate to the Irish drug schemes. In addition, negotiations will shortly commence for a new national pricing and supply agreement with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, IPHA, and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, APMI, for supply of medicines to the health services. It is intended to address this issue within that agreement.

Proposed Legislation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

174 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time she intends to allow the voluntary code for advertising to continue before she will introduce the alcohol products Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35440/05]

The monitoring body to oversee the implementation of the voluntary code of practice on alcohol advertising will be established shortly. This body will report to the Minister for Health and Children on an annual basis. I will await receipt of the first annual report in 2006 before deciding if the alcohol products Bill should be introduced.

Hospital Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

175 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views regarding the high occupancy levels in hospitals following her comments that high occupancy levels in hospitals do not affect cleanliness and hygiene; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35418/05]

The review of acute hospital bed capacity examined bed occupancy levels nationally and helped to inform the Government's decision in the health strategy to expand acute bed capacity by 3,000 in the period to 2011.

Responsibility for the management and delivery of health services is now a matter for the Health Service Executive. This includes responsibility for acute hospital services. The HSE has reported that the results of the national hygiene audit showed that the high occupancy levels did not in themselves mean poor hygiene standards. For example, of the top ten performing hospitals, seven had occupancy rates in excess of 85%, including five that were in excess of 90%. The results of the hygiene audit will form the basis for changes that are required both in work environments and work practices so as to meet the highest possible standards of cleanliness in hospital settings. The HSE is making an initial capital grant of €20 million available to hospitals to implement the recommendations of the audit.

Medical Cards.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

176 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of full medical cards which have been issued since the eligibility for such cards has been increased; the number of full medical cards to be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35460/05]

Information provided by the HSE to my Department, on a monthly basis, indicates that on 1 November 2005, some 1,150,551 people were covered by medical cards. This is an increase of 1,133 on the number at 1 October 2005 and an increase of 5,468 on the 1 January 2005 figure. The HSE has also indicated that, in the period from January to November 2005, over 187,000 new medical cards have been issued, while almost 182,000 have been withdrawn for various reasons, including deaths, income changes and data updates.

Many people have benefited by getting a medical card for the first time in 2005. The HSE has also indicated that approximately 48,000 of these cards are in respect of clients who have not previously held a medical card.

Funding of €60 million was provided to the Health Service Executive in 2005 to meet the cost of providing an additional 30,000 people with medical cards and a further 200,000 people with GP visit cards. These initiatives were taken to assist people, particularly those on low incomes, in overcoming barriers to accessing GP services, and to help in removing poverty traps and disincentives to people taking up work or progressing to better paid work.

Taking into account both of these initiatives, an additional 230,000 people will be able to access their general practitioner free-of-charge. People who hold GP visit cards are entitled to avail of the drugs payment scheme, which provides that no person or family unit pays in excess of €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed drugs and medicines.

In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, it was apparent that the effect of rising income in our successful economy meant that the target of 30,000 additional medical cards was not going to be achieved. At this time, I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants. On 13 October 2005, I announced that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year.

My Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the number of medical cards and GP visit cards issued to identify any further changes which may be required.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard Allen

Question:

177 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to protect staff in hospital accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35368/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

John Perry

Question:

178 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if Ireland will be without a medically equipped helicopter that can fly in bad weather for most of 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35416/05]

My Department has had detailed discussions with the Department of Defence regarding the future provision of air ambulance services by the Air Corps. Arising from these discussions, a detailed service level agreement has recently been prepared and signed. The agreement sets out the range services to be provided by the Air Corps, specifically: inter-hospital transfer for spinal and serious injury and illness; air transport of neonates requiring immediate medical intervention in Ireland; air transport of patients requiring emergency organ transplant in the UK; air transport of organ harvest teams within Ireland; and air transport of patients from offshore islands to mainland hospitals where the coast guard service is not available.

The new fleet replacement programme currently being put in place by the Air Corps will have a specific air ambulance capability and the new fleet will have a far greater flying capacity, which will augment the current service. The flying capability of the helicopter fleet in adverse weather conditions is a matter for the Air Corps to determine.

Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Departmental Contracts.

Joan Burton

Question:

180 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the safeguards that have been instituted in view of the issues raised over the iSoft Project in relation to contracts such as these to protect public interest against waste; the steps she is taking to ensure value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35458/05]

The Government recently introduced initiatives to ensure major capital projects, including ICT enabled change programmes, delivered value for money and were completed within budget, scope and timelines.

A peer review process of major ICT projects will be undertaken by the Department of Finance's CMOD. All major ICT projects currently under way within the HSE will be subjected to this process.

In early October, the Secretary General of my Department wrote to the CEO of the HSE setting out a number of governance principles which, I understand, are being adopted by the HSE. These new governance arrangements within the HSE will ensure that there is one central source of decision-making on implementing ICT strategies, plans and projects. In future, there will be one central management point under the control of the HSE's national director of ICT for all purchases of hardware, software, telecommunications, ICT development or advisory services, including all hiring decisions concerning ICT contractors and consultants.

The iSOFT contract covers software licences, implementation and support services over a ten-year term for an overall contract price of €56 million. The contract was negotiated with a specific focus on fixing costs to the greatest possible extent and on providing the best possible protection for the HSE in the event of poor performance by iSOFT.

While the HSE is obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the detailed commercial terms, I have been informed that the following provisions illustrate the type of safeguards in place: 1. There is a fixed price for software licences which entitles all publicly-funded healthcare agencies in Ireland to unlimited use of the iSOFT i.EPR product suite covering a wide range of administrative and clinical support areas. No matter how extensively the software is used there will be no additional charges; 2. There is a fixed price for software maintenance and support payable over ten years, with an annual instalment payable every year. This provides for 24 x 365 cover and the price charged is well within industry norms; 3. The licence fee and support fee components are fixed for the entire term of the agreement and there will be no annual revisions for inflation or for any other reason; 4. The daily rate for implementation services, which is a very competitive rate, is fixed for an agreed volume of service days that are to be provided over the first five years, i.e. the anticipated number of service days required during the main roll-out period. In the event that any additional service days will be required the daily rates for such days is fixed for the first three years of the contract and increases thereafter are strictly limited to the rate of inflation from year 4 onwards; 5. iSOFT must use its best endeavours to transfer implementation skills to health service staff so that roll-out of the system can be as self-sufficient a process as possible; 6. There is a cap on expenses for iSOFT personnel and a range of measures have been agreed to ensure minimisation of expenses; 7. All deliverables by iSOFT are linked to financial remedies payable to the HSE in the event of missed deadlines; 8. All services by iSOFT are subject to formal quality review and stated performance levels and financial remedies are payable to the HSE in the event of inadequate performance; and 9. To protect against any non-payment by iSOFT of any remedies due, iSOFT is obliged to lodge a substantial sum of money in an escrow bank account for direct withdrawal by the HSE.

The HSE has informed me that it is satisfied that best value for money is being obtained in this case.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

181 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that BreastCheck is to be rolled out within the target set out; and if she has further satisfied herself that BreastCheck will meet the full population of women eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35489/05]

The roll-out of the national breast screening programme to the remaining regions in the country is a major priority in the development of cancer services. BreastCheck has advertised for lead consultant radiologists and radiographers for the two new clinical units, one at the South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Cork, and one at University College Hospital, Galway. The recruitment of other key clinical posts will commence early in 2006. A design team has been appointed to work up detailed plans for the new units. It is anticipated that, subject to obtaining satisfactory planning approval, the design process, including the preparation of the tender documentation, will be completed by mid 2006.

There are approximately 130,000 women in the target population for screening in the remaining regions. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of 2007 for commencement of the roll-out will be met. This will ensure that all women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow up treatment where appropriate.

Mental Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

182 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take following the revelation that only one in five persons here diagnosed with mental health problems have a job, even though 90% want to work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35473/05]

I am aware that there are many barriers to employment for people with mental health problems in particular social and personal barriers. Social barriers exist mainly due to the lack of understanding of severe mental illness in our society. This impacts not only on accessing employment but also on job retention for people in employment who may become unwell. Barriers to employment on a personal level will depend on the limitations of the individuals in question and the demands of the work environment.

As the Deputy may be aware, the mental health employment and training consultative forum is examining the provision of training and employment for people with mental health problems. This group includes representatives from the Health Service Executive, FÁS, Eastern Vocational Enterprises Limited, the national learning network and various voluntary organisations. I am informed the group is in the process of finalising its discussions.

While employment and training are not the responsibility of the mental health service providers, specialist rehabilitation mental health services liaise with the agencies which have statutory responsibility in this area. The development of specialist rehabilitation mental health services is being considered in the context of the work of the expert group on mental health policy which is due to complete its work shortly.

Care of the Elderly.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

183 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the recommendations which will be followed in view of the recent report by Mr. Martin Hynes into the death of Mr. Peter McKenna in Leas Cross nursing home; the lessons which have been learnt; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35470/05]

I understand the Health Service Executive has considered the report from Mr. Hynes and that a number of conclusions and recommendations are being implemented. The following table outlines the current status of the HSE's response.

Action on Recommendations

Progress to date

1. That the HSE should advocate on behalf of the McKenna family to ensure that they have all their outstanding questions answered.

This option is available to the family with immediate effect.

2. That there should be available within the HSE an integrated system for complaints so that complaints coming from a number of sources can be linked and dealt with effectively. Complaints of a complex nature should be examined thoroughly so as to decide the best approach

The HSE has developed a national complaints management framework, which is being rolled out nationally and would ensure that reviews of this type would be managed effectively

3. That the HSE devise a client based procedure to assist decision making regarding the appropriate use of nursing homes. This should include a mechanism for the review of placement decisions in conjunction with the changing needs of clients. This process should centre on the needs and wishes of clients and their families

This is under consideration by the HSE.

4. The HSE should draw up and support the implementation of a code of governance for all its services and those agencies that are contracted with to supply services on behalf of the HSE.

The HSE eastern region has in place a corporate governance manual for health agencies which can be used as the basis for this national programme

5. St. Michael’s House to work with the HSE in reviewing its governance arrangements, to provide reassurance that it meets best practice

This process has commenced and will form an integral part of the service level agreement between St. Michael’s House and the HSE in 2006.

6. In carrying out reviews of this nature, the HSE will ensure that an expert team is appointed, which will include access to a range of specialists appropriate to the case.

This is now HSE policy

7. That the HSE should in conjunction with relevant agencies develop a standardised mechanism for communicating written information between referring and receiving agencies, thereby assuring the quality of the continuum of care.

This has been initially communicated to all health agencies and will be followed up in the coming weeks.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

184 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason haemochromatosis testing can be done in Tralee general hospital but the same tests from Cork University Hospital and Waterford Regional Hospital are being sent abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35415/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 118.
Question No. 186 answered with QuestionNo. 147.

Hospital Procedures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

187 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take in view of the revelation that Kerry General Hospital, ranked one of the lowest of the hospitals in the national hygiene audit, spent more than €2 million on cleaning in 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35468/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 164.
Question No. 189 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 190 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Hospital Staff.

Seán Ryan

Question:

191 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures being taken to fill the 1,100 nursing vacancies in hospitals and health care facilities; if figures will be provided on the costs involved in filling these vacancies day to day by agency staff and staff nurses working overtime; the steps she intends to take to combat the fact that 1,500 Irish trained nurses leave here every year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35488/05]

The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for recruitment of staff and expenditure of resources on overtime and the employment of agency nurses. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these aspects of the Deputy's question investigated and a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

On the issue of Irish trained nurses leaving to work abroad, my understanding is that the figure of 1,500 is an over-estimation of the true figure. Irish nurses and midwives who wish to work abroad are required by the authorities in the host country to obtain a verification of their nursing registration from An Bord Altranais. Figures supplied by An Bord Altranais show that an average of 763 Irish nurses have received verifications over the past three years. The data from An Bord Altranais shows that Australia is the most popular destination for Irish nurses. However, it should be noted that Australia is a popular destination for Irish people generally in their 20s and 30s. It is my understanding that many of the Irish nurses who work abroad return to Ireland having gained valuable experience in overseas health systems.

Consultancy Contracts.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

192 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason, in answering a previous parliamentary question on consultants appointed by her Department, no reference was made to the consultants for the Lorenzo computer programme or is it the case that all work by consultants has been completed on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35449/05]

No reference was made to the Lorenzo ICT project in my reply to Question No. 115 on 18 October 2005 because my Department does not have any consultancy assistance engaged on this project.

Question No. 193 answered with QuestionNo. 103.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Seán Ryan

Question:

194 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to aid St. Columcille’s Hospital in view of the warning from the hospital, Ireland’s only obesity clinic, that there are 500 persons on waiting lists and that it is estimated that 30 persons will die while on the waiting lists; the measures she is taking to combat obesity here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35487/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

A national task force on obesity was established in March 2004 to address the growing levels of obesity in Ireland. It was set up in response to the Slán survey results which were published in 2003 and comprised key stakeholders. The report from the task force, Obesity — the Policy Challenges, was published on 16 May 2005 and makes 93 recommendations aimed at tackling overweight and obesity. An implementation plan for the report is being developed by my Department to progress its recommendations and additional funding of €3 million has been made available to the Health Service Executive in the Book of Estimates to support the implementation of the report's recommendations. It is envisaged this plan will involve the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her preferred options for the provision of an adequate hospital network throughout the country; if this is in line with any, all or none of the various reports commissioned by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35454/05]

It is a matter for the board of the Health Service Executive to decide how best to organise the management and delivery of health and personal social services. I have been advised that the Health Service Executive is considering a proposal to put in place, as part of its National Hospitals Office, four administrative regions for hospital services. Any measures which impact positively on patients will have my support.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Joe Costello

Question:

196 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the general practitioner only cards do not cover a patient wishing to obtain the services of the Irish Family Planning Association; if it is her intention to include this service to the general practitioner only medical cards to those who may not afford it otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35462/05]

The general medical services scheme is largely a treatment based scheme which provides medical and other services for eligible persons from primary care contractors in the community who hold contracts with the Health Service Executive. The services provided by the Irish Family Planning Association are not covered under the scheme. However, family planning services are available for medical card holders from the majority of GMS contract holding general practitioners. If a general practitioner does not provide family planning services, he or she is obliged to refer a patient to a GP who will provide the service.

Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Hospital Services.

John Gormley

Question:

198 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there were 10,368 cancer patients in the first six months of 2005 in hospital for operations and other scheduled procedures; her views on whether this is contributing to the bed shortages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35445/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

EU Directives.

Dan Boyle

Question:

199 Mr. Boyle asked the Taoiseach, further to Question No. 177 of 2 November 2005, the position regarding the costs of payments to European Union and European Court of Justice counsel; and the administrative costs to his Department in contesting the court actions. [35109/05]

The fees referred to in the reply to Question No. 177 of 2 November 2005 are the only costs paid to counsel to date by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor. As regards administrative costs, the relevant cases were assigned to legal staff in the Chief State Solicitor's office as part of their overall caseload and, accordingly, it is not possible to determine the precise costs in individual cases. As the Department of the Taoiseach was not involved in any of the cases, the question of administrative costs for my Department does not arise.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Richard Bruton

Question:

200 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach his estimate of the total vehicle fleet distinguishing private vehicles from commercial vehicles and indicating his estimate of aggregate distance travelled by the different segments, private, public service vehicles, commercial vehicles and haulage vehicles. [35110/05]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides a breakdown of all mechanically propelled vehicles under current licence in its annual publication, Irish Bulletin of Vehicle and Driver Statistics. The latest data available from the Department, which is for the reference year 2004, is given in Table 1.

Table 1: Vehicles under current licence 2004.

Vehicle Type

2004

Private Cars

1,582,833

Motor Cycles

34,854

Goods Vehicles

268,082

Tractors, Excavators, Dumpers etc.

76,697

Public Service Vehicles Small

20,744

Public Service Vehicles Large

7,430

Exempt Vehicles

18,847

Others

26,820

Total

2,036,307

An estimate of the aggregate distance travelled for all categories is not available. The Central Statistic Office's road freight transport survey provides statistics on all Irish registered vehicles belonging to the motor tax class "goods vehicles with an unladen weight of 2 tonnes or over" which are engaged in the carriage of goods on public roads. The latest results on vehicle kilometres travelled by weight and body type of goods vehicles are set out in Tables 2 and 3:

Table 2: Average Number of Vehicles and Total Vehicle Kilometres classified by Unladen Weight and Main Use of Vehicle 2004.

Average No. of vehicles on Register

Total Vehicles Kilometres (million)

Unladen Weight (kg)

Own Account

Hire or Reward

Total

Own Account

Hire or Reward

Total

2,000-5,000

35,037

3,567

38,604

333

116

449

5,001-7,500

7,704

2,648

10,352

128

131

259

7,501-10,000

7,827

4,674

12,501

168

256

424

10,001-12,500

6,444

7,672

14,116

189

511

700

Over 12,500

4,977

4,198

9,175

210

300

510

Total

61,989

22,759

84,748

1,028

1314

2,342

Table 3: Average Number of Vehicles and Total Vehicle Kilometres classified by Body Type and Main Use of Vehicle 2004.

Average No. of vehicles on Register

Total Vehicles Kilometres (million)

Body Type of Vehicle

Own Account

Hire or Reward

Total

Own Account

Hire or Reward

Total

Platform or sided

7,312

3,492

10,804

134

212

346

Tipper

7,160

3,651

10,811

176

209

385

Tanker or other bulk carrier

3,287

1,346

4,633

106

104

210

Insulated or refrigerated box

2,745

1,831

4,576

115

174

289

Box or van body

14,768

4,711

19,479

257

238

495

Livestock Carrier

1,723

419

2,142

13

15

28

Other

24,994

7,309

32,303

227

362

589

Total

61,989

22,759

84,748

1,028

1,314

2,342

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

201 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35136/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

202 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35151/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

None of the Ministers of State in my Department has a press office or press officer working for him or staff engaged in public relations on his behalf. Communications with the media are managed through the Government press secretariat and Government Information Service. One staff officer is employed in the Government Chief Whip's constituency office at a current annual salary of €37,290.

Departmental Expenditure.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

203 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the number of capital projects within his Department which in 2004 and in 2005 had an estimated cost of between €30 million and €50 million, and which would have been subject to cost benefit analysis if the newly announced criteria for such evaluations then been in force; and the total cost of such projects in each year. [35255/05]

My Department had no capital projects in 2004 or 2005.

Departmental Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

204 Mr. Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the number of staff broken down by grade employed within the private office and constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number who are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35298/05]

The number of staff employed in my private and constituency offices, their grade, salary, overtime and expenses paid are detailed in the following tables.

Taoiseach's Private Office.

Grade

Current annual salary (including allowances)

Annual Overtime (Estimate)

Annual Expenses (Estimate) Expenses Received(Nov 04-Oct 05)

Private Secretary, Assistant Principal

96,203

Nil

1,104

Assistant Principal

71,859

Nil

Nil

Higher Executive Officer — Assistant Private Secretary

71,206

Nil

Nil

Higher Executive Officer — Assistant Private Secretary

68,867

Nil

157

Personal Assistant — Higher Executive Officer

53,191

Nil

1,154

Staff Officer

39,510

12,166

Nil

Staff Officer

37,290

821

Nil

Clerical Officer

25,210

7,086

Nil

Clerical Officer

26,203

7,219

Nil

Clerical Officer

32,200

Nil

Clerical Officer

26,203

6,933

Nil

Clerical Officer

23,226

5,948

Nil

Personal Usher

34,921

Nil

Nil

Total

606,089

40,173

2,328

Taoiseach's Constituency Office.

Grade

Current annual salary (including allowances)

Annual Overtime (Estimate)

Annual Expenses (Estimate)

Personal Assistant

46,691

4,399

Nil

Personal Assistant

47,921

5,988

Nil

Personal Secretary (non Civil Servant)

33,270

520

Nil

Executive Officer

26,618

506

Nil

Staff Officer (Work-sharing)

18,098

Nil

Nil

Clerical Officer

26,203

1,372

Nil

Clerical Officer

21,245

1,221

Nil

Clerical Officer

21,245

Nil

Total

241,291

13,500

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

205 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if a list of the implemented, unimplemented and overdue EU directives and regulations and a list of the warnings received from the EU regarding directives and regulations which are overdue for implementation will be published before the end of 2005 and undertake to publish at least every six months in future. [35545/05]

Each Department is responsible for providing information, reasoned opinions and letters of formal notice concerning the implementation of EU directives. With regard to the Department of the Taoiseach, no directives or regulations are overdue for implementation which fall within the responsibility of this Department. This Department is not dealing with any warnings or any other such notifications from the European Commission. The Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs chairs the interdepartmental committee on European affairs which monitors the transposition of EU directives. In this context, he continues to take action to improve the effectiveness of our national efforts to implement EU legislation.

Health Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

206 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [35113/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

207 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the funding allocated to rape crisis centres which has remained the same since 2002, due to the increased demand on services particularly in the aftermath of the Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35427/05]

My Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Moneys are made available each year, formerly through the health boards, and now through the Health Service Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years there has been a substantial increase in funding so that now more than €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. The distribution of this funding is now a matter for the Health Service Executive.

The Tánaiste asked the Health Service Executive to carry out an analysis of the current level of service provision in this area and to report back to her. The Tánaiste has recently received this report and it is under review in the Department.

Question No. 208 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

209 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps which are being taken to improve hygiene in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, following the recent hygiene audit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35112/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

210 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the aggregate number of home help hours delivered here in each year from 2000 to 2004 and the projection for 2005; the breakdown of these hours between special home care packages associated with hospital discharge and the normal service; the cost of securing a 10% increase in home help hours in 2006. [35114/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

211 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in approving a grant under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the name of persons (details supplied) in County Carlow; if the funding is available for 2005; the amount of funds allocated to the Health Service Executive in Carlow for this scheme in 2005; the number of applicants waiting for approval; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35121/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

212 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funds will be made available for Kerry General Hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35134/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

213 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of her Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35137/05]

There is one press office in my Department which deals with all queries on behalf of the Department including my office and the offices of the Ministers of State. Details of staff numbers, grade and remuneration for this office were detailed in a reply to the Deputy's Question No. 253 of 2 November 2005.

Paul McGrath

Question:

214 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of her Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35152/05]

The tables detail the numbers, grade and remuneration of staff employed in the constituency offices of the Ministers of State. All staff are civil servants except for personal assistants and personal secretaries.

Minister of State, Deputy B. Lenihan.

Grade

Number of Officers

Remuneration

Personal Assistant

1

45,457

Personal Secretary

1

40,435

Clerical Officer

1

33,436

Clerical Officer

1

31,152

Clerical Officer

1

25,210

Minister of State, Deputy T. O'Malley.

Grade

Number of Officers

Remuneration

Personal Assistant

1

47,921

Personal Secretary

1

41,894

Executive Officer

1

36,166

Staff Officer

1

36,196

Clerical Officer

1

32,686

Minister of State, Deputy S. Power.

Grade

Number of Officers

Remuneration

Personal Secretary

1

40,878

Executive Officer

1

39,126

Clerical Officer

1

33,436

Clerical Officer

1

24,218

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

215 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 126 of 30 June 2005, when the post of speech and language therapist will be replaced for a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35208/05]

My Department made enquiries on the Deputy's behalf and has been advised by the Health Service Executive that the post in question was advertised last month.

Finian McGrath

Question:

216 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if the maximum support and advice will be given in accessing funding and services; and if she will work with the Department of Social and Family Affairs on this matter. [35213/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Deasy

Question:

217 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who has been awaiting a cranoplast operation since 1999 and cannot be dealt with under the national treatment purchase fund owing to their medical history; if she will intervene with the Health Service Executive to ensure that a bed is obtained for this person. [35219/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

218 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are arrangements in place to carry out double lung transplants at the Mater Hospital, following the successful single lung transplants; the timeframe which applies to the commencement of such organ transplants at the Mater Hospital; if there is sufficient staffing capacity for such procedures; if there is sufficient operating theatre capacity for such procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35221/05]

Mary Upton

Question:

238 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements which are in place between Newcastle Hospital and the Mater Hospital for organ donations, specifically lungs, following the successful commencement of single lung transplant at the Mater Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35241/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 238 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

219 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed at Coovagh House; the position of each member of staff; the length of time each member of staff has been employed; and the remuneration paid to staff since establishment of Coovagh House. [35222/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

220 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount spent on training staff in Coovagh House since its establishment. [35223/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

221 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of foreign staff employed in Coovagh House; the estimated remuneration for each foreign member of staff; the estimated remuneration for each member of Irish staff; and the cost involved in recruiting staff from abroad and within Ireland. [35224/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

222 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of work (details supplied) carried out at Coovagh House during summer 2005; the extent of this work; and the reason for the work. [35225/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 to 222, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

223 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount paid to recruitment companies for child care staff at high support units annually since 1998. [35226/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

224 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 244 of 25 October 2005, if members of the Special Residential Services Board serve on a part-time basis as they are not remunerated; the amount of expenses allowable to each member of the board; the staff attached to the board; and the amount of funding given to the board annually since its establishment. [35227/05]

The membership of the Special Residential Services Board is set out in section 230(3) of the Children Act 2001, and individual members are appointed by the Minister for Health and Children. At present all board members act on a part-time basis in accordance with section 230(6). The board meets bi-monthly and sub-committees of the board meet on alternate months. Each member normally attends at least one meeting per month.

Where expenses appropriate to the board are incurred by members in the discharge of their responsibilities, travel and subsistence allowances are paid in accordance with Department of Finance circulars. The Special Residential Services Board employs 12 staff members. The board was established on a statutory basis on 7 November 2003 and the funding provided to the board is: 2003, €147,149, net expenditure; 2004, €1,262,352, net expenditure and 2005, €2,141,000, original allocation.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

225 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of occasions on which she or her predecessor has met the Special Residential Services Board since its establishment in 2003. [35228/05]

Since the establishment of the Special Residential Services Board on a statutory basis in November 2003, I as Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children and at the Department of Education and Science with responsibility for children's matters have met the board or representatives of the board on nine occasions. Neither the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children nor her predecessor have met the board or any representatives of the board regarding its work.

Richard Bruton

Question:

226 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the closure of high support beds in favour of private accommodation costing the State from €8,000 per week per child; the reason for this change in policy; and if the Special Residential Services Board advised her on this policy change. [35229/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

227 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has been informed by the Special Residential Services Board of best practice and coordination in special residential care; and what this best practice consists of. [35230/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

230 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the person who has the overall responsibility for the care of children placed in special residential care; the person who has responsibility for funding this care; and the person responsible for co-ordinating and creating the policy for special residential care here. [35233/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226, 227 and 230 together.

As Minister of State at the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science with delegated responsibility for children I am responsible on behalf of the respective Ministers and the Government for formulating overall policy on child welfare and protection issues including special residential care in the health sector and on children detention schools for offenders, which come under the aegis of the Department of Education and Science.

I have had the benefit of the views of the Special Residential Services Board in accordance with the provisions of Part 11 of the Children Act 2001 on a range of issues, including co-ordination of policy concerning special care and children detention schools. The type of issues involved including best practice are set out in the board's annual report for 2004 published last month. The board also provides assistance and advice on best practice to the children detention schools, to the Health Service Executive and advice on placements to the courts in respect of individual cases. Including the €8 million additional funding in the 2006 estimate, by next year well over €200 million in ongoing revenue funding will have been provided by this and the previous Government for the development of child welfare and protection services.

The operation, management and delivery of child welfare and protection services including the provision of high support, special care and other services to a small number of individual children, such as the use of accommodation services by private providers raised by the Deputy, is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and the Child Care Act 1991 as amended. I have therefore asked the parliamentary affairs division of the health service executive to examine this particular issue and to reply directly to the Deputy as soon as possible. I have also asked the Health Service Executive for a report on the matter.

Richard Bruton

Question:

228 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children being cared for in special residential settings outside of the State distinguishing between short and long term. [35231/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy

Richard Bruton

Question:

229 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children being cared for in special residential settings, distinguishing between short and long term; and the locations of these settings. [35232/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 230 answered with QuestionNo. 226.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

231 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the duties of child care staff when children in special residential care are in school each day. [35234/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has not instructed the health boards to reverse the punitive rise in charges for users of Cara Cheshire Home in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, from €165 to €389 a month effective from August 2005. [35235/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

233 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the justification for penalising some of the most vulnerable in society, namely, the users of the Cara Cheshire Home in Dublin’s Phoenix Park by increasing the fees they must pay from €165 to €389 a month effective from August 2005. [35236/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

234 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps which are being taken to remove the charges faced by the users of the Cara Cheshire Home in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to help them in their preparation to lead independent lives in the future in view of the passage of the Disability Act 2005. [35237/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 232 to 234, inclusive, together.

The charging for long-stay care under the Health (Amendment) Act 2005 is being implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These regulations were signed on 14 June 2005 and reinstated charges for inpatient services. The regulations were prepared following extensive consultation with the Health Service Executive and others.

The regulations provide for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of inpatient services. Section 51 of the Health Act 1970 defines inpatient services as meaning "institutional services provided for persons while maintained in a hospital, convalescent home or home for persons suffering from physical or mental disability or in accommodation ancillary thereto".

Section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where inpatient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. The regulations, in keeping with section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied.

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class 2 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. Under the regulations, only the Health Service Executive has the power to levy a charge. The executive has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under section 1(b) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, the Health Service Executive can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure on themselves or their dependants, if any. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on charges levied.

On the specific issues raised by the Deputy, the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

235 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card which was refused in the name of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny can be appealed; if the financial circumstances of these persons will be examined under the new guidelines; if their medical circumstances will be considered; if a card will be issued on this basis; and if the case will be expedited. [35238/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

236 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 212 of 28 June 2005 regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, if the additional funding from the Government has now cleared the backlog; and if the grant in question will be awarded. [35239/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

237 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Mayo General Hospital will be transferred to the Mater Hospital, Dublin. [35240/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 238 answered with QuestionNo. 218.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

239 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a proper transport arrangement with a helper has not been put in place in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if proper transport cannot be provided will her Department or the Health Service Executive approve a grant for these persons to purchase a suitable vehicle to transport their child; if the concerns of the National Educational Welfare Board will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35243/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

240 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk; if all beds are occupied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35269/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

241 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds in older people services in County Louth, St. Oliver Plunkett Hospital, Dundalk, St. Mary’s Hospital, Drogheda, Cottage Hospital, Drogheda, and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee; if all are occupied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35270/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Garda Investigations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

242 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the death of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin on 3 November 2005; if there have been similar deaths or illnesses as a result of products bought at this shop in the past; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35272/05]

I understand from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that the Garda attended an incident on 30 October 2005 involving the death of a person. I am informed that this incident is under investigation. In the circumstances I therefore believe that it is inappropriate for me to make any further comment on the matter.

Health Services.

Liam Aylward

Question:

243 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the waiting list for community speech and language therapy at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will ask the Health Service Executive to examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who was placed 179 on a waiting list in May 2005 and is still at that place on the list. [35286/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ministerial Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

244 Mr. Gilmore asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of staff broken down by grade employed within the private office and the constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number that are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35299/05]

The following tables detail the numbers and grade of staff employed in my private and constituency offices and the annual cost of each office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses. All staff are permanent civil servants except for special advisers, personal assistants and personal secretary.

Private Office.

Grade

Number of Officers (Wholetime Equivalents)

Special Advisers

3

Personal Assistant

1

Higher Executive Officer (Private Secretary)

1

Executive Officer

2

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

6

Constituency Office.

Grade

Number of Officers (Wholetime Equivalent)

Personal Assistant

1

Personal Secretary

1

Clerical Officer

2.5

Annual Cost.

Private Office

Constituency Office

Salary excluding PRSI ER and Pension Contributions

759,387.22

178,179.35

Overtime

11,608.31

Expenses

1,354.56

In addition to the three special advisers listed above a senior manager is on loan from the Health Service Executive and works as part of my advisory team but is not contracted by the Department and continues to be an employee of the executive.

Health Services.

Sean Fleming

Question:

245 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding provided to an organisation (details supplied) from funds voted to her Department in 2005; the funding level which will be made available to this organisation in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35324/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John Cregan

Question:

246 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, further to her announcement of capital funding for the provision of an Alzheimer’s unit for St. Ita’s Hospital, Newcastle West, County Limerick she can confirm when tenders will be invited by the Health Service Executive for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35335/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

247 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons waiting for a mammogram at the breast clinic at the Mid-West Regional Hospital; the average waiting time for a mammogram at this clinic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35426/05]

Niall Blaney

Question:

261 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will take remedial action to facilitate breast screening for women in the south, west and north west many of whom have been referred by their general practitioners for a mammogram and are still waiting; her views on whether this is acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35526/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 261 together.

The Deputies' questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputies.

Task Force on Alcohol.

John Gormley

Question:

248 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made to date in 2005 on implementing the recommendations of the task force on alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35495/05]

The strategic task force on alcohol was established in January 2002 by the then Minister for the Health and Children. It produced an interim report in May 2002 and published its second report in September 2004. Government approval has been granted to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children to implement the recommendations of the task force which come within her remit and other Ministers have been asked to implement the recommendations appropriate to their Departments.

Progress has been made in several areas since the publication of the interim report. The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 includes measures to combat drunkenness and disorderly conduct, binge drinking and under age drinking. The Road Traffic Act 2003 extended the grounds for requesting a breath test to detect alcohol. The Minister for Transport is committed to the introduction of random breath testing. A voluntary code has been agreed with the advertising, broadcasting and drinks industries to reduce the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising. A monitoring body to oversee the implementation of the code will be established presently.

A three-year alcohol awareness campaign, Less is More, implemented by the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children, raised awareness of alcohol related harm and stimulated public debate. Two new alcohol advertisements targeted at under age drinkers have been developed and are being transmitted. A training programme in responsible serving practices for the drinks trade has been developed and is now provided by Fáilte Ireland. Social, personal and health education is now mandatory on the school curriculum and support services have increased. The GAA has recently appointed a national co-ordinator to implement an alcohol and drug misuse policy. The project is supported by the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children.

Several research projects have been undertaken to monitor and inform alcohol policy decision making. The research projects published since 2002 include lifestyle surveys, a European comparative study on drinking patterns, a survey on public attitudes to proposed alcohol policy changes and the Irish College of General Practitioners alcohol aware project. A research study on alcohol and injuries in accident and emergency departments will be published presently.

A working group on alcohol was recently established to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. The group operates in the context of the special initiative on alcohol and drug misuse under Sustaining Progress. The group comprises the social partners, the relevant Departments, the Garda, the national drugs strategy team and the Health Service Executive. The group is seeking to agree a programme of actions which can deliver targeted results in relation to under age drinking, binge drinking and drink driving. It is expected to produce a set of recommendations in late 2005.

Air Pollution.

John Gormley

Question:

249 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the figures for the deaths due to poor air quality from exhaust emissions particularly PM10s and PM2.5s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35496/05]

Data on mortality are compiled by the Central Statistics Office and published in the annual and quarterly reports on vital statistics. Deaths are classified by principal medical cause of death, for example, diseases of the respiratory system. It is not possible to identify the number of deaths due to poor air quality from exhaust emissions.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position relating to an organisation (details supplied) in County Kildare following Health Service Executive northern area inspection; if funding will be re-instated and backdated in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35497/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

251 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be awarded in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35498/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

252 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; if an early decision will be made in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35499/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Programmes.

Damien English

Question:

253 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when her Department plans to conduct a large-scale public awareness and education programme on violence against women, to carry out training for public officials, the Judiciary and health professionals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35505/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

254 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to extend the maternity and infant scheme to include visits to the doctor on-call service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35510/05]

The maternity and infant care scheme provides an agreed programme of care, free of charge, to an expectant mother arising out of her pregnancy and to her new born baby for six weeks after birth. All expectant mothers ordinarily resident in Ireland are eligible to avail of services under the scheme. Women who choose to avail of these services are under the care of both a general practitioner of their choice and a hospital obstetrician. Care can be obtained from any general practitioner who has a contract for the provision of services under the scheme.

The scheme provides for 12 ante-natal visits, six of which are to the general practitioner and six to the chosen maternity unit or hospital in the case of a first pregnancy. In subsequent pregnancies, there are seven visits to the general practitioner and five to the maternity unit or hospital. There are also two post-natal visits to the general practitioner, at two weeks for the baby and at six weeks for mother and baby. The visits to the general practitioner would be scheduled in the normal way during normal surgery hours and I am not aware of any difficulty in this context.

Health Service Staff.

Damien English

Question:

255 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the planned removal of five surgical training posts from Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan as of 1 January 2006; the action which will be taken by her Department to reinstate these posts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35511/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Substance Misuse.

Seán Crowe

Question:

256 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself with the level of provision for addiction counselling and aftercare throughout the State and if she has further satisfied herself that the Government is doing enough in this area. [30974/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Niall Blaney

Question:

257 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made to date in 2005 in her discussions with the North regarding sharing radiation oncology facilities with Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35522/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

295 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Northern Ireland Minister for Health regarding the provision of radiotherapy for cancer patients from the north west and Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35655/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 295 together.

I had a very positive meeting last Tuesday with the Minister for Health for Northern Ireland, Mr. Shaun Woodward, MP, during which we agreed that the new Belfast Cancer Centre, which is to open next March, will treat patients from Donegal. Details of the arrangements will be finalised in discussions involving the Health Service Executive, Belfast City Hospital and our respective Departments. These discussions will involve assessment of the specific radiotherapy needs of cancer patients in Donegal and the development of clinical treatment protocols, including appropriate transport arrangements, to ensure best patient care. Discussions will also be necessary on the funding arrangements involving the hospital and the Health Service Executive.

This initiative is a further and very practical example of North-South co-operation on health and will be of significant benefit to patients who will be treated at what I consider to be one of the best cancer facilities in Europe. This agreement also progresses the Government's plan on radiotherapy which I announced last July. Both the Minister, Mr. Woodward, and I are committed to developing additional co-operative initiatives for the benefit of our respective health services.

As regards access to cancer patients in other Border counties, I am sure the Deputies will appreciate that we need to ensure that access by Donegal patients to the Belfast services is working effectively and is properly grounded in effective clinical referral protocols involving the relevant clinicians both North and South. This is essential before I could realistically consider the question of additional access. Such access will critically depend on capacity at the Belfast centre and as the Deputies are aware, the first priority of the Belfast Cancer Centre is to the population in Northern Ireland.

Ambulance Service.

Niall Blaney

Question:

258 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will secure designated funding to assist patients and their families who must travel for cancer treatments; and if some of this funding could be extracted from the €35 billion allocated to the new transport plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35523/05]

There is a significant responsibility on our health services to ensure that patients, particularly cancer patients, are adequately supported clinically and, where necessary, with regard to proper transport arrangements. As I have previously indicated to the House, I consider that appropriate transport arrangements for oncology patients should be made available, where necessary, by the Health Service Executive. My Department has raised this matter with the executive to ensure that appropriate transport arrangements are put in place on a national basis for patients who are required to travel. Transport solutions are already a feature of the current provision of oncology services. My Department has asked the Health Service Executive to advise the Deputy directly with regard to funding for the provision of transport arrangements for oncology patients nationally.

Hospital Accommodation.

Niall Blaney

Question:

259 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made to date in 2005 regarding Letterkenny General Hospital receiving capital funding for 70 new public beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35524/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Niall Blaney

Question:

260 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has benefited from BreastCheck available in the east; the number of women’s lives which are being threatened by lack of similar screening in the south, west and north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35525/05]

The national breast screening programme commenced in 2000 and covers the eastern, midland, north-eastern and parts of the south-eastern regions of the country. Screening is being offered free of charge, every two years to approximately 160,000 women in those areas in the target age group 50 to 64 years of age.

The roll-out of the national breast screening programme to the remaining regions in the country is a major priority in the development of cancer services. BreastCheck has advertised for lead consultant radiologists and radiographers for the two new clinical units, one at the South Infirmary — Victoria Hospital, Cork, and one at University College Hospital, Galway. The recruitment of other key clinical posts will commence early in 2006. A design team has been appointed to work up detailed plans for the new units. It is anticipated that, subject to obtaining satisfactory planning approval, the design process including the preparation of the tender documentation will be completed by mid-2006.

There are approximately 130,000 women in the target population for screening in the remaining regions. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of 2007 for commencement of the roll-out will be met. This will ensure that all women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment, where appropriate.

Question No. 261 answered with QuestionNo. 247.

Hospital Services.

Niall Blaney

Question:

262 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made to date in 2005 regarding Letterkenny General Hospital retaining its specialist breast unit status; when the permanent breast surgeon will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35527/05]

Niall Blaney

Question:

263 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the cancer services in Letterkenny will be retained and developed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35528/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

264 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding plans for building on the site of the Mater for the development of a new hospital; the timeframe for same; the plans to transfer Temple Street Children’s Hospital to the Mater; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35529/05]

The Mater and Children's Hospital development is the largest single capital development project in the health programme. The project involves the redevelopment of the Mater campus to include considerably expanded and improved facilities for the Mater itself, and the construction of new, purpose-built accommodation which will replace the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street. The project has full planning permission and will be ready to go to tender when the revenue costs and scope of the project have been agreed. These issues are being examined by the Health Service Executive.

Question No. 265 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

266 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person, details supplied, in County Mayo has been deemed ineligible for orthodontic treatment; her views on whether her Department 1985 guidelines are causing problems for families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35540/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The aim of my Department is to promote the development of the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way over the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need — as happens under the existing guidelines. These guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable the Health Service Executive to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them.

In recent years, there have been several reviews of the orthodontic service. Formed at the invitation of the Department, a group representative of health board management and consultant orthodontists reviewed the orthodontic service and produced a report in 1998 called the Moran report. The objective of this review was to ensure equity in the provision of orthodontic treatment throughout the health boards. Furthermore, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children also carried out a review of orthodontic services which culminated in the publication of its report, The Orthodontic Service in Ireland, in 2002. This was followed by a further review by the health board chief executive officers of the orthodontic service to consider the joint committee's report and assess progress with implementing the Moran report. This report confirmed that the shortage of trained orthodontists restricts the use of the index of treatment need. Finally, the joint committee published a follow-up to its 2002 report on the orthodontic service in Ireland.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a number of measures have been adopted to improve orthodontic services on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the orthodontic service. My Department and the Health Service Executive has funded 19 dentists from various Health Service Executive areas for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the UK. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

Furthermore, the commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics for the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. My Department has given approval in principle to a proposal to further substantially improve training facilities for orthodontics at the school, which will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

My Department has been informed by the Health Service Executive that at the end of the June 2005 quarter, there were 23,216 patients receiving orthodontic treatment in the public orthodontic service. This means that there are more than twice as many patients getting orthodontic treatment as there are waiting to be treated and more than 7,000 extra patients are getting treatment from the Health Service Executive since the end of the June 2001 quarter.

John McGuinness

Question:

267 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application from a group, details supplied, in County Kilkenny for funding to purchase a new headquarters will be fast tracked in view of the availability of suitable property; the funds available for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35550/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Funding.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

268 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an increase in funding for the rape crisis centres around the country will be considered; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that since the publishing of the Ferns Report on 25 October 2005, the Rape Crisis Centre has seen a dramatic increase in demand on its services with an average of 50% increase in most centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35552/05]

My Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Moneys are made available each year, formerly through the health boards and now through the Health Service Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in funding so that now more than €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. The distribution of this funding is now a matter for the Health Service Executive. The Tánaiste asked the Health Service Executive to carry out an analysis of the current level of service provision in this area and to report back to her. The Tánaiste has recently received this report and it is under review in the Department.

Consultancy Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

269 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the role played by her Department in relation to the conclusion of a contract between the Health Service Executive and iSOFT; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35553/05]

Under the Health Act 2004, expenditure on ICT is included in the Vote of the Health Service Executive, Vote 40. Such expenditure must be approved by the Department of Finance. The Health Service Executive approached the Department of Finance for approval with regard to an electronic patient information system earlier this year. As the original proposal for such a system had been made some years previously to my Department for a number of health boards and the proposal in 2005 was for the whole health system, my Department sought the advice of the Attorney General to ensure that the contract conformed to EU procurement rules and would withstand any legal challenge. The Attorney General was satisfied that the proposal conformed with EU procurement rules and had a sound legal basis.

This information was conveyed to the Department of Finance by my Department on Friday, 29 April and I am advised that the Department of Finance gave oral approval to the proposed contract, subject to a number of conditions. I understand that the contract was signed the following day. The Department of the Taoiseach had no substantive involvement in the process. That Department, on request, did ask the Office of the Attorney General if the provision of the legal advice awaited by the Health Service Executive could be expedited. At the time of making that request, it was not briefed on the specifics of the advice being sought or on any other aspects of the transaction. It only knew that a legal advice was required urgently.

Enda Kenny

Question:

270 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department confined the implementation of the iSOFT contract to the areas previously covered by the North Eastern Health Board and the North Western Health Board even though the supplier was selected on the basis of a national deployment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35558/05]

My Department did not confine implementation of the iSOFT contract to the areas previously covered by the North Eastern and North Western Health Boards. The Health Service Executive designated the north-eastern and north-western areas as the priority sites for deployment of new IT systems because support contracts on their existing systems were coming to an end and could not be extended. If urgent action was not taken by the Health Service Executive, it would have resulted in significant additional expenditure and would have put the ability of the hospitals to function at risk as the admission, discharge or transfer of patients would have to be done manually. When the Health Service Executive submitted its proposals regarding the iSOFT contract to the Department of Finance, CMOD, it flagged these two areas as needing special urgent attention, involving the deployment of the current version of iSOFT on time before the existing support contracts expired.

The Health Service Executive's proposal is to deploy a standard version of the iSOFT system across all its hospitals. It took delivery of iSOFT's current version of the software in May 2005 for deployment in the north-eastern and north-western areas. The Health Service Executive has received approval from the Department of Finance for the current version to be implemented in Tullamore General Hospital. These projects are under way and the system will go live in those areas by mid-2006. In January 2006, the Health Service Executive will take delivery of the version of the iSOFT system that will be used as the national standard, incorporating developments that iSOFT has contractually committed to provide. This new version of the system — Lorenzo — is based on developments made to the existing versions of the system currently being used. This system will be deployed on a pilot basis in St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, with an expected go-live date in early 2007. This standard system will then be rolled out across all hospitals and, in due course, will replace the interim systems supplied to the north-eastern and north-western areas.

Hospital Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

271 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of crisis nurses at accident and emergency departments in the health service. [35559/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

272 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons working in the individual suicide resource offices in each Health Service Executive region. [35560/05]

Dan Neville

Question:

273 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of permanent suicide resource officers and temporary suicide officers by secondment from areas of the health service. [35561/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 272 and 273 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the employment of suicide resource officers. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

274 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card will be expedited in the name of a person, details supplied, in County Kilkenny. [35562/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

275 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the plan to transfer the dermatology clinic in Tallaght Hospital to St. James’s Hospital owing to lack of funding for the Tallaght service from the Health Service Executive; if her attention has further been drawn to the inconvenience that this will cause to the many patients attending this clinic in the Tallaght catchment area. [35564/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

276 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging a further appointment with a consultant for a person, details supplied, in County Carlow; if their treatment will be fast-tracked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35571/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

277 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the decision by the Health Service Executive to refuse an application from a person, details supplied, for an additional room in a health centre in County Wicklow, she will ensure this decision is reversed. [35587/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care Workers.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

278 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether there should be a work-life balance for carers allowing more flexible working arrangements which would accommodate real life caring situations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35599/05]

The Deputy may be interested to know that under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive provides funding for carers' groups, some of whom provide training, information and support to family carers. Responsibility for carer's allowance and benefit rests with my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. His Department has informed that the carer's allowance is a payment for carers on low incomes who live with and look after certain people in need of full-time care and attention. Carers who are providing care to more than one person may be entitled to up to 50% extra of the maximum rate of carer's allowance each week, depending on the weekly means assessed. Carer's benefit is a payment made to insured persons who leave the workforce to care for a person or persons in need of full-time care and attention.

Responsibility for the Carer's Leave Act 2001 rests with my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. His Department has informed me that the Carer's Leave Act 2001, which commenced on 2 July 2001, delivered on the undertaking by the previous Government in the programme for prosperity and fairness. The Act allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full-time care for a period of up to 65 weeks — 15 months — and have their employment rights protected during the absence.

The introduction of the Carer's Leave Act is recognition of the important role played by carers in our society. It is important that support and practical assistance continues to be given to these carers. The Act makes it possible for employees to make the temporary choice of becoming a carer without loss of employment and where possible care, recipients may be cared for in the home.

The Act complements the carer's benefit scheme administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which provides financial support for 15 months to an employee who leaves employment temporarily to care for someone medically certified by the Department of Social and Family Affairs as needing full-time care and attention. As the carer's benefit scheme is based on an employee's PRSI contributions, there is no means test.

The Act is a unique and innovative social policy that seeks to support people during a difficult period. One of the main provisions in the Act allows carers to work for up to ten hours per week, under regulations made by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs. This allows employers to avail of the services of valued employees on a part-time basis while, at the same time, recognising the sensitivities of individual situations.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

279 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether training should be provided for all family carers in caring skills; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35600/05]

An interdepartmental group on the funding of long-term care for older persons was established earlier this year by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan. This group is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and is examining a range of issues surrounding the care of older persons in Ireland, including carers. The report of the group is expected to be submitted to Government in the near future.

The Deputy may be interested to know that under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive provides funding for carers' groups, some of whom provide training to family carers. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange for information to be supplied to the Deputy regarding funding these groups.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

280 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider the implementation of the comprehensive needs assessment protocol for family carers to consider health and social issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35603/05]

An interdepartmental group on the funding of long-term care for older persons set up by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, and chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, is examining a range of issues surrounding the care of older persons in Ireland, including the question of standardised needs assessment for services. The report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Medical Cards.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

281 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if medical cards will be provided to all full-time family carers, with one annual health check; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35604/05]

Eligibility for health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, other than for persons over 70 who are automatically entitled to a medical card.

Medical cards are issued to persons who in the opinion of the HSE are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. It is open to all persons to apply to the chief officer of the relevant HSE area for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependents without hardship. The setting of income guidelines for medical cards is a matter for the HSE which has discretion over the issuing of medical cards. In cases where a person has income in excess of the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the HSE considers his or her needs or other circumstances justify this.

My Department is currently reviewing all legislation concerning eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any group as a whole. I anticipate continuing with the arrangement whereby medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances.

Health Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

282 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the funding and staffing of a centre (details supplied); her views on whether it is unsatisfactory and unacceptable that capital funding has been spent and yet services are not available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35609/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

283 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Morning Star Mother and Baby Home was included under the definition of a maternity home in the terms of the registration of Maternity Homes Act 1934; if so, whether there was a power to inspect and regulate same by a public body; if so, whether this information will be conveyed to the Department of Education and Science so that it can be considered for inclusion under the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35629/05]

There is no available evidence for the inclusion of a Morning Star Mother and Baby Home under the definition of a maternity home within the Registration of Maternity Homes Act 1934 and, therefore, no evidence exists of inspection or regulation in that regard.

The criteria for inclusion of an entity under the Residential Institution Redress Act 2002 are set out under section 4 of that Act, which states that the Minister for Education and Science may provide by order for the insertion in the Schedule of any "industrial school, reformatory school, orphanage, children's home, special school which was established for the purpose of providing educational services to children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function."

Violence Against Women.

Liam Twomey

Question:

284 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding for voluntary organisations that deal with violence against women services have seen their budgets remain fixed at 2003 levels (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35633/05]

My Department does not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Monies are made available each year, formerly through the health boards and now through the Health Services Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in funding so that now over €12 million is provided annually for the provision of such services. The distribution of this funding is now a matter for the HSE. The Tánaiste asked the HSE to carry out an analysis of the current level of service provision in this area and to report back to her. The Tánaiste recently received this report and it is under review in the Department.

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

285 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on a recent publication by the Health Service Executive western area on dementia services in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35634/05]

The Deputy may be aware that the development of services for people with Alzheimer's disease is based on the action plan for dementia published by the National Council on Ageing and Older People in 1999. Considerable progress has been made in service development since the publication of the report and, in each of the years since 1999, my Department has provided additional funding of more than €65 million to psychiatry of old age and more than €2 million to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland for services delivered. In addition, carers for Alzheimer sufferers have benefitted from the €5 million we have made available in the same period specifically for the support of carers. The Health Service Executive is also making progress in the provision of dementia units on a gradual basis. For example, the Estimates for 2006 include the provision of a new dementia unit for Carndonagh.

While I welcome the Health Service Executive western area's plan for the development of dementia services in County Clare, which was launched in October 2005, the development of the services and implementation of the proposal for the development of dementia services in County Clare is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004.

Water Fluoridation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

286 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on an article in a journal (details supplied) on water fluoridation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35635/05]

Fluoridation of public water supplies as a public health measure is accepted as being one of the most effective methods of ensuring against tooth decay. The World Health Organisation, WHO, recommends fluoridation of public water supplies and has stated that fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay. WHO has also stated that people of all ages, including the elderly, benefit from community water fluoridation.

The recently completed survey of oral health, covering the whole island of Ireland, shows that fluoridation of public water supplies continues to be a highly effective public health measure. It has contributed significantly to a major reduction in the incidence of dental decay in the Republic of Ireland. As the Deputy will be aware, the Irish expert body on fluorides and health was established in 2004 by the then Minister for Health and Children. The expert body held its inaugural meeting in April 2004 and its terms of reference are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the forum on fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research, including emerging issues, on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and to report to the Minister on matters of concern on request or on its own initiative. I have asked my officials to refer the article in question to the expert body for its consideration. The expert body will advise me on the outcome of its considerations.

Vaccination Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

287 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Hib booster campaign to protect two to four year old children from diseases, including meningitis, has commenced; if not, the reason thereof; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35640/05]

The Hib catch-up booster campaign organised by the Health Service Executive began on Monday, 21 November 2005. The HSE began planning for the current booster campaign following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee. The campaign is designed to offer the Hib catch-up booster vaccine to further protect children aged between one and four years against haemophilus influenza type b, Hib, infection.

The booster is available free of charge from general practitioners to all 220,000 children in the appropriate age groups, who will be called to receive it between now and the middle of next May. The campaign is being run in three phases. Children who are one year-old are now being called and parents of these children will receive information telling them when and how their child can get the booster. Children aged two and three years will be offered the vaccine in January and February and their parents will be contacted at that time. All children reaching one year of age during the campaign will also be offered the Hib booster vaccine. I urge all parents who have children in this age group to get the Hib catch-up booster vaccine.

Hospital Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

288 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the circumstances surrounding the termination of a consultant orthopaedic surgeon contract at Cork University Hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35641/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

289 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a warfarin clinic could be established at Galway Regional Hospital; her views on community project for testing INRs in the general practitioner surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35642/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

290 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the State, by providing different payments to service providers based purely on the economic means of the recipients of the service, is in keeping with the Equal Status Act 2000 and the Constitution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35643/05]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the fees and allowances paid to general practitioners in respect of services provided under the general medical services scheme. The level of these fees and allowances reflect the agreed outcome of negotiations between the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation. Such arrangements do not come within the scope of the Equal Status Act 2000.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Liam Twomey

Question:

291 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the National Treatment Purchase Fund will give priority in budget 2006 to patients who were refused treatment in 2005; if the National Treatment Purchase Fund will recall its directive which requested acute hospitals not to refer patients to the fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35644/05]

By the end of October 2005, more than 13,000 patients had treatment arranged for them by the National Treatment Purchase Fund. The fund has now treated more than 36,300 patients since it commenced in 2002. It is now the case that, in most instances, anyone waiting more than three months for an operation will be facilitated by the fund.

The health strategy envisaged that the NTPF might also make use of any capacity within public hospitals to arrange treatment for public patients. It was recognised that, during the start-up phase of the fund, the use of public capacity could account for 30% of total NTPF activity, provided that public core service planned activity was not compromised. The Department has recently advised the NTPF that use by the fund of public facilities should be limited to 10% of its total referrals for treatment.

The fund is continuing to work closely with hospitals to identify and locate the necessary capacity to have patients treated and to reach its target for 2005. My Department has been informed by the NTPF that patients have not been denied access to treatment. All surgery planned before the end of the year is set to proceed.

A new patient treatment register, PTR, has been developed by the NTPF. The PTR is a new national database of patients waiting for admission to hospital for treatment. The register will allow for more accurate identification of waiting lists and waiting times. The first phase of the register was implemented in September 2005. The PTR will also enable the NTPF to contact patients directly and offer them treatment.

Vaccination Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

292 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of the influenza vaccine per person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35649/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the administration of the influenza vaccines. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

293 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to implement a cost of disability payment to persons with disabilities; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that all groups dealing with disability concur with the view that a cost of disability payment is essential for promoting independent living; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that such a payment is recommended by the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities; her views on whether the net effect of not having such a payment coupled with the restrictive means testing of the mobility allowance makes it economically unviable for persons with significant disabilities to participate in paid employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35650/05]

Under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, an interdepartmental working group chaired by the Department of Health and Children was established to examine the feasibility of introducing a cost of disability payment. The National Disability Authority, on behalf of the working group and according to its own remit, commissioned research into the feasibility of a cost of disability payment in Ireland. The purpose of this research was to advise on the additional costs incurred by people with disabilities owing specifically to the direct or indirect costs of the disability and the appropriate mechanisms or instruments by which to address identified additional costs. The resultant report, Disability and the Cost of Living, was published by the NDA early in 2004.

In March, the working group produced a position paper, which gave an overview of the work they have undertaken to date. It outlined the group's current thinking and gave an indication of the next steps the working group intend taking. The working group recommends that urgent steps be taken to improve the quality of data relating to disability in Ireland. This might include, for example, adjustment of existing data gathering exercises undertaken by the Central Statistics Office or other relevant bodies to include questions on the numbers per household with disabilities, the nature of the disability and severity of impairment. The working group considers it vital that comprehensive data is available on which to base consideration of the feasibility of a cost of disability payment. Given its advisory and research remit, the working group considers that the National Disability Authority has an important role to play in addressing these data gaps along with other relevant bodies.

The working group acknowledges that a number of Departments and agencies have previously carried out reviews of the various supports and payments for people with disabilities. However, these reviews have tended to focus solely on the operation of individual schemes without taking a broader overview of how these measures fit into the overall system of disability supports. The working group proposes to examine the scope for rationalising and streamlining the various disability supports measures, with a particular focus on mitigating the additional costs of disability for a greater number of people with disabilities, particularly in the case of those who wish to move from a position of total welfare dependance to one of greater economic independence. The working group is now following up on these matters, which include issues arising from the transport for people with disabilities.

Hospital Accommodation.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

294 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious shortage of beds in Letterkenny General Hospital; and her plans to provide the necessary 70 beds. [35654/05]

John Gormley

Question:

296 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the promised 70 beds will be delivered to Letterkenny General Hospital; the approximate cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35660/05]

John Gormley

Question:

297 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the delivery suite at Letterkenny General Hospital is being used; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35661/05]

John Gormley

Question:

298 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she accepts that, if the private hospital opens on the campus of Letterkenny hospital, it may result in staffing problems for public patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35662/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 294 and 296 to 298, inclusive, together.

The Deputies' questions concern the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputies.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 257.
Questions Nos. 296 to 298, inclusive, answered with Question No. 294.

Health Service Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

299 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if policy and direction in respect of health services generally derives from her Department or from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35667/05]

The Prospectus and Brennan reports identified the need for significant change in the role of the Department of Health and Children as part of a fundamental reform of the health service. The overall recommendations of the two reports with regard to functions were accepted by the Government and it was agreed that the Department should be reorganised. The legal framework for this reform was put in place with the Health Act 2004. Under the Act, my Department has responsibility for policy analysis, development and prioritisation. This responsibility also includes performance measurement, the monitoring of financial positions and service provisions and the evaluation of efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery.

The functions of the executive are outlined in section 7 of the Health Act 2004. These include the management and delivery of health and personal social services, the education and training of health professionals and employees and the provision of advice to the Minister with regard to its functions. The overall objective of the executive is to use the resources available to it in the most beneficial, effective and efficient manner in order to improve, promote and protect the health and welfare of the public.

Question No. 300 answered with QuestionNo. 148.

Parliamentary Accountability.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

301 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which it is proposed to achieve a degree of accountability to Dáil Éireann in respect of budget, administration and delivery of health services in view of the dearth of information available to Dáil Éireann and the fashion in which such information, if available, is made by way of delayed reply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35669/05]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive is responsible for the delivery of health services. Section 21 of that Act states that "the chief executive officer shall, at the written request of an Oireachtas Committee, attend before it". The executive must also submit a service plan which, when approved by me, is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. This plan must, among other things, indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services to be provided by the executive for the duration of the plan. My Department has a role in performance management and measurement, monitoring financial positions and service provisions and the evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery. Under the legislation, the executive has to submit a corporate plan for approval. The corporate plan was recently approved and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. This outlines the key objectives for the period 2005 to 2008, how the achievement of these objectives will be measured and the use of its resources.

With regard to parliamentary questions, which can differ substantially in complexity and detail required, the executive aims to operate within a timeframe of 20 working days from the date of answer to the issue of a final reply and a protocol has been adopted to that effect. This reflects the arrangement previously in place with health boards. The executive is committed to reducing this period as it develops its organisational and information capacity.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide primary or hospital care to the population in the event of an epidemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35670/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of primary or hospital care to the population in the event of an influenza pandemic. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

303 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the directives she has given in respect of the provision of respiratory and tuberculosis facilities previously available at Peamount Hospital; the number and category of patients currently at the hospital; the location of patients who had previously received ongoing treatment there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35671/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

I have not issued a policy directive on the provision of respiratory and tuberculosis facilities previously available at Peamount Hospital. The Deputy will be aware that this issue has been examined in considerable detail in recent years by Comhairle na nOspidéal and by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority. Decisions regarding the future configuration of services at Peamount Hospital are a matter for the HSE.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

304 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number and location of hospital beds available for isolation in the event of an outbreak of infectious disease; the areas where such beds are located in view of their previous availability at Peamount Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35672/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

305 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if and when she proposes to make the necessary budgetary allocations to facilitate the implementation of the next phase of the Naas Hospital development programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35673/05]

The Deputy's question concerns the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

306 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has given any direction in respect of the provision of ambulance services with particular reference to call out times throughout the country; if she has made any comparisons with the best or worst case scenarios; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35674/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

As part of the reform of the health service a national ambulance office, NAO, has been established under the auspices of the national hospitals office within the HSE. The office has responsibility for the provision of pre-hospital emergency care nationally and is working closely with the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council, PHECC, which is the statutory body responsible for the development of standards in pre-hospital emergency care and the accreditation of institutions providing training for ambulance personnel.

The HSE has advised that ambulance service response times are regularly monitored and that the PHECC is formulating national response time targets. I am fully committed to the development of our emergency ambulance service and my Department has recently approved funding of €2m to be provided in 2006 for the development of pre-hospital emergency care services nationally.

Hospital Hygiene.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

307 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has issued any policy directives to the various hospitals throughout the country following the publication of the recent hygiene audit with particular reference to institutions in which patients might be at greater risk from MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35675/05]

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the management and delivery of health services is now a matter for the Health Service Executive. This includes responsibility for acute hospital services. The prevention and control of health care associated infections, HCAIs, is a priority issue for the Health Service Executive. Effective infection control measures, including environmental cleanliness and hand hygiene, are central to the control of HCAIs, including drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA.

The results of the national hygiene audit will form the basis for the changes that are required in both work environments and work practices so as to meet the highest possible standards of cleanliness in hospital settings. The HSE is making an initial capital grant of €20 million available to hospitals to implement the recommendations of the audit. The HSE will also publish national infection control standards and national cleaning standards — a consistent and robust set of hygiene standards for hospitals. Where previously standards may have depended on the approach of a particular hospital or health board, the HSE can now ensure every hospital will share and meet the same high standards of cleanliness and infection control.

The national hygiene audit of acute hospitals will be repeated in early 2006 in order to assess the extent of the improvements made at hospital level since the publication of the first audit report. My Department is continuing to engage with the HSE to agree on a series of actions over the next period of time so that MRSA can be effectively dealt with so as to see a reduction in the incidence and effects of these infections.

Question No. 308 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

309 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost to date in 2005 of the treatment purchase scheme; the number of patients treated; the nature of the specialties involved; the locations at which treatment was received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35677/05]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, my Department has asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the detailed information requested.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

310 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the availability of adequate accident and emergency staff at all hospitals throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35678/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

311 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the relatively high incidents of autism here; if she proposes to dedicate any specific funding for research in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35679/05]

According to the latest report of the national intellectual disability database, which was published on 29 September 2005, there are 24,917 people registered on the database. This would include people with autism. However, information pertaining to diagnosis is specifically excluded, as the database is not designed as a medical epidemiological tool. The data held in any individual record represent the information available for that person at a specific point in time only. The record is updated whenever there are changes in the person's circumstances or during the annual review process in the spring of each year.

The national intellectual disability database enables those involved with the planning and delivery of service to people with an intellectual disability and those with autism to identify not only the level or need among those awaiting placement in services but also the service changes required by those already in receipt of services. In addition, my Department has committed €5 million in funding to an Irish research project participating in an international genetics project designed to map the human genome in the search for autism susceptibility genes.

Cancer Incidence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

312 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has studied the number of incidents of the various forms of cancer on a county basis throughout the country; if she has reached any conclusions with particular reference to the cause or causes in respect of those counties or regions with the highest incidents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35680/05]

The National Cancer Registry has routinely collected data on county of residence for all incidences of cancer since 1994. These data have been published in a number of reports, including Cancer in Ireland 1994-2000 and two all-Ireland cancer reports, All-Ireland Cancer Statistics for 1994-96 and 1998-2000. Up-to-date tables describing cancer incidence by site, sex and county of residence are also available to the public on the registry website www.ncri.ie. In addition to this routine analysis, the registry has carried out a number of analyses of cancer incidence for single counties in response to specific local issues.

The most recent detailed analysis of the relationship between cancer incidence and county of residence was carried out for the second All-Ireland cancer report for the period 1998-2000, which was published in 2004. While this report showed some relationship between region of residence and cancer incidence, there were few instances where this relationship could be shown at county level. In general, the number of cancer cases diagnosed at county level were too few, and the variation in incidence between counties too small for any meaningful conclusions to be drawn. The only clear exception to this was for lung cancer, where incidences and mortality was significantly higher in Dublin than elsewhere. This variation in lung cancer incidence between urban and rural setting was also found in Belfast and Derry and is consistent with the pattern of incidence of lung cancer in other countries.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

313 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received recommendations from the Health Service Executive working group relating to the Pollock report; if and when same will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35681/05]

As part of the overall funding for health services in 2006, additional funding of €4.78 million is being allocated specifically for the development of cystic fibrosis services. I wish to see significant improvement next year in the level of services available to persons with cystic fibrosis. The current service deficits in this area are widely acknowledged and have been identified most notably in the Pollock report, and by the Health Service Executive working group which is looking at this issue.

My Department is advised that the working group, which is due to report shortly, will be making specific recommendations in relation to a range of service improvements required for persons with CF, in particular the need to increase the level of clinical, nursing and allied health professional staffing in CF units around the country. As part of the implementation process I would like to see a particular focus on addressing the identified deficits at the national adult referral centre at St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

314 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself regarding the adequacy and quality of the various health centres throughout County Kildare with particular reference to the need for expansion of services and facilities in line with population requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35682/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

315 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself regarding the standard and quality of services and facilities in all nursing homes throughout the country; the degree to which up-to-date inspections and reports are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35683/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that with regard to the standard and quality of services and facilities in nursing homes the Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993, made under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990, set out the standards which private nursing homes must adhere to. The Health Service Executive currently carries out inspections in private nursing homes. In the context of the Health Bill 2005, the process has begun to review the current system with a view to strengthening the powers available to those involved in inspecting facilities and to extend a strengthened inspection system to public facilities.

It is also intended that the Bill will provide for the setting and monitoring of standards for residential facilities for older people. To this end, the Department has commenced a review of the Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations 1993, and will be working in conjunction with the HSE, the SSI and other relevant bodies, with the intention of developing a new set of standards that would apply to all residential services for older people. In response to the degree to which up-to-date inspections and reports are available, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

316 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of vacant positions in respect of various categories of health works with particular reference to public health nurses, social workers, child psychologists in the various health boards throughout the country; her plans to address shortages in this area at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35684/05]

Employment information for the health service is collected through the health services personnel census on a quarterly basis and the latest available verified data is in respect of end of June 2005, when employment levels stood at 100,934 personnel in whole-time equivalent terms. The census collects data in respect of actual employment and does not include information on vacancies.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the health service staffing. Accordingly, my Department has requested the national director of human resources to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

317 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds provided at Maynooth Community Hospital for the elderly; the number currently occupied; the reason all beds are not offered for occupation; when they are likely to become available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35685/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

318 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the number of medical cards issued to date in 2005 compares with the commitment given by the Government prior to the 2002 general election; the costing provided at the time and the eventual cost; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35686/05]

In November 2005, 1,150,511 people hold medical cards. Figures provided by the then health boards indicated that there were 1,207,096 medical card holders in June 2002. A simple comparison of these figures does not take account of the fact that over 104,000 invalid entries have been removed since 2001, following concerns which arose at that time about inaccurate GMS lists. If allowance is made for the effect of this necessary exercise, there has been a significant net increase in the number of medical cards.

Funding of €60 million has been provided in 2005 to the Health Service Executive, HSE, to meet the costs of providing an additional 30,000 people with medical cards and 200,000 people with GP visit cards. These initiatives will assist in overcoming barriers to accessing GP services, particularly for people on low incomes. They will also help in removing poverty traps and disincentives to people taking up work or progressing to better paying work. People who hold GP visit cards are entitled to avail of the drugs payment scheme, which provides that no person or family unit pays in excess of €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed drugs and medicines.

In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, it was apparent that the effect of rising income in our successful economy meant that the target of 30,000 additional medical cards was not going to be achieved. At this time I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants. I announced on 13 October 2005 that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year. My Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the number of cards issued with the intention of putting in place the required measures to ensure that the coverage targets are achieved.

Based on data provided to my Department in November 2002 by the GMS payments board, the estimated cost of providing 200,000 medical cards was €150 million. With the additional funding which I have provided in 2005, and the introduction of GP visit cards, a greater number of people will be enabled to gain access to GP services. The question of further improvements will be kept under review in the light of the availability of resources and also the graduated benefits approach introduced with the GP visit card.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

319 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of agency nurses employed throughout the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35687/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

320 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children awaiting orthodontic treatment; the number who have been forced to seek treatment elsewhere; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35688/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children who have received orthodontic treatment in the past four years; the number on waiting lists who have not yet received treatment; if she will indicate a time by which it is expected those patients now on the waiting lists will receive treatment, if at all; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35689/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she proposes to meet requirements in terms of permanent and respite places for those with physical or sensory disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35690/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in the 2006 Book of Estimates my colleague, the Minister for Finance, under the multi-annual investment programme 2006 to 2009 is providing additional funding amounting to €59 million to meet the costs associated with the following services: services for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism; services for persons with physical or sensory disabilities; and mental health services.

In respect of services for persons with a physical or sensory disability, this additional funding is to meet the cost of providing 80 new residential places for persons with significant disabilities who are currently placed in inappropriate settings and 250,000 extra hours of home support and personal assistance.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the adequacy of numbers of psychologists available through the various health boards; her plans to increase the numbers in line with current demands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35691/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she proposes to improve and extend respite care facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35692/05]

The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined all issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. The group will comment on respite care for older people in this report. It is expected that the report of the group will be submitted to Government in the near future.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds available in County Kildare at present; the number required; her plans to expand this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35693/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the delivery of services in primary care, medical and surgical facilities, special hospital needs and community services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35694/05]

The delivery of health services is an operational matter and is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Under section 31 of the Health Act 2004 the executive must prepare and submit to me its service plan for the coming year within 21 days of the publication by the Government of the Estimates for Supply Services for the financial year. The service plan must, among other things, indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services to be provided by the executive for the duration of the plan. This will include the areas of primary, hospital and community and continuing care. Within 21 days of its submission the service plan must be either approved by me or subject to amendment requested by me. The approved service plan must be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas within 21 days of my approval being given.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

327 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists and child psychologists required throughout the country at present; her plans to meet this requirement in full having particular regard to the needs of children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35695/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in regard to waiting lists in respect of hip, heart and eye surgery; the way in which this compares with 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35696/05]

Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly with the information requested.

Health Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

329 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that private patients seeking appointments with consultant neurologists have to endure a waiting time between two and a half and three years; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that public patients can only access neurological treatment by being admitted to hospital; her plans to appoint sufficient consultant neurologists to ensure a proper service; the hospitals to which the new appointees will be attached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35700/05]

Under the Health Act 2004 the Health Service Executive has responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of neurology services. The Comhairle report on neurology and neurophysiology recommended significant enhancement of these services including the appointment of additional consultants.

As part of the Estimates for health services in 2006, additional funding of €3 million is being allocated specifically for the further development of neurology and neurophysiology services. The additional funding will allow the Health Service Executive to further progress the implementation of the Comhairle recommendations in respect of this service. With regard to the specific issues raised by the Deputy, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to have these matters investigated and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Phil Hogan

Question:

330 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when speech therapy will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35703/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

331 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of medicines paid for by the State, distinguishing that spent under GMS, under the drug refund scheme, in hospitals and in other institutions; and the way in which these costs have changed in each year since 1997. [35757/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

332 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of finance allocated to the Mental Health Commission which was not spent in 2005; the areas where these measures were reallocated. [35771/05]

The final expenditure figures for the Mental Health Commission for 2005 have not yet been determined.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

333 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the promise of mainstreaming community employment schemes offering services to the disabled will be fulfilled; and if the necessary core funding in the Health Service Executive budget for 2006 will be included. [35776/05]

Additional funding will be provided in 2006 for the improvement of services for people with disabilities. In allocating the funding, the Health Service Executive will have regard to core staffing issues, including those relating to the proposed mainstreaming of community employment posts.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

334 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [35777/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

335 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with particular reference to a full and final report in regard to the matters raised by way of Parliamentary Question No. 312 of 21 June 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35780/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. My Department has been informed by the executive that management representatives from Naas General Hospital met with members of the family of the patient referred to by the Deputy in September 2005 and that a further meeting has been arranged with the family for this week. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy following this meeting.

Great Blasket Island.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

336 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements which he has entered into for the purchase of the Great Blasket Island; if these arrangements relate to the provision or development of commercial building on the island, if so, the details of same; if the arrangements relate to the operation of services to and from the island, if so, in what way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35252/05]

The Great Blasket Island management plan sets out the proposals for the future of the island and covers the full range of issues involved, including those referred to by the Deputy. I will arrange for a copy of this document to be sent to the Deputy. Arrangements for the purchase of property on the island are in progress in consultation with the Chief State Solicitor's office.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

337 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce tax relief for family carers for pre-determined categories of expenses associated with their caring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35601/05]

I refer the Deputy to the long-standing practice of Ministers for Finance not to comment on what may or may not be contained in upcoming budgets. I do not intend to depart from that approach.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

338 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35138/05]

Three civil servants are employed in the press office in the Office of Public Works. One assistant principal officer, one higher executive officer and one clerical officer. The actual pay of individuals is not given in the normal course as it is deemed to be personal information. Travel and subsistence is payable if appropriate. The grade and payscales of these staff are detailed in the table below:

Staff

Payscale (as at 1 June 2005)

Minimum

Maximum

Assistant Principal Officer

APO Scale (pa)

57,630.00

71,859.00

Higher Executive Officer

HEO Scale (pa)

40,543.00

51,463.00

Clerical Officer

CO Scale (pw)

386.75

627.21

Paul McGrath

Question:

339 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35153/05]

One personal assistant and one personal secretary are employed on constituency and PR work for me. Two civilian drivers may, as appropriate, provide services which are constituency related. One staff officer, assigned to administrative duties in my office assists with constituency work. The grade and payscales of these staff are detailed in the table below. The actual pay of individuals is not given in the normal course as it is deemed to be personal information. The payscale for the civilian drivers is a one point scale. Travel and subsistence is payable if appropriate. A pension contribution of 11% of salary is payable to an approved pension provider as part of the remuneration of the personal assistant.

Staff

Pay Scale (as at 1 June 2005)

Minimum

Maximum

Personal Assistant

HEO Standard Scale (pa)

40,543.00

51,463.00

Personal Secretary

Secretarial Assistants (pw)

386.87

746.41

Civilian Drivers

Civilian Driver (pw)

569.82

N/A

Staff Officer

Staff Officer (pa)

30,428.00

40,628.00

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

340 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance if restrictions in VAT law would prevent any reduction in rates for certain products for environmental reasons; and if so, the restrictions of same. [35182/05]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The VAT rate that applies to a particular good or service is determined by a number of criteria.

Member states have the option of retaining the zero VAT rates which were in force on 1 January 1991, but no new zero VAT rates can be introduced. As a transitional arrangement, member states have the option of maintaining, at a reduced rate of not less than 12%, any items not listed in Annexe H of the Sixth VAT Directive, provided such items were at a reduced rate on 1 January 1991. These goods and services are considered to be "parked". Otherwise, member states may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annexe H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive.

Under the Sixth VAT Directive member states may set the standard VAT rate not lower than 15%. There is political agreement that the standard rate of VAT applying in each member state does not exceed 25%. Ireland's standard rate of VAT is 21%. Goods and services at the reduced rate may be moved to the standard rate, but only those listed in Annexe H may be reverted from the standard rate to the reduced rate. All goods or services are VAT rated according to these rules.

State Property.

Paul McGrath

Question:

341 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the cost of relocating the Department of Agriculture and Food offices from Hynes building to Dockgate building in Galway city; the cost of relocating the farm development service offices from Murrough to Dockgate building in Galway city; the annual cost of leasing the Dockgate building offices and the cost of car parking facilities. [35283/05]

In line with the requirements of the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Office of Public Works organised the relocation of the Department of Agriculture and Food from the Hynes building and the farm development services from the Murrough to Dockgate. The annual rent and service charges payable in respect of the lease on the building is €814,091 and includes 65 car spaces. The cost of the fit out of the Dockgate premises to meet the requirements of the Department of Agriculture and Food was €2,342,488.99. A once-off charge of €1,457,244.15 in respect of VAT arose on the creation of the lease, which is payable by the landlord to the Revenue Commissioners.

The consolidation of Department of Agriculture and Food services in Galway into a single location in Dockgate provides a "one-stop shop" facility for the agricultural community. The property vacated at the Murrough is State-owned and is being evaluated to determine whether it can be used for alternative public purposes. If no such alternative use is identified, it will be disposed of by the OPW in line with normal practice.

Ministerial Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

342 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff broken down by grade employed within the private office and the constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number that are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35300/05]

The staffing of my private office and constituency office is set out in the following tables. To date in 2005, overtime, salary-related allowances and allowance payments amount to €50,804. The amount paid in expenses, foreign and domestic travel, official entertainment and miscellaneous for the same period amounts to €48,079. Additional to the staff listed are four clerical officers, two of whom workshare, who provide typing and administrative support services to my private office, the constituency office and to the Department of Finance press office. Their salaries range from €21,245 to €34,448. The personal assistant and personal secretary in my constituency office are employed on an unestablished contract basis for the duration of my tenure as Minister for Finance. All other staff in my private office and constituency office are permanent civil servants and details are set out as follows:

Minister's Private Office.

Grade

Number

Salary Range

Administrative Officer

1

29,061-51,563

Executive Officer

2

26,618-42,238

Staff Officer

2

30,428-40,628

Clerical Officer

3

21,245-34,448

Minister's Constituency Office.

Grade

Number

Salary Range

Executive Officer

1

26,618-42,238

Staff Officer

1

30,428-40,628

Personal Assistant

1

40,543-51,463

Personal Secretary

1

20,187-38,948

State Property.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

343 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the cost to date in 2005 for maintenance, insurance, security, health and safety, renovations and other miscellaneous costs for a property (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the breakdown for each calendar year, including the first partial year and to date in 2005 has been for each category listed; the costs he expected to incur between now and the disposal of said property to the affordable housing partnership; if he will receive any remuneration to his Department from the affordable housing partnership upon transfer of the property or at any stage in the future from this property; the original cost of the property to the State; the cost of the transaction of purchasing the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35494/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works acting on behalf of the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform purchased Broc House in June 2000 for €9,205,601. The breakdown of costs for security and maintenance for Broc House incurred by the State up to 25 October 2005 is detailed below. The transfer of Broc House to the Affordable Housing Partnership is under way. The terms of the transfer agreement provide that in the event that the local authority realises a surplus, the same should be distributed by the local authority. This means that 65% of the surplus shall be paid to the Minister to be used as part of the affordable housing initiative and 35% of the surplus shall be paid to the transferer. The purchase of the property was handled by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor and no agent's charges were incurred.

Broc House — Yearly Running Cost.

Year

Security

Maintenance/ Renovations

Total

2000

23,875.03

23,875.03

2001

120,713.93

55,856.79

176,570.72

2002

103,596.24

103,596.24

2003

116.923.15

116,923.15

2004

102,871.52

102,871.52

2005 (up to and including Oct.)

103,713.74

103,713.74

Total

627,550.40

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

344 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it is fair to persons who have paid their €40 annual stamp duty charge on their credit card that they are then charged €40 again on cancelling the card within the same 12-month period; if he will review this charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35535/05]

A person who holds a credit card account with a credit card provider pays stamp duty on that credit card account once for each 12-month period ending on 1 April each year. Where a person cancels a credit card account within a 12-month period he or she pays the charge at the time of cancellation. This means that, in respect of any credit card account, an individual will only pay once for the year ending on the following 1 April. Section 128 of the Finance Act 2005 contained measures to eliminate a double stamp duty charge for the same year on the switching of financial cards. This measure relating to credit cards came into effect in April of this year. As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not the practice to comment in the lead up to the annual budget and Finance Bill on the intention or otherwise to make changes in taxation.

Departmental Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

345 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons recruited by the Office of Public Works in specialist trades; the number of general operatives recruited in each of the past two years; and his plans for recruitment in the foreseeable future. [35538/05]

The requested details of recruitment are in the following table. Approximately 350 to 360 seasonal guide and information officers will be required to meet the staffing requirements of the office's visitor centres in 2006. In due course the Commissioners of Public Works will also consider any further industrial grade recruitment that may be required for next year.

Non-Established State Industrial Employees.

2004

2005 to date

Recruitment Currently in Progress

Crafts Persons

2

23

6

General Operatives & Allied Grades

48

71

4

Guide and Information Officers.

2004

2005 to date

Recruitment Currently in Progress

Permanent

26

11

4

Seasonal

345

355

0

Consultancy Contracts.

Enda Kenny

Question:

346 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the role played by his Department in the conclusion of a contract between the Health Service Executive and iSoft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35555/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

347 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it is appropriate that the signing of a contract of over €50 million by a State body be the subject of an oral sanction by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35556/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

348 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the reason his Department confined the implementation of the iSoft contract to the areas previously covered by the former North Eastern Health Board and North Western Health Board even though the supplier was selected on the basis of a national deployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35557/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 346 to 348, inclusive, together.

The Health Service Executive requested sanction from my Department in April 2005 for the acquisition of a patient management software package. In considering this request my Department examined the proposal and was satisfied that it was sound from an ICT architectural perspective. My Department raised some minor issues regarding the draft contract and also advised, given the passage of time since the proposal was first made, that legal advice on some procurement issues should be obtained prior to signing the contract. Following discussions with the HSE and the Department of Health and Children, my Department indicated that sanction would be granted subject to satisfactory resolution of these issues and to a number of conditions being satisfied.

It is my Department's understanding that in the context of price negotiations for a national system for the HSE, the original pricing proposal would hold provided the contract was signed by 30 April 2005. As soon as these conditions were met, my Department gave sanction for the acquisition of the system and this was conveyed to the HSE initially orally on 29 April. It was subsequently followed up by letter dated 16 May. The decision to limit the roll-out of the existing version of the system to the former North Eastern Health board and North Western Health Board areas was taken by the HSE. I am satisfied that my Department acted appropriately on the request for sanction by the HSE to acquire the involved system.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

349 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the cost to date in 2005 of decentralisation arrangements since the latest proposals were outlined; the projected costs for these proposals and anticipated timescale; the feasibility or otherwise of these proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35593/05]

When the Government's decentralisation programme was first announced, it was stated that the overall objective would be to ensure that property acquired at a regional level is matched as closely as possible, both in time and in cost terms, by the disposal of property held in the Dublin region, whether held on lease or otherwise. In November 2004 the implementation group prepared a report, which was subsequently published, on the procurement methodology and financial assessment of the property aspects of the programme, including a financial model, based on a property finance study carried out by the Office of Public Works. While the prevailing property market conditions in each area will have a bearing on cost, this model indicates that the break even position on property will be reached in approximately 20 years.

In terms of actual outlay to date, the total amount committed in principle by the OPW on site acquisition costs, excluding VAT, is approximately €35.7 million. Expenditure to date this year is €9.9 million. On the non-property costs of the programme I would point out that the decentralisation programme is implemented on a voluntary basis. As on previous occasions, the payment of removal or relocation expenses will not arise. A study was commissioned by the decentralisation implementation group which provides a model for identifying non-property costs and savings that arise both during the relocation phase and in the context of a post-decentralised civil service. Decentralising organisations have been asked to use this model to make periodic reports identifying non-property costs incurred and savings made both since the programme was announced and in its implementation in the future.

The implementation group made recommendations on the sequencing and timing of moves in its November 2004 and June 2005 reports. These envisage civil service organisations moving at various dates between 2006 and 2009, although some advance moves have already taken place. I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made on this ambitious programme and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this as the programme continues to be rolled out over the next few years.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Question:

350 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if an official from the Office of Public Works will call to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo regarding the need to clean and maintain drains in their area to alleviate flooding problems. [35606/05]

The drains in the Ballycroy area do not form part of any catchment drainage scheme for which the Commissioners of Public Works have responsibility. It would therefore serve no useful purpose for an official of the Office of Public Works to call to the person concerned. If the person concerned considers that the extent of the flooding in the area would give rise to a cost beneficial flood relief scheme, he should provide full details of the problems to the commissioners to enable them to consider whether to include the area on a list of areas being considered for flood relief works.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liam Twomey

Question:

351 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has identified a site for decentralising the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government staff to New Ross; when he expects the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government staff to move to New Ross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35645/05]

Following the Government decision to decentralise 125 civil servants to New Ross, the OPW assessed a number of proposals to provide a property solution at this location.

A suitable town centre property solution proposal from the local authority has now been identified and negotiations to acquire this site will commence shortly.

The latest decentralisation implementation group report of June 2005 specifies an indicative timeframe of building completion to be early 2009.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

352 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a club has only limited charitable status; if that club has to pay stamp duty on lands that it seeks to purchase for the benefit of its members and the general public as supporters or users of the facility; his plans to change this position (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35648/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that an exemption from stamp duty is provided for in the stamp duty code in respect of a conveyance, transfer or lease of land made for charitable purposes to a body of persons established for charitable purposes only. This exemption is confined to bodies of persons which are recognised under law as having been established for charitable purposes only in which case the entirety of the activities carried on by the body in question must be charitable in nature.

I understand that the club referred to by the Deputy is involved in the promotion of amateur sports and a club involved in such activity would not be regarded as having been established for charitable purposes only.

Departmental Expenditure.

Richard Bruton

Question:

353 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the permitted carry-over of capital spending in 2004 and expected in 2005; the size of the underspend in 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005 in total; and the proportion which could be carried forward under current rules. [35760/05]

The carry-over of unspent capital from 2004 into 2005 by Departments and offices was €237 million and the current estimate for capital carry-over into 2006 from 2005, as set out in the recently published Abridged Estimates Volume, AEV, is €286 million.

The total capital underspend in 2003 and 2004 was €165 million and €365 million, equivalent to 3% and 6.6% of total capital allocation respectively. The latest forecast capital underspend from Departments for 2005 is approximately €382 million or 6.3% of the 2005 capital allocation.

Under the rolling multi-annual capital envelopes, Departments are allowed to carry over to the following year unspent capital up to a limit of 10% of their gross voted capital allocation for the current year. The amount of capital carryover by Vote is determined definitively in the annual Appropriation Act.

Richard Bruton

Question:

354 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the details of the proposed expenditure review initiative to be completed in 2005, 2006 and in 2007; and the new procedures which will apply in relation to this process. [35761/05]

Concerning reviews on hand in 2005, I am informed by Departments that 54 reviews have either been completed or are under way in 2005. I will be bringing proposals to Government shortly for approval of topics for review in 2006-08. This will include provision for handling any carry-over reviews from 2005. I will also be setting out in my proposals to Government my plans for improving the operation of the expenditure review initiative. A number of changes have already been introduced to the expenditure review initiative process under the current round. These include the establishment of an expenditure reviewers network, the provision of training in expenditure review, the strengthening of the terms of reference and the introduction of external quality assessment of reviews. Departments have also been requested to implement the recommendations of the expenditure review initiative first formal report of October 2004 to the Minister for Finance by the expenditure review central steering committee.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

355 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify and justify the requirement that existing long-term contract staff should be subject to the acceptance of decentralisation prior to any establishment of their positions in view of the fact that the Government has consistently maintained that decentralisation for current staff was voluntary. [35779/05]

The Government's decentralisation programme announced in budget 2004 provides for the transfer of 10,300 civil service and public sector posts from Dublin to other locations. Almost all Departments are involved, either wholly or partly. A number of semi-State organisations are also involved in the programme.

The programme is voluntary, that is, staff may opt to decentralise with their post or to another post in a decentralised location, or they may opt to remain in Dublin.

Discussions are under way between the Department of Finance and the Civil Service unions on the procedures which will apply in respect of staff opting to remain in Dublin and some progress has been made.

To ensure the efficient implementation of the programme, my Department has requested other Departments and offices to make every effort to ensure that the filling of decentralising posts is done on the basis that the appointee agrees to decentralise with that post. Interdepartmental promotion competitions are being run on the basis that appointees will agree to relocate with their new post. Where a post is being filled by recruitment, it is particularly important that this relocation condition is applied. The Deputy should be aware that the Public Appointments Service is involved in the recruitment of staff on the basis that they will move with their posts to a new decentralised location.

Regarding long-term contract staff seeking appointment to established posts, this is a matter that is being discussed with relevant trade unions with a view to reaching an agreement that will balance the interests of staff with the need to ensure that decentralisation posts are filled.

Harbours and Piers.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

356 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if there is a limit on the number of coffee trading licences issued for Howth harbour; the reason, in August 2005, when a coffee trading licence for Howth harbour was put out for tender, the licence was granted to a limited company (details supplied) in preference to a sole trader. [35117/05]

No limit has been set on the number of coffee trading licences at Howth fishery harbour centre. Following a public tender process in conformity with public procurement guidelines a licence for coffee trading was awarded to the most economically advantageous tender received.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

357 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the criteria for traders seeking to obtain a stall in the new market in Howth harbour; and his decision to refuse the request of a local well-established grocery shop which sought a stall for trading organic vegetables. [35118/05]

The Department has not set any criteria for traders seeking to obtain a stall in the new market in farmers and fisherman's market at Howth fishery harbour centre. This is solely a matter for the operator of the market who has been licensed to provide such a service. The determination of what stalls should constitute the market is solely a matter for that operator.

No application seeking to obtain a stall in the new market in Howth harbour was received or refused by me or any officials of the Department.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

358 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35139/05]

The number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office, which covers the Minister, the Minister of State and the Department generally, and information on the grade and remuneration of these staff, is set out in the following table.

Title

Number

Grade/ Grade Equivalent

Remuneration

Press Adviser

1

Principal Officer

PO salary scale €75,036 (min) to €92,813 (2nd long service increment)

Administrative Officer

1

Administrative Officer

AO salary scale (full PRSI) €30,593 (min) to €54,173 p.a. (2nd long service increment)

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer

EO salary scale (full PRSI) €28,021 (min) to €44,458 (2nd long service increment)

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer

CO salary scale (full PRSI) €21,245 (min) to €34,448 (2nd long service increment)

Paul McGrath

Question:

359 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35154/05]

The number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency work for the Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Gallagher, and the grade and remuneration of each of these staff, are as follows:

Title

Grade/ Grade Equivalent

Remuneration

Personal Assistant

Higher Executive Officer

HEO Salary scale —€40,543 (min) to €51,463 (2nd long service increment)

Personal Secretary

Secretarial Assistant

Secretarial Assistant Salary Scale: €20,187 (min) to €38,948 (2nd long service increment)

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer

Clerical Officer — Salary Scale €20,181(min) to €32,728 (2nd long service increment)

There are no public relations staff employed by the Minister of State.

Industrial Disputes.

Finian McGrath

Question:

360 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the postal dispute. [35281/05]

As the Deputy is aware, An Post has been through one of the most intensive industrial relations processes imaginable. At this stage, the dispute at An Post has been before every industrial relations body the State has to offer.

Following the 14-day notice of industrial action served on the company by the CWU, which expired on Friday 4 November, the national implementation body, NIB, at my request, engaged with both sides to the dispute in An Post and is aware that there are significant differences of understanding between the parties regarding the cost and implications of amendments proposed by the union to changes in the collection and delivery sector recommendations made by the Labour Court in July this year.

The NIB considered that clarifications of the costs and implications of the proposed union amendments are essential to facilitating a resolution of the dispute. On this basis the NIB has secured the assistance of a firm of accountants to carry out an independent examination into how much it would cost the company to accede to the union's amendments.

In light of the developments in the NIB, the Communications Workers Union agreed to a request by the NIB to defer industrial action until the examination has taken place. The industrial action that took place on Monday 7 November last, the national overtime ban and the strike at the GPO, has been called off. I considered this to be a positive step in the current climate.

On 17 November the NIB requested the Labour Court to assist the parties in reaching an agreed solution over the period immediately ahead, ending on Tuesday 22 November 2005. The NIB agreed to brief the court on the detail of its discussions with the parties over recent weeks. I have taken a very even-handed approach throughout the dispute and have met with all parties including the chairperson, the board, the management and the unions, at key intervals so as to be informed of the critical issues on both sides.

The simple fact is that the company needs to introduce modern work practices if it is to thrive in a competitive environment. I want to see An Post, an Irish company, delivering a high quality postal service to the Irish people. To enable the company to provide this service, the archaic work practices, that the workers themselves have acknowledged are archaic, need to be changed.

I hope that both parties take the opportunity afforded to them through the NIB to resolve outstanding issues. Business and consumers are entitled to the high quality postal service that the company and its employees are well capable of delivering.

Ministerial Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

361 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of staff broken down by grade employed within the private office and the constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number that are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35301/05]

There are ten staff employed in my private office, details as follows: one administrative officer, three executive officers and five clerical officers, all of whom are permanent civil servants, and one special adviser who is a political appointee. The current annual salary cost of my private office is €354,375. In the year to date overtime costs amounted to €1,956 and expenses amounted to €12,096.

There are five people employed in my constituency office as follows: one executive officer and two clerical officers, all of whom are permanent civil servants, and one personal assistant and one personal secretary who are political appointees. The current annual salary cost of my constituency office is €162,171. No overtime or expenses have been paid this year to date in respect of my constituency office.

Harbours and Piers.

John Cregan

Question:

362 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to develop a pier at Parkmore, Kinvara, County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Parkmore pier is deteriorating at an alarming rate and that a breakwater is required on the south side with a slipway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35336/05]

Parkmore Pier, Kinvara is owned by Galway County Council and responsibility for its maintenance and development is a matter for the owner in the first instance. The county council forwarded proposals in December 2001 and again in 2003 to the Department for Exchequer funding under the national fishery harbour development programme for improvement works to the pier, estimated to cost €88,300. There was no funding available for these works.

The question of providing funding for works at Parkmore pier will depend on the amount of Exchequer available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities. The Department has not received a proposal from Galway County Council on the construction of a breakwater at Parkmore Pier.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

363 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to provide more broadcasting time for Irish music or dance artists in the context of the Broadcasting Bill; if he has received submissions requesting an increase in air or broadcasting time for indigenously produced performances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35491/05]

The priority issues to be addressed by the legislative proposals that will form the basis of a new Broadcasting Bill are as follows: the establishment of a single content regulator for commercial, community and public service broadcasters; the establishment of RTE as a company under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2003; the provision of a statutory mechanism for future adjustments to the level of the television licence fee; and the development of the right of reply mechanism, allowing persons whose reputation and good name have been damaged by an assertion of incorrect facts in a television or radio programme to gain redress.

My intention in framing the legislative proposals will be to ensure that the broadcasting regulatory environment continues to encourage the development of high quality broadcasting that best serves the interests of the Irish viewer and listener.

Existing broadcasting legislation provides that RTE is an independent statutory corporation, and that decisions in relation to programming are a matter for RTE itself. Legislation also provides that the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, an independent statutory body, has responsibility for licensing radio services additional to those provided by RTE. It is a matter for the commission to determine the range and nature of the services to be licensed at any given time.

As a consequence under existing legislation I have no function in relation to programming matters for public service, commercial and community broadcasters. I have no plans to alter this position in the context of the Broadcasting Bill.

Irish Ferries.

Richard Bruton

Question:

364 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has assessed the decision made by Irish Ferries to make its Irish workforce redundant to employ cheaper foreign labour under the flag of convenience arrangement; if specific policy initiatives by Government are under consideration to address this problem; if EU collective action has been considered to ensure the long-term viability of a shipping fleet operated by the nationals of EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35492/05]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the proposal by Irish Ferries Limited, to make certain of its seafarers employed on its ships, the MV Ulysses, the MV Isle of Inishmore and the HSC Jonathan Swift, redundant.

Legal advice provided to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, indicates that Irish employment rights legislation applies to workers, national and non-national, on board Irish registered ships. In relation to ships that are not Irish registered, the legal advice indicates that as a general rule the flag state has exclusive right to exercise legislative and enforcement jurisdiction over ships on the high seas.

I am informed by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment that, as it has not received any communication from Irish Ferries regarding the proposed redundancies which were announced to the media on 19 September 2005, it is not in a position to give a definitive opinion on whether redundancies at this company, should they occur, fall within the provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003.

Based on media reportage of the proposed redundancies, that Department sought and obtained preliminary advice from the Office of the Attorney General to the effect that redundancies as proposed by the company may not fall within the definition of redundancy in the legislation. However, clarity can only be established if and when the company makes a formal application to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a statutory redundancy rebate.

The Deputy should note that the movement of merchant ships between different ship registers is not unusual, nor is the operation by a shipping company of different ships registered to different states.

It is a normal commercial practice for merchant ships to move between ship registers in the EU's shipping sector. The focus of the European Commission in the area of ship registration is, inter alia, on the elimination of technical barriers to the movement of merchant ships between EU ship registers, and, on the responsible operation of ship registers in relation to safety and environmental matters.

To encourage and facilitate the growth of Community shipping, the Commission has in place unique state aid guidelines for maritime transport. These guidelines allow member states to provide relief in the corporation tax, that is, tonnage tax, income tax and social insurance areas for their ship operators.

The European Commission is also progressing an initiative at present aimed at boosting employment prospects in the community's maritime sector and at attracting young people to the seafaring profession.

The proposal by Irish Ferries Limited to remove ferries from the Irish ship register, and to seek to reflag them to another EU member state's ship register is regrettable. However, provided it is done in accordance with the applicable legal provisions, it cannot be legally prevented, any more than the legitimate movement of businesses or workers between member states, in accordance with applicable law, can be legally prevented.

Departmental Bodies.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

365 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proposed role for Mr. Barry McSweeney with regard to the proposed new energy research council; the proposed structure and function of the new council; the statutory authority, budget, staffing and board structures of the council; and if it is envisaged that Mr. McSweeney’s position within the new council will be an administrative or policy-making one. [35748/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

366 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the work to be carried out by the proposed energy research council has not been incorporated within the remit of either Sustainable Energy Ireland or Science Foundation Ireland both of which have the necessary research expertise and administrative systems and statutory regulations to allow them oversee the work to be undertaken by such a council. [35749/05]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 365 and 366 together.

The proposed role and function of the proposed energy research council relates to improving the institutional arrangements for co-ordinating energy research and in particular to see that there is an appropriate balance between short-term and long-term research and between research that responds to known needs and research that may lead to niche opportunities for Ireland. It should also guide Ireland's links to, and participation in, EU research programmes on energy. It should monitor the capacity of the third level education sector to provide the types of skills that will be needed in the new energy paradigm. I have been considering all available options for supporting the work of the council, including those mentioned in the question, for several weeks and I have concluded that it can best be done within my Department.

Barry McSweeney is being appointed as research co-ordinator at my Department to progress the sectoral research and development priority areas of energy, marine, ICT, digital and geoscience. The research co-ordinator will work closely with the Department and its agencies in contributing to the development of appropriate multi-annual strategies across these research and development areas. As part of the departmental team he will interact as appropriate with the work of the proposed energy research council.

Departmental Appointments.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

367 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the policy within his Department regarding the need for open advertising and interviewing for new employment positions under the remit of his Department; if new positions which will be filled in the proposed energy research council will be subject to such a competitive process; and the reason the appointment of Mr. Barry McSweeney to work on the establishment of the council was not subject to such an open process. [35750/05]

My Department's recruitment procedures are subject to the guidelines and parameters for public service recruitment overseen by the Department of Finance.

The energy research council will be serviced administratively from within my Department. The appointment of Barry McSweeney as research co-ordinator at the Department is not connected with the proposed establishment of the energy research council. It is envisaged that the research co-ordinator as part of his wider remit and as part of the departmental team will interact as appropriate with the work of the new council.

International Agreements.

Pat Carey

Question:

368 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s position with regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; if the Government intends to sign and ratify the international convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35349/05]

The convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, and it entered into force on 1 July 2003, following ratification by the requisite number of states, 20. The convention has been open for signature and ratification since December 1990. However, to date only 34 states have ratified it. No European Union member state has as yet signed or ratified the convention, nor has any indicated an intention to do so.

The Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families has been examined by my Department. It would appear that, in order for Ireland to ratify the convention, significant changes would have to be made across a wide range of existing legislation, including legislation addressing employment, social welfare provision, education, taxation and electoral law. These changes would also have implications for our EU commitments. The operation of the common travel area between Ireland and the UK might also possibly be affected. The Government has, therefore, no plans to sign the convention.

It should also be noted that the rights of migrant workers and their families are already protected under existing national legislation and under the Irish Constitution, as well as under EU law. In addition, the rights of migrant workers and their families are also addressed by Ireland's commitments under international human rights instruments to which the State is already a party. These international instruments include, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

369 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35140/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

370 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35155/05]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 369 and 370 together.

Neither Minister of State has a press office. One press office serves the whole of the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, there is also a publicity and information officer attached to the Department's development co-operation directorate who manages the development co-operation Ireland public information policy and strategy. This includes responsibility for publications and for media communications.

The following tables set out the number of staff employed in the constituency offices of each Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, their positions and remuneration:

Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan.

Grade/Position

Number

Remuneration

Personal Secretary (non-established)

1

€40,543

Personal Assistant (non-established)

1

Higher Executive Officer scale €40,543-€51,463

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer scale €21,245-€34,448

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer scale €20,181-€32,728

Total

5

Minister of State, Deputy Treacy.

Grade/Position

Number

Remuneration

Personal Secretary (non-established)

1

Secretarial Assistant scale €20,187-€38,948 (Plus a 10% attraction allowance)

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer scale €26,618-€42,238

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer scale €21,245-€34,448

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer scale €20,181-€32,728

Total

5

Cross-Border Projects.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

371 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to pursue the establishment of an Irish passport office in Belfast; if so, when he will raise the matter with the relevant British authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35214/05]

The Government has significantly enhanced the passport service available to citizens in Northern Ireland in recent years. This was achieved through the establishment in March 2003, initially on a pilot basis, of a passport express service operating from five post offices. The service has proved to be very successful and was extended to 40 post offices in April 2003. From January 2006, I expect that it will be available from over 60 post offices throughout Northern Ireland.

Given my particular ministerial responsibility in respect of Northern Ireland, I am naturally very pleased about this development. The effectiveness of the system will be reviewed periodically in the future, in consultation with interested parties. Such reviews could also consider the proposal which has been made in the past by the SDLP and Sinn Féin that a passport office might be opened in Northern Ireland.

I wish to confirm that recent newspaper reports of an imminent decision in this regard are erroneous and groundless.

Ministerial Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

372 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff, by grade, employed within the private office and the constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number who are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35302/05]

The accompanying tables set out the number of personnel in my private and constituency offices, their grades and remuneration.

Private Office.

Grade/Position

Number

Remuneration

Special Adviser (non-established)

1

Principal Officer scale €75,036-€92,813

Personal Secretary (non-established)

1

Executive Officer (higher) scale €26,618-€43,897

Private Secretary

1

First Secretary scale €57,630-€71,859

Higher Executive Officer

1

Higher Executive Officer scale €40,543-€51,463

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer scale €26,618-€42,238

Clerical Officer

5

Clerical Officer scale €21,245-€34,448

Total

10

Constituency Office.

Grade/Position

Number

Remuneration

Personal Assistant (non-established)

1

Higher Executive Officer scale €40,543-€51,463

Executive Officer

1

Executive Officer scale €28,021-€44,458

Clerical Officer

2

Clerical Officer scale €21,245-€34,448

Clerical Officer

1

Clerical Officer scale €20,181-€32,728

Total

5

The employment contracts of the non-established officers referred to in the tables are coterminous with my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Overtime, travel and subsistence expenses are paid in accordance with normal Civil Service regulations.

International Agreements.

Bernard Allen

Question:

373 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the official relationship of Ireland with the Palestinian Authority; if Ireland recognises the Palestinian Authority as an emanation of a sovereign state; and if its representatives here qualify for diplomatic immunity. [35542/05]

The Government and all of its EU partners maintain friendly relations with the Palestinian Authority. We have regular contact with the authority at political and official level. It is the view of the Government that a Palestinian state has not been established under international law.

The Palestinian Authority established a delegation general in Ireland in 1993 and the Government established a representative office in Ramallah in 2000. The delegate general enjoys functional immunity but not diplomatic immunity under the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Acts of 1967 and 1976.

Military Neutrality.

Joe Higgins

Question:

374 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if searches have been carried out on US or CIA planes landing at Shannon Airport to independently ascertain whether they are transporting prisoners en route to detention camps. [35543/05]

The situation remains as set out in my replies to several previous questions, most recently Nos. 2 and 43 of 10 November 2005.

The Government has, on several occasions, made clear to the US authorities that it would be illegal to transit prisoners for rendition purposes through Irish territory without the express permission of the Irish authorities, acting in accordance with Irish and international law. I will raise this issue again when I meet the US Secretary of State, Ms Condoleezza Rice, in Washington next week. The US authorities, for their part, have confirmed that they have not done so and that they would not do so without seeking the permission of the Irish authorities. No request for such authorisation has been received from the US authorities.

The Government will continue to follow the long-standing practice whereby details supplied to the Department of Foreign Affairs in this area by the US authorities are accepted in good faith as being accurate. However, if anyone has credible evidence that Shannon Airport, or indeed any other Irish airport, has been used for the purposes described by the Deputy, this should, as has been made clear by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, be shared with the Garda authorities. Any such development would, I need hardly emphasise, be viewed with the most serious concern by the Government.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

375 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the name of the chairperson of the interdepartmental co-ordinating committee on European Union affairs; and for which Department this person works. [35621/05]

The chairperson of the interdepartmental co-ordinating committee on European Union affairs, ICCEUA, is my colleague Deputy Noel Treacy, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of the Taoiseach, with special responsibility for European affairs.

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Question:

376 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the use of chemical weapons by the US in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35773/05]

The Government strongly opposes the use of chemical weapons and the use of any conventional weapons in a manner which is contrary to international law. In addition, the Government has clearly and forcefully expressed the view that every possible effort must be made to keep to a minimum the use of force in built-up areas and to avoid civilian casualties. Following recent reports that white phosphorus munitions had been used by US forces in Iraq, my Department immediately contacted the US Embassy in Dublin to request clarification of the position.

The embassy has confirmed that US forces have used white phosphorus munitions in Iraq, as smoke screens and as incendiary weapons against defended positions. The US characterises white phosphorus as a conventional munition and not a chemical weapon in the meaning of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which came into force in 1997 and to which both the US and Ireland are parties. A spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the convention, has been reported as confirming this position. I have asked my Department to seek to confirm the position.

The use of incendiary weapons could be contrary to the CWC, which deals with certain conventional weapons, if the incendiaries were directed against civilians or against combatants located within a concentration of civilians. The US has stated that it has not used incendiaries in this fashion. However, I note that the Government of Iraq has announced that it is sending a team to Falluja to investigate the circumstances in which incendiaries were used in the fighting in the town in November 2004. I look forward to the outcome of its investigation.

Ministerial Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

377 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35141/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

378 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35156/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 377 and 378 together.

There is no Minister of State at my Department.

Arts Funding.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

379 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide the necessary funding for a new theatre in Monaghan town; if funding will be made available in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35209/05]

My Department's arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme, ACCESS, provides capital funding for the development of arts and cultural facilities around the country. Unfortunately all the funds under this scheme are fully allocated at present.

I hope to be in a position to clarify the position regarding a possible successor to the ACCESS scheme shortly. Applications for any successor scheme would be invited by public advertisement.

Ministerial Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

380 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of staff, by grade, employed within the private office and the constituency office; the number of such staff who are permanent civil servants and the number who are political appointees; the annual cost of each such office in terms of salary, overtime and expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35303/05]

There are seven staff employed in my private office, including one special advisor at principal officer level, one private secretary at higher executive officer level, one personal assistant at higher executive officer level, two executive officers and two clerical officers.

There are currently six staff employed in my constituency office, including two executive officers, one personal secretary at Oireachtas secretarial assistant level and three clerical officers.

All of the above are permanent civil servants except my personal assistant and personal secretary. My special adviser is a permanent civil servant on secondment to this position.

All these staff are paid at the appropriate Civil Service rates. In addition, my special advisor and personal secretary are each paid a 10% attraction allowance in respect of their current positions. My private secretary is paid an allowance at the rate of €18,015 per annum for these duties.

Expenses and overtime paid for the year ended 31 December 2004 are as follows:

Overtime

Expenses

Constituency Office

1,269.08

Nil

Private Office

2,112.50

25,159.74

The staffing of both my private and constituency offices is in line with Department of Finance guidelines on this matter.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Joan Burton

Question:

381 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that children from a school (details supplied) in County Dublin are unable to use facilities at the National Aquatic Centre due to structural inadequacies in the design of the building which make it difficult for people with severe disabilities to access its facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35346/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

382 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the National Aquatic Centre at Abbotstown is unable to facilitate students with a severe disability from a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if a disability access audit has been undertaken by Campus and Stadium Ireland Limited; if this report will be published; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is a dispute between Campus and Stadium Ireland Limited and Dublin Waterworld Limited regarding the responsibility for facilitating people with a severe disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35597/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 381 and 382 together.

The National Aquatic Centre was designed and built in accordance with the prescribed building regulations and to the highest standards. In this regard, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, CSID, consulted the National Disability Authority and Special Olympics Ireland during the design and build stages of the project in order to ensure that the new facility would meet the requirements of disabled persons using the facility.

CSID is anxious that the National Aquatic Centre is accessible to everyone and is making every effort to ensure that this target is achieved. Over the past year, in response to the comments of one group of users, CSID sought to have an improved accessibility at the centre, particularly with regard to people with a severe disability. To this end, an access audit of the centre was undertaken by appropriate experts. This audit has now been completed and found that accessibility to the centre is good. The report of the audit group has been forwarded by CSID to the contract administrators of the centre, as well as to the architects who designed the centre and the Equality Authority. The intention is that a list of improvements would be agreed with the operators and these improvements would be put in place as quickly as possible.

The Deputy is aware that the day-to-day operation of the National Aquatic Centre is the responsibility of Dublin Waterworld Limited, the holders of the lease on the centre and that this contractual arrangement is currently the subject of a court case.

Arts Funding.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

383 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the current status of the proposal to develop a new centre-town theatre in Monaghan; his Department’s commitments to this much-needed public facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35622/05]

My Department's arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme, ACCESS, provides capital funding for the development of arts and cultural facilities around the country. At present, all of the funds under this scheme are allocated in full.

I hope to be in a position to clarify the position regarding a possible successor to the ACCESS scheme shortly. Applications for any successor scheme would be invited by public advertisement.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Jack Wall

Question:

384 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person can use his or her own home as a place of employment if his or her employer is paying all the legal payments, that is contributions, PRSI and so on for the person; if this is not permitted, the impediment which prevents same occurring, that is guidelines, legislation and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35647/05]

There are no restrictions under the safety, health and welfare legislation on a person who uses his or her own home to work from as a place of employment. However, it is important to point out that the employer concerned has a duty under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to ensure that the employee has a safe place of work. This duty on the employer applies irrespective of where the employee works from, that is, whether it is from the employee's own home or elsewhere.

Guidelines, information leaflets and advice on the duties of an employer are available from the Health and Safety Authority, 10 Hogan Place, Dublin 2, the telephone helpline number for which is (01) 6147000 and website address is www.hsa.ie.

Ministerial Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

385 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants and other staff employed in the press office for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35142/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

386 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of civil servants and other staff employed on constituency and public relations work for each of his Ministers of State; and the grade and remuneration of each of these members of staff. [35157/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 385 and 386 together.

There are five civil servants and one press adviser in the Department's press and media relations office. The grade and remuneration details are outlined in the accompanying table. It should be noted that the principal officer undertakes other duties in addition to his role in the press and media relations office.

The press and media relations office informs the public about the policies, functions and activities of the Department, which includes the offices of the two Ministers of State.

Grade Breakdown

Salary Scale

1 press adviser (non-civil servant)

€78,985-€97,698 Class A PRSI€75,036-€92,813 Class B PRSI