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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006

Vol. 628 No. 6

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 16, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 17 to 44, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 45 to 50, inclusive, answered orally.

Health Information.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

51 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it took so long to introduce an education campaign on antibiotics as was recommended in 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41445/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has allocated specific funding for a three year plan to combat Health Care Associated Infections including antimicrobial resistance. A number of educational pilot projects have already been carried out as a result of The Strategy for the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland National Committee recommendations. The HSE is now in discussions with relevant media companies with a view to agreeing a suitable national two year education and information campaign. The campaign is expected to commence early in the new year. It will run in parallel with an education intervention involving General Practitioners.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

52 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that on 28 November 2006 there were 274 people on trolleys according to the INO; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41468/06]

I am advised by the Health Service Executive that, on the day mentioned by the Deputy, the number of patients awaiting admission nationally was 172. Of these, only one patient had been waiting longer than 24 hours. I understand that the reason for the discrepancy between the figures produced by the Irish Nurses Organisation and the HSE is that the figures are compiled at different times of the day. Information on daily activity levels in A & E departments is available on the HSE website.

Tackling the problems in A & E departments is the Government's top priority in health. Our objectives are to reduce the numbers waiting for admission, the time spent waiting for admission, and the turnaround time for those who can be treated in A & E and do not require admission.

A & E services have improved around the country. The improvements, particularly in Dublin, have been acknowledged by the INO. The HSE activity reports over recent months indicate a significant reduction in the average number of patients in A & E departments awaiting admission compared with the equivalent period in 2005. Waiting times for patients have also been reduced. The percentage of people waiting longer than 24 hours for admission has decreased from 13% in May to 6% in October. I wish to move to a position where no patient will wait longer than six hours to be admitted after a clinical decision to admit has been made.

To ensure that the improvements that have been achieved in recent months are sustained, particularly during the winter months, the HSE has introduced a broad-based Winter Initiative. Its purpose is to ensure that the services required to address the particular demands of the winter season are in place and operating optimally. It encompasses not just hospital services but also primary and community care services.

The actions and initiatives being taken by the HSE are designed to deliver the sustained improvement in A & E services that patients and their families deserve.

General Practitioner Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

53 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason investment in general practice development was reduced in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41396/06]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that the amount paid by the Primary Care Re-Imbursement Service for general practice development in 2005 represents the amount claimed by GPs under the Indicative Drugs Target Savings Scheme. The Executive has indicated that all such claims were processed and paid and the total value of claims paid in 2005 was €11.933m.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

54 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Government will carry out a review of the proposals to relocate the new children’s hospital at the Mater site in view of new expert opinion on the matter. [41448/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

69 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of new expert opinion, she will reconsider the proposal to relocate the new children’s hospital at the Mater site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41447/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

101 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on a new report from the board of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, which called for a review of the decision to locate the new national children’s hospital, following reservations from Tallaght Hospital; if she provide the full list of objections from these sources and address each; her further views on the fact that the Taoiseach appears to have given a commitment that the hospital would be located in his constituency prior to the decision-making process having been completed. [41377/06]

John Gormley

Question:

122 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the majority of parents on the south side of Dublin city are completely opposed to the proposal to move the children’s hospital to the Mater site; her views on whether this move will cause great inconvenience to parents who will have to travel longer distances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41442/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

132 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the recent report of the board of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, which states that the Mater site does not have the potential to deliver a facility that can comply with the optimum level of care; if she will take action in view of this report; if so, the action she will take; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41436/06]

John Gormley

Question:

133 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the recent report by experts at Crumlin hospital for sick children she will reconsider the Government’s decision to locate the new children’s hospital at the Mater; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41441/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 69, 101, 122, 132 and 133 together.

The objective of this Government is to ensure the provision of a world-class hospital to serve the children of this country. It was for this reason, and for no other, that the Government strongly endorsed the recommendation of the Joint Task Group and the decision of the Board of the Health Service Executive to locate the new National Paediatric Hospital on a site to be made available by the Mater Hospital. The decision was taken in the best interests of children, not on political grounds. To suggest otherwise is an injustice to those people who have worked tirelessly over the last twelve months to bring forward this essential development.

The McKinsey report commissioned by the HSE, at my request, provided the original basis for the decision to co-locate adult and paediatric hospital services. The report is very clear. It demonstrates that best outcomes for children are achieved by having the necessary breadth and depth of services on a single site. Co-location of paediatric services with adult services and, in due course, with maternity services, is in line with best international practice and this was widely accepted by stakeholders when the McKinsey report was published.

The collaboration of adult and paediatric specialists is of critical importance. It creates the necessary platform for sub-specialisation and improved outcomes. The optimum delivery of complex paediatric surgical services can best be achieved by creating teams of specialists covering both adult and paediatric patients. Co-location also offers the benefits of providing transitional care for children with complex illnesses who are now surviving well into adult life. I am fully satisfied that the Task Group undertook a rigorous and robust examination of the key issues in making its recommendation.

It is true that the site chosen for the new National Paediatric Hospital is in the Taoiseach's constituency. Is it being suggested that the Mater Hospital, an internationally renowned adult teaching hospital, should have been disregarded as a possible site for the new paediatric hospital simply because of its location? Comments by the Chairperson of the Mater and Children's University Hospital Limited at a public function a number of months ago were reported out of context. They related to the Taoiseach's long-standing support for the redevelopment of the Children's University Hospital Temple Street on the Mater site which at the time was at an advanced stage of planning. This has now been overtaken by the Government decision to develop a National Paediatric Hospital.

It is perhaps understandable, in circumstances where services provided at three hospitals are to move, that the decision has not met with universal approval. However, some of the public comment has been misinformed. Not all paediatric services are moving to the new hospital. As is the case internationally, the new National Paediatric Hospital will be supported by a strategically-located urgent care service. The Transition Group will be advising early in the New Year on the recommended scope and location for this service. The Group is working to ensure that the widest possible range of services will be provided through the urgent care service.

The report commissioned by Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin was submitted to the joint HSE/Departmental Transition Group some weeks ago and has already been the subject of discussions with the hospital. I also received the report and have met with hospital representatives to discuss their concerns. The Transition Group is overseeing the preparation of a high level framework brief to inform decisions in relation to the range of services to be provided at the new hospital and the specific site to be ceded by the Mater Hospital. I understand that the Transition Group is satisfied that the new hospital can be fully accommodated at the Mater. The Transition Group has assured the Crumlin hospital authorities that their report will be taken into consideration in the preparation of the framework brief.

To date, no decision has been taken in relation to the range of services to be provided at the National Children's Hospital at Tallaght in the context of the development of the national paediatric hospital and the associated urgent care service. The Taoiseach has given an assurance to Tallaght Hospital that the Government wishes to see it thrive on a sustainable basis as a particular focal point for the involvement of the minority tradition in the healthcare system, and as a key health provider to an expanding local population.

I am satisfied that the development, as planned, is consistent with international best practice. For example, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which is an established secondary and tertiary paediatric centre. The hospital, which at present operates as a stand-alone facility, will be transferring to a city-centre site where it will be tri-located with an existing adult teaching hospital and a new maternity hospital. The hospital authorities considered other options, including a move to a greenfield site, but ultimately decided that the clinical and other benefits of the tri-location model far outweighed any other considerations, and would allow for the provision of an enhanced level and quality of care for children.

Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

55 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children her Department’s policy in relation to the provision of speech therapy services; the service and waiting period for commencement of service in the Dublin region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41364/06]

€12.5m was made available by the Health Service Executive from the 2006 disability services investment programme to provide multi-disciplinary supports, including therapy supports, to people with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities and people with autism. I also understand that the HSE's priority in 2006 has been to increase the multi-disciplinary support services for children with developmental delay.

The HSE has experienced difficulties in recruiting speech and language therapists. They are one of the therapy grades where shortages are being experienced nationally. A national initiative to train more such therapists has commenced. This initiative should shortly improve the position with regard to recruitment.

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that they are also working to move from a disparate, uneven system to a national consistent system. In future, additional speech and language therapist posts will be allocated to Local Health Offices based on assessed need. The HSE will seek to ensure equity in resource distribution throughout the country in order that people can access all services in a timely, equitable manner within available resources.

With regard to the waiting times, the Health Service Executive have informed me that this information will be issued separately to the Deputy.

Water Fluoridation.

Dan Boyle

Question:

56 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in implementing the 33 recommendations from the fluoridation forum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41443/06]

On foot of a recommendation from the Forum on Fluoridation, the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health (known as the Expert Body) was set up in 2004 with specific terms of reference which include overseeing the implementation of the Forum recommendations.

The Expert Body produced an Action Plan in 2005. This outlines a strategic framework to aid and direct the Expert Body in identifying and implementing the necessary measures proposed by the Forum's recommendations. It will also ensure that the systems employed are sound, transparent, and meet the highest standards of Quality Assurance and Accountability. There has been no delay in the implementation of the Forum recommendations.

Specifically, I will be bringing regulations before the Houses of the Oireachtas shortly to reduce the levels of fluoride in the water supply, in line with the Forum's recommendations on this matter.

Mental Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

57 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the date for the completion of the next census of psychiatric hospitals; the number of patients of psychiatric hospitals that have been resident for 20 years or longer; the number of deaths in psychiatric hospitals in 2005; her Department’s policy towards long-term stays in psychiatric hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41460/06]

The Mental Health Commission has conducted an annual inpatient census since 2004. The census is reported in the Annual Report of the Mental Health Commission. The latest census was conducted on 8th November, 2006 and all returns are due by 8th December, 2006.

In the census carried out by the Mental Health Commission on 4th November 2005, there were 3,475 persons in approved centres. 476 persons were in hospital for 21 years or more. The 2005 Annual Report of the Commission contains further information on the census, including gender, age and legal status. The Health Research Board Report on Activities of Irish Psychiatric Units and Hospitals 2005 reports 229 deaths in psychiatric in-patient facilities during 2005.

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change" was launched on 24th January, 2006. This policy envisions an active, flexible and community-based mental health service where the need for hospital admission will be greatly reduced. The report recommends that steps be taken to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals and to re-invest the resources released by these closures in the mental health service.

The Report emphasises that this process should take place on a phased basis with wards closing sequentially. The Health Service Executive has emphasised that mental hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres. There will also have to be a substantial increase in the number of community-based multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams, as recommended in "A Vision for Change".

Hospital Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

58 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of radiotherapy services in the north west of the country; her further views on earlier announcements of a network of radiotherapy services to be provided by 2011; the timeframes available for providing radiotherapy services to the north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41388/06]

The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital and to progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to Belfast.

Until recently, cancer patients in Donegal requiring radiation oncology treatment were referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or to University College Hospital Galway. I am pleased that a Service Level Agreement has now concluded for the referral of about 50 radiation oncology patients annually from Donegal to Belfast. It has also been agreed that the number will be increased if there is sufficient demand from patients in Donegal. Three assessment clinics will be held each month on an ongoing basis. The first referral clinic took place on 8 November.

As regards progressing the consideration of a satellite in the North West, the Deputy will appreciate that my first priority was to gain access for cancer patients in the North West to Belfast as early as possible. The issue of a satellite centre in the North West will be pursued with the authorities in Northern Ireland at both Departmental and Ministerial levels.

My Department is working closely with the HSE and the National Development Finance Agency to progress the National Radiation Oncology Plan announced by Government in July 2005. The Agency has assembled a team to progress the financial and procurement aspects of the Plan, to be provided mostly by PPP. The HSE has appointed a Project Manager and support team. The Clinical Output Specifications are being finalised and technical advisors will be appointed shortly to advise on the construction and other technical aspects of the project. Six new linear accelerators will be provided by traditional procurement in the Eastern Region in the short term, two in St. Luke's Hospital Dublin in late 2007 and two each in St. James's and Beaumont Hospitals by early 2009.

Michael Noonan

Question:

59 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of admissions to neurological services in each of the neurological units from 2002 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41435/06]

Information available to my Department and the Health Service Executive indicates that the number of patients discharged from neurological units for each of the years 2002 to 2006 was:

Year

Number

2002

4,077

2003

4,245

2004

4,531

2005

4,432

In the current year a total of 3,779 patients were discharged from neurological units between January and October. My Department will forward a more comprehensive table showing the number of patients discharged from the various neurological units directly to the Deputy.

The Government provided an additional €3m in 2006 to develop neuroscience services, including neurology services. This money is being used to fund the development of new neurology units in Waterford, Limerick and Sligo. In addition the HSE has provided funding for the appointment of an additional paediatric neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital. The recently published Estimates for 2007 include provision for a further €4m to continue developments in neurosciences.

Departmental Reports.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

60 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reports commissioned by her Department from which she expects primary care and hospital services to be guided in the future; the extent to which the ten-year plan, the Brennan report or the Hanly report are expected to form part or all of the strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41372/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

328 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of plans and reports commissioned or produced by her Department previously, such as the ten-year plan, the Brennan report and the Hanly report; if each, any or all are being implemented at the present time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41691/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 328 together.

Government policy is to develop health services in all regions of the country to provide safe, high-quality and accessible services that provide the best possible outcomes for patients. My Department has developed a broad range of strategy documents and associated policies to guide it in its work. The progress being made in pursuing these objectives is set out each year in my Department's Annual Report which is available in the Dáil Library and in the HSE's Annual Report which is available on their website.

The Health Reform Programme comprehends Quality and Fairness — The National Health Strategy, The Primary Care Strategy as well as the Prospectus, Brennan and Hanly reports. These reports are guiding the future of the health service in that they lay out the overall direction for the major changes which are now underway in the health services. They culminated in the introduction of the Health Act, 2004, which abolished the health boards and established the HSE in January, 2005 as a mechanism for unitary service delivery in the area of health and personal social services. The HSE together with my Department is implementing the recommendations of the Brennan Report on an ongoing basis in striving to achieve greater accountability, efficiency, consistency, quality and effectiveness in a national context.

The underlying vision guiding the delivery of primary care and hospital services is one which puts the patient or the service user at the centre of a high quality system which is fair, safe and which provides good value for the resources available. This approach will mean rebalancing service delivery so that those services that can be safely delivered locally are delivered locally and in the most appropriate setting with particular regard to the ongoing development of primary care infrastructure at local level as set out in The Primary Care Strategy. The Strategy is a road map for the future development of primary care services in Ireland over a period of some 10 years, both as the appropriate service for the delivery of the majority of people's health and social care needs, and to complement the services provided by acute hospitals.

More complex services that require specialist input must be concentrated at regional hospital settings, or in the case of highly specialised services such as organ transplantation, in national centres of excellence.

Hospital Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

61 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the opposition of many patients to the proposal to move cancer treatment facilities from St. Luke’s to St. James’s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41444/06]

The Government and I are anxious to build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. It is held in great affection by the Irish people. Many thousands of Irish patients and their families from every part of the country have experienced high quality cancer care at St. Luke's.

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital to St. James's Hospital, Dublin was taken by the Government in the best interests of cancer patients. The decision was based on expert medical, scientific and management advice. It is designed to ensure that radiation oncology is integrated with all other aspects of cancer care, including surgery and medical oncology. It is in line with best international practice. This is the model that exists at Cork University Hospital and University College Hospital Galway and which is being developed at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, Dublin. The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting this decision. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred from a stand alone facility to Belfast City Hospital, which is a major academic teaching hospital.

The expertise and professional commitment of the staff at St. Luke's Hospital will continue to be an essential element in the provision of cancer care. Medical and scientific experts from the hospital are involved in developing the output specifications for the delivery of new radiation oncology services nationally. I have also appointed the Chairman of St. Luke's to chair a National Radiation Oncology Oversight Group to advise me on progress on the implementation of the plan.

In recognition of the role for St. Luke's in the new facility at St. James', I have made a commitment to pursue discussions with the Boards of both Hospitals about its governance and a re-configuration of the Boards, with the twin goals of ensuring continuity of expertise and ethos in the care of cancer patients and the effective integration of multi-disciplinary patient care at the one site. I remain confident the transition will be managed with great sensitivity and skill by the two hospital Boards to achieve those objectives.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

62 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take on foot of the recommendations of the Health Service Executive report into neurosurgical services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41416/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

144 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on statements made by a consultant neurosurgeon that neurosurgery services here were on the verge of collapse due to a shortage of consultants and a shortage of beds and crucial surgical equipment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41421/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 144 together.

The Health Service Executive recently published a Review of Neurosurgical Services in Ireland. The Report identifies a clear need for significant investment in, and organisational reform of, neurosurgical services. Neurosurgery is currently provided at the national centre in Beaumont Hospital and in Cork University Hospital. The Report recommends that the future development of safe, high quality neurosurgical services in Ireland would be best served by a two-pronged approach by increasing capacity in Dublin and Cork and improving access to neurosurgical units, including transport and telemedicine facilities for referring hospitals.

The HSE is committed to progressing the recommendations of the Report. It is undertaking a national neurosciences needs assessment. Neuroscience includes neurology, neurophysiology and neurosurgery. This assessment is guided by previous reviews of neurology and neurophysiology services and the recent report on neurosurgery. It aims to clearly identify the requirements for neuroscience services as a whole across the country.

An additional €3m was provided in 2006 to develop 3 new neurology units in Waterford, Limerick and Sligo through the appointment of 3 consultant neurology teams. In addition, the HSE provided funding for the appointment of an additional paediatric neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital this year. The recently published Estimates for the Health Service Executive provides a further €4m to continue these developments into 2007.

Mental Health Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

63 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the report showing that almost 300 children and adolescents were admitted or detained in adult psychiatric hospitals in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41455/06]

I accept that the placement of children and adolescents in adult mental health facilities is inappropriate. However, in situations where there is no available alternative, such admissions may be necessary.

At present, inpatient mental health services for 16 and 17 year olds are provided in adult psychiatric units. However, the HSE has put in place improved arrangements for the treatment of children in such units, pending the provision of additional dedicated child and adolescent beds. All children admitted to adult units are treated on a one-to-one basis by appropriately trained staff. Work is underway to identify two adult units in each of the four HSE regions which will deal with under-18s on an interim basis and staff of these units will receive additional training. Eight dedicated child and adolescent multidisciplinary teams will be provided for these units. These arrangements are interim ones pending the completion of four dedicated child and adolescent inpatient units in Cork, Galway, Dubin and Limerick.

My Department, the HSE and the Mental Health Commission will continue to work together to ensure that the highest standards of mental health services are provided to children and adolescents in the most appropriate setting. The Mental Health Commission has also issued a code of practice relating to the admission of children under the Mental Health Act 2001.

Child and adolescent mental health services will be a priority for investment next year. I expect that additional funding will be provided in 2007 to improve services in this area.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

64 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on publishing all pre-school and crèche inspection reports on-line; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41438/06]

The Health Service Executive has statutory responsibility for the implementation of the 1996 and 1997 Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991. These provide for notification to, and inspection by, the Health Service Executive of pre-school services. The Regulations apply to pre-schools, playgroups, day nurseries, crèches, childminders looking after more than three pre-school children (other than their own such children) in the childminders own home and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age.

The notification and inspection service is managed by the pre-school inspection teams of the Health Service Executive who are appointed by the Executive as authorised persons for this purpose. These teams also provide an advisory service to help the relevant service providers achieve and maintain appropriate standards of care.

I understand that the HSE is developing a standardised Inspection Report and that the reports from inspections will be made available to the public on the HSE website from early 2007.

Health Insurance.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

65 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that a report by the Health Insurance Authority states that BUPA would have had to pay €37 million in risk equalisation payments if the schemes had been in place in the 12 months to June 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41450/06]

I announced on 23 December, 2005 that the risk equalisation payment provisions of the scheme would be commenced with effect from 1 January 2006. Taking account of the phasing factor of 50% applicable to risk equalisation payments for the first 12 months, the amount BUPA Ireland would have to contribute in risk equalisation payments would be half of the amount quoted by the Deputy for the 12 months ending June 2006.

The purpose of a risk equalisation scheme is to neutralise differences in insurers claims costs that arise due to variations in the age and gender distributions of their members. In a community rated market without risk equalisation, insurers with more favourable risk profiles have a regulatory advantage. The current Risk Equalisation Scheme reduces the advantage of insurers with lower risk profiles.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

66 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is concerned that a member of the Health Service Executive appointed review group on orthodontics has called for an inquiry into the public orthodontics service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41428/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group in 2006. The terms of reference for the group are:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity.

Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard;

the recommendations thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

I have been advised that the review group has concluded its meetings and is finalising its report and recommendations. The Report will be presented to the CEO of the HSE in the near future.I look forward to considering the report which I will be receiving shortly. Until I have received and considered the report I will not be in a position to comment on the matter raised in the question.

Primary Care Strategy.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

67 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of primary care centres established, as outlined in the primary care strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41404/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

153 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of primary care teams that have been established; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41403/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 153 together.

The Primary Care Strategy is the roadmap for the future development of primary care services in Ireland over a period of some ten years, both as the appropriate service for the delivery of the majority of people's health and social care needs, and to complement the services provided by acute hospitals. At the heart of the Strategy is the aim of developing services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, health care assistants, home helps, occupational therapists and others.

The HSE received an additional €10m in funding in 2006 to enable the establishment of up to 100 Primary Care Teams; a further €10m is being provided in 2007 to enable the full year costs of these developments to be met. This will bring to €38m per annum the total ongoing funding provided by the Government to support the implementation of the strategy. This is in addition to the very substantial resources already in the funding base for a wide range of primary care services. The HSE is working to establish up to 100 Primary Care Teams in 2006 and it has indicated that it expects substantial progress in this regard to have been achieved by the end of the year.

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure for the effective functioning of the teams is also being considered by the HSE, having regard to a number of factors. These include the type and configuration of the services involved, the mixed public/private nature of our health system, the suitability of existing infrastructure and the capital requirements of the health services generally over the coming years.

Care of the Elderly.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

68 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has sought an explanation from the Health Service Executive regarding the circumstances in which a number of nursing homes were not considered suitable for contracted patients despite the fact that all of these homes had previously been assessed as suitable by a team from the HSE which was independent of the routine nursing home inspection system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41409/06]

The inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990. The 1990 Act provides for the registration of private nursing homes and procedures for attaching conditions to the registration and for de-registering homes. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations, 1993 set out the standards which private nursing homes owners must adhere to in the provision of nursing home services.

There are currently two nursing homes in the Dublin Mid Leinster Area where HSE admissions have been suspended. The HSE continues to work with these homes to resolve outstanding issues and the standard of care for current patients is under regular review. The position currently is that the most recent report of the registration and inspection service is reviewed prior to entering any arrangements with nursing home proprietors. Where issues remain outstanding no patients will be placed in contract beds in any such nursing home.

The HSE has informed me that they are not aware of any current case in the Dublin Mid Leinster Area where there is a conflict between the recommendations of the inspection team and any other inspection process.

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

70 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the Health Service Executive national neurosciences needs assessment report to be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41415/06]

The Health Service Executive is committed to progressing the development of neuroscience services. Neuroscience includes neurology, neurophysiology and neurosurgery. A national neurosciences needs assessment is currently underway. This assessment is guided by the previous Comhairle na nOspideal report on neurology and neurophysiology and the recently published report on neurosurgery. It aims to clearly identify the requirements for neuroscience services as a whole across the country.

The HSE has informed my Department that an interim progress report is due to be submitted to the National Hospitals Office shortly and the final Report will be submitted early next year. The Government provided an additional €3m in 2006 to develop neuroscience services and the recently published Estimates for the Health Service Executive provides a further €4m to continue these developments into 2007.

The HSE is developing additional neurology services in Waterford, Limerick and Sligo through the appointment of additional consultant neurologist teams. In addition the HSE has approved the appointment of an additional consultant neurosurgeon with a special interest in paediatrics for Beaumont Hospital.

Departmental Inquiries.

Jack Wall

Question:

71 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is acceptable that almost eight years since an inquiry was established into alleged abuse (details supplied) people are still waiting for results; if she will guarantee the publication of this report; the timeframe for publication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41469/06]

As the Deputy is aware I am on record in this House as to my concern at the length of time which has elapsed since the initial inquiry commenced. My officials have been and are in regular contact with the Health Service Executive seeking a report on the matter. I have today asked officials from my Department to write to the CEO of the HSE seeking to have this matter expedited as a matter of urgency.

Screening Programmes.

Pat Breen

Question:

72 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a screening programme for haemochromatosis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41398/06]

In March 2006, I established a Working Group to examine the nature and extent of haemochromatosis in Ireland and to advise on the actions necessary to address the problems caused by it. The Working Group presented its report to me in June 2006. It makes a series of recommendations relating to the management and treatment of haemochromatosis. The report has been circulated to the Health Service Executive and other relevant organisations for implementation.

A key recommendation of the Report is that funding should be prioritised to develop a screening programme to detect the prevalence of Hereditary Haemochromatosis in Ireland. Information obtained from this programme would provide helpful guidance to policy makers in structuring a countrywide programme for haemochromatosis service development.

My Department have is in discussions with the Health Service Executive regarding the implementation of the Report's recommendations and the establishment of a screening programme forms part of these discussions.

Food Safety.

Mary Upton

Question:

73 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Food Safety Authority to address the ongoing deficiencies in relation to the labelling of beef at the catering level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41473/06]

The implementation of the Health (Country of Origin Of Beef) Regulations 2006 (SI 307 of 2006) is a matter for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). My Department is in touch with officials of the FSAI on an ongoing basis and regular meetings are held to discuss a wide range of issues — including the enforcement of food legislation where this is necessary.

Hospital Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

74 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether an increased bed capacity is urgently required in Mayo General Hospital in view of the increasing numbers on trolleys in the accident and emergency department; her further views on whether the hospital has the capability to provide these essential additional beds and that her Department needs to sanction long-term financial investment to provide the necessary beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41440/06]

The Health Service Executive has informed me that a ward at Mayo General Hospital which was being used for cardiac investigations is in the process of being refurbished as an admission lounge. This facility will provide 15 beds which will allow patients to be admitted to the Hospital from the A & E department in a timely manner, and be managed under the care of the appropriate consultant in an environment which preserves their dignity and privacy pending transfer to the relevant ward. This project is due to be completed shortly. I understand that the Hospital is in discussions with the HSE regarding the staffing and revenue resources required to commission the facility.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

75 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of inpatients and outpatients on waiting lists for non-emergency neurosurgical services from 2003 to date in 2006; the length of time these patients have been waiting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41420/06]

Responsibility for the collation and publication of waiting list information falls within the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). The NTPF maintains public hospital waiting lists and waiting times nationally on a database, the Patient Treatment Register. My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly in relation to the information requested.

Care of the Elderly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

76 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that all high dependency patients who have been, or are being, placed in nursing homes on foot of the policy of discharging patients that are no longer in need of acute care in hospital beds have been placed in nursing homes which are capable of meeting their needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41411/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to respond to the issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

77 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the number of public health nurses per county; the number of vacancies for public health nurses per county; the locations of these vacancies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41385/06]

Almost 120,000 people work full-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Industrial Relations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

78 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the pay claim of the Irish Nurses Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41453/06]

The Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) are pursuing a number of claims in respect of pay and conditions. I have had no direct discussions with the Health Service Executive in relation to these claims.

The claims were heard by the Labour Court on 20 June 2006 and a recommendation issued on 9 November 2006. The Court did not recommend concession of the major cost increasing claims. Instead the Court urged the unions to reconsider their position with regard to the Benchmarking so as to have their claims examined through that process. I would also see this as the way forward.

In relation to the claim for a shorter working week the Court noted that concession of this claim at this time would have profound consequences for both health care delivery and costs unless effective countervailing measures could be put in place. The Court did recommend that employers and unions explore the possibility of initiating an appropriate process aimed at achieving a major reorganisation of working arrangements within the health service generally.

Within the context of the Labour Court recommendation I recently suggested that meaningful discussions could be held between unions, the HSE and my Department in relation to greater flexibility, improved skill mix and work patterns. I am glad to say that the INO and PNA have indicated a willingness to enter such discussions and this matter will be progressed.

Health Service Staff.

Séamus Pattison

Question:

79 Mr. Pattison asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the recruitment process of the 32 elder abuse officials or care workers following publication of the report into the deaths at Leas Cross; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41459/06]

The recruitment process referred to is a function of the Health Service Executive (HSE), which has informed my Department that the process to fill these posts is proceeding. The closing date for applications was 6th October, 2006 and the HSE intend to commence interviews next week.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

80 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide full regional services in the south east; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41433/06]

This Government is committed to the development of acute hospital services in each individual hospital, network, and region. Our policy is to provide safe, high-quality services that achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. This will mean that those services that can be safely delivered locally are delivered locally and the more complex services that require specialist input are concentrated at regional centres, or in the case of highly specialised services, in national centres. This approach is consistent with international best practice for the optimum delivery of patient care.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

81 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on concerns that the average cost of a patient treated through the National Treatment Purchase Fund can be €400 more expensive in the private sector; her further views on claims that the NTPF has become a subsidy to the private sector; if she will provide a comparison on the number and cost of patients treated to date in 2006 and in 2005 by the NTPF with the number and cost of patients in the public sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41457/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

93 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to carry out a cost benefit analysis on the total 2006 spend by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, in view of the fact that the NTPF is paying substantially more for procedures carried out under its remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41426/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

134 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the taxpayer is receiving value for money from the National Treatment Purchase Fund scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41427/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 93 and 134 together.

I am satisfied that the taxpayer is receiving excellent value for money from the National Treatment Purchase Fund. I am not aware of evidence that the cost of procedures arranged by the Fund in the private sector is "substantially more" than similar procedures in public hospitals.

It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the costs of procedures carried out under the auspices of the NTPF in the private sector and those carried out in the public sector. The NTPF basically has a procedure-based pricing system. The factors that are taken into account in agreeing prices with private hospitals include the market rate for the treatment, the cost base of the private hospital, the supply and demand for particular treatments and other pricing benchmarks including Casemix and some information from private insurers.

The Casemix system in use in public hospitals groups a range of patients having the same condition, who may have differing lengths of stay, severity and cost, into one Diagnostic Related Grouping, which is then split by cost per hospital to make it as accurate as possible. As an example, a simple tonsillectomy costs less than a tonsillectomy complicated by infection; a cataract may be a day procedure for some people while an overnight stay may be required by others.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

82 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the tendering process for the co-location of private hospitals on public hospital grounds; her views on reports of a number of high profile medical operators that have pulled out of the tendering process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41458/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

130 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a target date for the negotiation and signing of detailed contracts for successful bidders for the development of private hospitals on public hospital sites under the co-location scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41456/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

157 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the opinion that her co-location plan to build private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals will create a difficulty for other hospitals in the same region in recruiting consultant staff and the possibility of a reduction in services as a result of this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41425/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 130 and 157 together.

The Health Services Executive is currently undertaking a procurement exercise to select consortia to build and operate private hospitals on 10 public hospital sites utilising the competitive dialogue tendering process. Invitations to participate in dialogue issued to pre-qualified bidders in mid September 2006 with a deadline to submit outline proposals by 19th October 2006. The HSE has evaluated the outline proposals that it received and has recently completed the selection of short-listed bidders who will be invited to continue in the competitive dialogue phase. Some of the bidders withdrew from the procurement process for commercial reasons.

I was informed by the HSE yesterday that the co location initiative will not be proceeding on two public hospital sites at this time. The sites in question are Galway University Hospitals and Letterkenny General Hospital.

The key objective of the competitive dialogue phase is to explore different options for meeting the core requirements identified by the HSE in respect of each remaining site. The preferred bidders will then be invited to tender to build and operate private hospitals in accordance with the specifications determined by the HSE. The assessment of each proposal will involve a vigorous and comprehensive value for money assessment. The HSE envisages that the award of contracts will be made in the first quarter of 2007.

The HSE is working towards having consultants providing services as part of a team and hospitals operating as part of a network within a region. This is primarily aimed at improving patient care but it will also avoid the emergence of the type of problems envisaged by the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

83 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has carried out a review of the impact on private stand alone hospitals who can no longer employ public hospital consultants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41423/06]

I have no direct function in relation to the staffing of private acute hospitals. According to the latest report on Consultant Staffing published by the National Hospitals Office, the number of consultants holding Category II posts, which entitles them to work in private hospitals, stands at 610 which represents 31% of the number of consultants available nationally. I would point out that it is open to private hospitals to recruit consultants who do not have commitments in the public hospital system.

Health Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

84 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the intentions she has of expanding the teen parent support programme throughout the country. [37660/06]

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.

Screening Programmes.

Michael Noonan

Question:

85 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on population health screening programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41400/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

107 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on primary and secondary screening for preventable diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41401/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85 and 107 together.

Screening is a service provided to apparently healthy people so that some who may go on to develop the disease may be diagnosed and treated effectively. The aim is to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from a specified health condition. As a process, screening has risks and benefits and is not without cost. My Department has an obligation to minimise risk and maximise benefit as efficiently as possible.

The challenge for screening programmes is that there is a consistent and reliable approach to the criteria relating to the effectiveness and quality of screening programmes. Equally valid is the need to ensure that screening programmes are tailored to population health needs and that they deliver tangible health benefits.

Screening can be provided at the population level (comprehensive programmes that are population based and include recruitment, recall, follow-up and timely assessment of people with positive tests.) Examples include cancer screening (breast and cervical), newborn screening for congenital abnormalities e.g. Phenylketonuria (PKU), child health screening. Screening is also provided to prevent complications of disease especially related to chronic diseases. Examples include diabetic retinopathy screening, and the identification of risk factors for cardiovascular disease including stroke through primary care.

There are internationally recognised criteria for the provision and delivery of screening programmes e.g. those set by the World Health Organisation. My Department is actively considering the most appropriate ways to monitor new developments in screening and how they should be evaluated.

International Agreements.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

86 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Ireland has yet to ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes; and when same will be ratified. [41476/06]

The Convention in question is primarily designed to reduce both the number of experiments and the number of animals used for such purposes. Parties to the Convention are encouraged not to experiment on animals except where there is no alternative and to encourage research into alternative methods. Animals to be experimented on should be selected on the basis of clearly established quantitative criteria and must be well cared for and spared avoidable suffering whenever possible.

In Ireland, these outcomes are achieved in practice by the European Communities (Amendment to the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002 which give effect to Council Directive 86/609/EEC regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. However, ratification of the Convention would require primary legislation and, as there would be no additional protection of experimental animals, I could not justify allocating resources for this purpose; accordingly, there are no proposals to proceed with ratifying the Convention.

Departmental Reports.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

87 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that the report submitted by the Health Service Executive to An Bord Altranais in conjunction with the O’Neill report contains specific allegations against named individuals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41414/06]

An Bord Altranais has a code of professional conduct for nurses and midwifes which provides that any circumstances which could place patients or clients in jeopardy or militate against safe standards of practice should be made known to the appropriate person or authorities. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further in advance of the Board's deliberation in this case.

Infectious Diseases.

Willie Penrose

Question:

88 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the most up to date figures on MRSA and deaths attributed to MRSA; her views on the setting up of a national directorate for the inspection, prevention and control of MRSA and other hospital acquired infections such as C difficile; when the Health Service Executive will publish an action plan in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41463/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she has taken or proposes to take to address the issue of the ever increasing risk from MRSA in the various hospitals here; if incidents to date have related to hospitals only, public hospitals only, or health centres; the cost and effectiveness of the preventative measures she has taken to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41373/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

329 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients to date deemed to have contracted MRSA or similar infections while in public or private hospitals; the action taken to date or proposed to deal with the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41692/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88, 146 and 329 together.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) collects data on MRSA bacteraemia (also known as bloodstream infection or "blood poisoning") as part of the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS). EARSS collects data on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter. The Irish data for EARSS, which is published on a quarterly basis by the HPSC, showed that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 586 cases in 2005 and 285 reported cases in the first half of 2006. It is difficult to identify the number of fatalities attributable to MRSA as many people also have significant co-morbidity factors.

Clostridium difficile is not a notifiable disease and as a result it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. However, Clostridium difficile infection was examined in The Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty-six patients had Clostridium difficile representing 0.5% of patients studied. Clostridium difficile infection increases with age and is eight times more common in patients over 65 years compared to those under the age of 65 years. The emergence of more virulent strains of Clostridium difficile which is partly due to over use of antibiotics underlines the importance of strict antibiotic stewardship in our health care system.

This year, Ireland participated in the Hospital Infection Society's "Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections" (HCAIs) in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The survey, which included 45 Irish acute adult hospitals, including 8 private hospitals, provides accurate and comparable data on the prevalence of Health Care Associated Infections (including MRSA) and can also be compared with similar data being obtained in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Preliminary results of this study are now available. The overall prevalence of health-care associated infection in the UK and Ireland study (these figures exclude Scotland) is 7.9%. The England figure is 8.2%, Wales 6.3%, Northern Ireland 5.5% and the Republic of Ireland 4.9%. The prevalence of health-care associated infection was highest in regional/tertiary hospitals at 6% and lowest in specialist hospitals at 2%. There is no room for complacency and HSE must continue to work with hospitals to control HCAIs.

Community acquired MRSA infections are generally caused by strains of MRSA bacteria that differ to strains associated with hospitals. The Irish National MRSA Reference Library carried out a preliminary study in 2005 to look for evidence of such community acquired strains of MRSA in Ireland. They identified five patients with such strains, four of which appear to have acquired the infection outside Ireland.

Measures to control the emergence and spread of HCAIs are necessary because there are fewer options available for the treatment of resistant infections and because these strains spread amongst vulnerable at-risk patients. The prudent use of antibiotics underpins any approach to the control of antibiotic resistant bacteria, including MRSA. This, together with good professional practice and routine infection control precautions, such as hand hygiene, constitute the major measures in controlling and preventing healthcare-associated infection, including that caused by MRSA, both in hospital and in community health care units. While many HCAI are not preventable, we can make every effort to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur.

A Strategy for the control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland (SARI) was launched in 2001 and includes recommendations such as hospital hygiene practise, appropriate antibiotic prescribing, active surveillance for the detection of MRSA and corporate/ clinical governance structures in the area of infection control.

The base funding for MRSA and HCAI is €4.5m. The funds allocated to SARI since its launch are:

2001: €2,539,000

2002: €4,383,000

2003: €4,492,000

Funding for 2004 and 2005 has remained the same, with an increase in each year to allow for inflation.

The HSE has appointed Dr. Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director of Health Protection, as the lead person nationally, for MRSA in the HSE. He is supported by senior representatives of the NHO, PCCC and Risk Management as well as senior clinicians. The HSE are shortly to publish a three year Action Plan which will set targets for the control and management of HCAIs.

Care of the Elderly.

Phil Hogan

Question:

89 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive on the stated opinion of the HSE that an over reliance on the nursing home sector to meet all of the needs of highly dependent and very ill older people is misplaced and inappropriate; the policy initiatives she proposes to ensure that very ill older people are placed in appropriate facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41406/06]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

117 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the communications she has had with the private nursing home sector with a view to bringing about improvements in the short term in view of the public concern regarding standards in some nursing homes; her views on whether the conflict of interests prevents the Health Service Executive from being an effective independent arbiter in this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41410/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

119 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the current and ongoing conflict of interest within the Health Service Executive, which is contracting beds in nursing homes, has sought tenders from nursing homes to provide care for high dependency patients and which is also the regulator for nursing home standards, she will take immediate steps to ensure that the governance function in regard to inspections has sufficient autonomy, independence and competence; the steps she proposes to take on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41407/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 117 and 119 together.

The inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990. The 1990 Act provides for the registration of private nursing homes and procedures for attaching conditions to the registration and for de-registering homes. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations, 1993 set out the standards which private nursing homes owners must adhere to in the provision of nursing home services.

A Nursing Homes Inspection and Registration Working Group was established in July 2005 by the HSE and reported in July 2006. Among the recommendations of the report was the recruitment of dedicated inspection teams throughout the country, these teams to have staff with nursing, medical and mental health expertise, and other professionals available to them. The HSE is in the process of developing dedicated nursing home inspection teams and these have been developed in some areas. Standardised documentation will be used by all inspection teams throughout the HSE. An Integrated Checklist will be adopted by all Inspection Teams and completed at each inspection by team members. The HSE commenced publication of nursing home inspection reports on their website in September 2006.

Priority is being given to the appointment of dedicated multi-disciplinary inspection teams whose remit solely covers all aspects of nursing home inspections, registrations and investigations. A training programme is being developed and implemented for nursing home inspection teams which will address, in particular, report writing, elder abuse, legislation and training on appliances and clinical skills. All of the mandatory inspections of nursing homes, i.e. the six-monthly inspections, will be unannounced. Follow-up inspections may be announced or unannounced.

A Working Group was established by the Minister last year to produce draft standards for all long-term residential settings — public, private and voluntary. The Department is currently in discussion with interim Health Information and Quality Authority (iHIQA) in relation to a consultation process on these draft standards.

The Health Bill 2006 will establish the Health Information and Quality Authority, or HIQA, and will put the Social Services Inspectorate, or SSI, on a statutory basis within HIQA. The intention is that the SSI will be required to monitor residential services provided to older persons against standards adopted or set by HIQA. The Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services will be established as an Office within HIQA. The Chief Inspector will have powers to cancel a registration or to add conditions to a registration. He or she will also be able to seek the urgent cancellation of a registration by application to the courts in situations where he or she considers the health and well-being of a person is at risk. The Health Bill will be published before the end of the year.

The Department and the HSE have progressed work on a number of initiatives as outlined above to ensure that all patients who require nursing home care are placed in appropriate settings that meet their needs. The Department will continue to work closely with the HSE to develop additional bed capacity, replace existing bed stock and to carry out necessary refurbishment and upgrading. In that context it is proposed to develop 50 Bed Units at a number of locations in Dublin and Cork and a number of other sites across the country.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

90 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on calls for an independent person to examine the reason thousands of children are waiting for orthodontic treatment or being denied treatment; the number of children and adults waiting for treatment; the number of orthodontists currently being trained; the progress to date on implementing the recommendations made in 2005 by the Joint Committee on Health and Children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41381/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group. The terms of reference for the group are:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity.

Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard;

the recommendations thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

I have been advised that the Review Group has concluded its meetings and is finalising its report and recommendations. The report will be presented to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE in the near future. I look forward to receiving and considering the Report.

Hospital Accommodation.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

91 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the location and number of community nursing beds provided to date in 2006 and in 2005; the number of beds lost in the same period; the locations of these beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41466/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote.

Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to provide the information requested by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to co-ordinate this information and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

92 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether a tribunal of inquiry is needed into the public orthodontic service (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41449/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group. The terms of reference for the Group are:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity.

Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard;

the recommendation thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed

I have been advised that the Review Group has concluded its meetings and is finalising its report and recommendations. The Report will be presented to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE in the near future. I look forward to receiving and considering the Report.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Food Safety.

Séamus Pattison

Question:

94 Mr. Pattison asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of officers dedicated to the inspection of catering outlets to check for compliance with labelling regulations for beef; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41471/06]

Seán Ryan

Question:

155 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that there are sufficient inspectors to deal with the level of inspection required to monitor the beef labelling regulations at catering level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41475/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 155 together.

The implementation of the Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 307 of 2006) is a matter for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). There are over 44,000 food businesses in Ireland of which 29,000 are in the service sector — including restaurants, hotels and public houses. These are inspected on a routine basis by Environmental Health Officers of the Health Service Executive (HSE) operating under a service contract with the FSAI.

Approximately 400 Environmental Health Officers are involved in food control in the HSE. I am advised that the number of inspectors and level of inspection required to implement these regulations is sufficient.

Care of the Elderly.

Liam Twomey

Question:

95 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding that will be provided for care of the elderly in County Wexford; when funding will be provided specifically for phase two and three of St. John’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41432/06]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, the sum available for expenditure in health under the Health Service Executive's capital plan is €555 million.

The HSE has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development referred to in the Deputy's question. 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.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

96 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for the development of services at the County Hospital Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41174/06]

This Government is committed to the development of acute hospital services in each individual hospital, network, and region. Each hospital, including Roscommon, has a role to play in providing acute hospital services.

Our policy is to provide safe, high-quality services that achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. This will mean that those services that can be safely delivered locally are delivered locally and the more complex services that require specialist input are concentrated at regional centres, or in the case of highly specialised services in national centres. This approach is consistent with international best practice for the optimum delivery of patient care.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

97 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients on waiting lists for admission to each of the neurological units from 2002 to date in 2006; the length of time these patients have been waiting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41419/06]

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 in relation to the information requested.

Screening Programmes.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

98 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a screening programme for hypertension, cholesterol and obesity as part of a population health screening programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41399/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

143 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a screening programme for diabetes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41397/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 143 together.

Screening is a service provided to apparently healthy people so that some who may go on to develop the disease may be diagnosed and treated effectively. The aim is to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from a specified health condition. As a process, screening has risks and benefits and is not without cost. My Department has an obligation to minimise risk and maximise benefit as efficiently as possible.

The challenge for screening programmes is that there is a consistent and reliable approach to the criteria relating to the effectiveness and quality of screening programmes. Equally valid is the need to ensure that screening programmes are tailored to population health needs and that they deliver tangible health benefits.

Screening can be provided at the population level (comprehensive programmes that are population based and include recruitment, recall, follow-up and timely assessment of people with positive tests.) Examples include cancer screening (breast and cervical), newborn screening for congenital abnormalities e.g. Phenylketonuria (PKU), child health screening. Screening is also provided to prevent complications of disease especially related to chronic diseases. Examples include diabetic retinopathy screening, and the identification of risk factors for cardiovascular disease including stroke through primary care.

There are internationally recognised criteria for the provision and delivery of screening programmes e.g. those set by the World Health Organisation. My Department is actively considering the most appropriate ways to monitor new developments in screening and how they should be evaluated.

Hospital Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

99 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to fast-track the development of neurology services in Beaumont Hospital and Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41418/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Departmental Reports.

Enda Kenny

Question:

100 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the fact that the Health Service Executive has stated that no judgment has been formed where there is a difference of opinion between the contents of Professor O’Neill’s report on the deaths in Leas Cross and the responses attached to his report, the steps proposed to be taken to identify these differences; the action that will be taken to establish the reason such differences have occurred; the real significance of same in respect of the debacle which occurred in that nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41412/06]

I have expressed my gratitude to Professor O'Neill for his work on the Leas Cross Report and I welcome its publication. The Health Service Executive has confirmed that it fully accepts the recommendations made by Professor O'Neill and has already addressed many of these that apply to the HSE.

My Department and the HSE will work together to implement the recommendations contained therein. I believe this is the appropriate, continuing response to the Report. It is the best course of action to assure patients of higher quality standards and services. I understand that Professor O'Neill has agreed to participate in a group to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. I believe that this is the appropriate forum to consider the issues raised by the Deputy.

Services for older people are a priority for the Government. We are implementing significant changes to give the required assurance to older people about care standards. A thorough and robust system of inspections is vital. The Health Bill 2006, which is before Government and will be published imminently, will provide for the first time for an independent, statutory body to set standards and inspect all nursing home places, both public and private. This will also strengthen the registration and de-registration process. New standards for all long-term residential care facilities for older people have already been prepared.

In 2006, the total budget for services for older people is €1.2 billion, including an increase of €150 million this year alone. There will continue to be substantial funding increases for these services in 2007. We have already carried out considerable work to prepare policy to overhaul the financial support system for people in long term care.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

102 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take following recent reports of an elderly woman being charged for private service after attending accident and emergency; if she will ensure that all hospitals are not charging private fees to patients attending accident and emergency in public hospitals; her Department’s position and the IMO’s position in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41379/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

127 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that her Department has sent a letter to the Health Service Executive asking it to stop the practice of doctors charging private fees to patients attending accident and emergency departments in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41451/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 127 together.

My Department was recently made aware of a case of an elderly woman who, following treatment in the accident and emergency department of a public hospital, received a bill in respect of private services from a Consultant who attended to her there. Patients attending A&E departments in public hospitals are deemed to be public patients and are not liable to pay Consultants' private fees. The fact that a patient may hold private health insurance does not alter this position. My Department has brought the case to the attention of the Health Service Executive and requested that all public hospitals be reminded that there is no statutory basis for charging private fees in A&E departments.

I am aware that the medical organisations have taken issue with the action taken by my Department. I wish to make it clear that I regard equitable access to A&E services as a core principle. The nature of A&E services demands that no distinction be made between public or private patients. The payment of private fees for duties undertaken in A&E departments would totally undermine this principle.

Departmental Reports.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

103 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the view expressed by a senior official of the Health Service Executive that what happened in Leas Cross was due to a systems failure; the action she proposes to take to establish the full facts of what happened in Leas Cross and the factors which contributed to this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41413/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

112 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to the publication of the report into deaths in Leas Cross, her views on the recommendations made in the report; the measures she will take to ensure implementation of the recommendations; the timeframe for implementation of same; the timeframe for an independent inspectorate for nursing homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41391/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 112 together.

The inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990. The 1990 Act provides for the registration of private nursing homes and procedures for attaching conditions to the registration and for de-registering homes. The Nursing Homes (Care and Welfare) Regulations, 1993 set out the standards which private nursing homes owners must adhere to in the provision of nursing home services.

A Nursing Homes Inspection and Registration Working Group was established in July 2005 by the HSE and reported in July 2006. Among the recommendations of the report was the recruitment of dedicated inspection teams throughout the country, these teams to have staff with nursing, medical and mental health expertise, and other professionals available to them. The HSE is in the process of developing dedicated nursing home inspection teams and these have been developed in some areas. Standardised documentation will be used by all inspection teams throughout the HSE. An Integrated Checklist will be adopted by all Inspection Teams and completed at each inspection by team members. The HSE commenced publication of nursing home inspection reports on their website in September 2006.

Priority is being given to the appointment of dedicated multi-disciplinary inspection teams whose remit solely covers all aspects of nursing home inspections, registrations and investigations. A training programme is being developed and implemented for nursing home inspection teams which will address, in particular, report writing, elder abuse, legislation and training on appliances and clinical skills. All of the mandatory inspections of nursing homes, i.e. the six-monthly inspections, will be unannounced. Follow-up inspections may be announced or unannounced.

A Working Group was established by the Minister last year to produce draft standards for all long-term residential settings–public, private and voluntary. The Department is currently in discussion with interim Health Information and Quality Authority (iHIQA) in relation to a consultation process on these draft standards.

The Health Bill 2006 will establish the Health Information and Quality Authority, or HIQA, and will put the Social Services Inspectorate, or SSI, on a statutory basis within HIQA. The intention is that the SSI will be required to monitor residential services provided to older persons against standards adopted or set by HIQA. The Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services will be established as an Office within HIQA. The Chief Inspector will have powers to cancel a registration or to add conditions to a registration. He or she will also be able to seek the urgent cancellation of a registration by application to the courts in situations where he or she considers the health and well-being of a person is at risk. The Health Bill will be published before the end of the year.

The Department and the HSE will continue its work to implement the recommendations in the Leas Cross Report.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard Allen

Question:

104 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop community care units to provide specific care for the elderly with regard to convalescence, respite and high dependence long-term care beds on the grounds of public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41402/06]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, the sum available for expenditure in health under the Health Service Executive's capital plan is €555 million.

The HSE has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development referred to in the Deputy's question. 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.

Primary Care Strategy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

105 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to develop primary care teams in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41434/06]

The Strategy, Primary Care: A New Direction, aims to develop services in the community to give people direct access to integrated multi-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, health care assistants, home helps, occupational therapists and others.

It has been estimated that up to 95% of people's health and social services needs can be properly met within a primary care setting and the establishment of new Primary Care Teams can contribute greatly to enhancing community based health services in these areas. The HSE received additional revenue funding of €16m in 2006 in order to support further implementation of the Strategy. This represents a significant increase over previous years and brings the total ongoing funding for this purpose to €28m per annum.

Of the €16m provided, €10m has been earmarked to establish up to 100 primary care teams, which will include some 300 additional frontline professionals. The funding is being targeted by the HSE to provide the potential for each Local Health Office (formerly Community Care Areas) to establish up to three primary care teams. The HSE is at present in the process of finalising arrangements for the establishment of Primary Care Teams in 2006. Further funding of €10m is also being provided in 2007 to enable the full year cost of these developments to be met.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. 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 Insurance.

Dan Neville

Question:

106 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if her plans to move 1,000 private beds out of the public system will have the effect of increasing private health insurance premiums; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41422/06]

In July 2005, I announced an initiative designed to provide up to 1,000 additional beds for public patients. This will be achieved through the development of private hospitals on the sites of public hospitals, transferring private activity to those hospitals and freeing up beds currently reserved for private patients.

As the charges levied on private health insurers for treating private patients in public hospitals are subsidised, the transfer of 1,000 beds will impact on private health insurance costs as private hospitals will have to charge the full economic rate, including the need for a return on their capital investment. However, it is, in any case, Government policy that this subsidy be removed from public hospital beds.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Suicide Incidence.

Ivor Callely

Question:

108 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures in place aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide; her Department’s policy and strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41363/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

282 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress since the publication of the national task force report on suicide in 1998; the number of annual deaths arising from suicide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41336/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 282 together.

Since the publication of the Report of the National Task Force on Suicide in 1998 there has been a positive and committed response among both the statutory and voluntary sectors towards finding ways of tackling this tragic problem. The Chief Executive Officers of the former Health Boards established the Suicide Review Group and Resource officers were appointed in all health boards with specific responsibility for implementing the Task Force's recommendations.

In 2003, the ongoing concern about reported rates of suicidal behaviour underlined the need to develop a national strategy for action on suicide prevention, building on earlier efforts and learning from national and international experiences.

"Reach Out" a National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, 2005-2014 was launched in September 2005. This strategy builds on the work of the National Task Force on Suicide and takes account of the efforts and initiatives developed by the former health boards in recent years. During the two years developing the strategy, wide ranging consultation took place throughout the country to draw on the experience, perspectives and ideas of the key stakeholders and interested parties. This consultation process, combined with continuous monitoring of evidence and best practice, allowed the project team to take both an evidence-based and pragmatic approach in prioritising actions to be undertaken by the various agencies and groups in order to effect real change over the next 5 to 10 years.

Reach Out recommends a combined public health and high risk approach. This approach to suicide prevention is also that advocated by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and is in keeping with the European Action Plan for Mental Health which was signed and endorsed on behalf of ministers of health of the 52 member states of the European Region of the World Health Organisation at the Ministerial Conference on Mental Health in Helsinki, Finland in January 2005.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is taking a lead role in overseeing the implementation of Reach Out, in partnership with those statutory and voluntary organisations that have a key role to play in making the actions happen. In 2005, the HSE established the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) to oversee the implementation of the strategy.

According to the Central Statistics Office, the number of registered deaths by suicide for each year since 1998 is as shown in the table.

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

514

455

486

519

478

497

457

431

Note: The figures provided for 2004 and 2005 are by ‘year of registration' and are therefore provisional.

Hospital Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

109 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute neurosurgical beds in each neurosurgical unit here for each of the years from 1997 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41417/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to provide the information requested by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the information provided directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Damien English

Question:

110 Mr. English asked the Minister for Health and Children the alternatives to methadone treatment that exist for heroin misusers; the structures in place to allow them to become drug free; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37287/06]

The 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

111 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the co-location of public and private hospitals represents good value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41446/06]

John Gormley

Question:

241 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the co-location of public and private hospitals represents good value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41669/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 241 together.

The cost of developing private hospitals on public sites must be seen in the context of delivering up to 1,000 acute hospital beds for public patients. It also has to be seen in the context of the significant benefits that the HSE expects to receive in return for the concessions granted to the private operators.

The Health Service Executive has informed my Department that in 2005 the 10 public hospitals selected as sites for co-located private hospitals charged health insurers for a total of €111 million. I was informed by the HSE yesterday that, as a result of the ongoing public procurement exercise, the co-location initiative will not be proceeding on two public hospital sites at this time. These sites in question are Galway University Hospitals and Letterkenny General Hospital. Leaving aside those two hospitals, the figure reduces to €88.6 million.

In addition it is estimated that tax forgone under the capital allowances scheme will be about €420 million over a 7 year cycle. This is less than half the capital cost of providing the same number of beds through direct exchequer capital funding.

A rigorous value for money assessment of each co-location proposal will be carried out by the HSE. This has been a requirement from the start. No project will proceed without the value for money to the State being demonstrated.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 103.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

113 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the BreastCheck roll-out nationwide and particularly the roll-out for the north west; the budget spend on the roll-out by region with initial cost projections and the current cost projections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41389/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

139 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans, in view of the fact that BreastCheck is realistically two years away for the women of Mayo and the west of Ireland, to offer an interim solution for this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41374/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

254 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the prospect of comprehensive BreastCheck services being provided in the north-west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41140/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

255 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will give a commitment to the Houses of the Oireachtas that the BreastCheck programme will be rolled out in Donegal in 2007 as promised. [41153/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

270 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is proposed to have free breast cancer screening available for women in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41272/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

302 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck screening will be available in Sligo and Leitrim. [41521/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 139, 254, 255, 270 and 302 together.

I am committed to ensuring that the BreastCheck service is rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. I have approved additional revenue funding of €8 million for 2007 to meet the additional costs involved, bringing BreastCheck's revenue budget to €21.7 million in 2007. I have also made available an additional €26.7 million capital funding to BreastCheck for the construction of two new clinical units, five additional mobile units and the provision of state of the art digital equipment. I am pleased that screening will commence in the South and West in the Spring of next year.

As regards the roll out to specific regions and associated costs, my Department has requested the Director of the Programme to respond directly to the Deputies.

Medical Research.

Mary Upton

Question:

114 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to ensure that the housing and care of animals and invertebrates used in scientific procedures conforms with the highest evidence based animal welfare standards; the code of practice governing standards in this area here; and if she will provide this Deputy with a copy of same. [41472/06]

The use of live animals in scientific research and other experimental activity is strictly controlled in accordance with the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, as amended by the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876) Regulations 2002 and 2005. Under the Act, each licence applicant must satisfy the Authority that they have the appropriate education and training (including instruction in a relevant scientific discipline) for the task, are competent to perform the task in accordance with the conditions specified in the licence and have the appropriate competence to handle and take care of the experimental animals specified in the application.

Ireland supports the work of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). ECVAM was established by the European Commission to promote the scientific and regulatory acceptance of alternative methods which are of importance to the biosciences and which reduce, refine or replace the use of laboratory animals. Ireland is represented on its Scientific Committee.

I have forwarded copies of the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002 and the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2005 on the use of animals for experimental and other scientific purposes to the Deputy as requested.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

115 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress in implementing the recommendations of the Government’s ten-year mental health policy, A Vision for Change; her views on claims that human rights are being fundamentally breached by the Government’s neglect of the mental health sector. [41465/06]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

267 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children the way her Department plans to ensure the implementation of the new National Policy Framework for Mental Health, A Vision for Change; the action that will be taken on its recommendations by all Government Departments whose role it mentions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41256/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 267 together.

I am committed to the full implementation of "A Vision for Change", the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy. The Government has accepted the Report as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. "A Vision for Change" provides a framework for action to develop a modern high quality mental health service over the next 7 to 10 years.

In March 2006, I appointed an independent monitoring group to monitor progress on the implementation of the recommendations of "A Vision for Change". The group will monitor and assess progress on the implementation of all the recommendations including those which fall under the responsibility of the HSE, government departments and other relevant agencies.

Implementation of the individual recommendations of "A Vision for Change" is a matter primarily for the HSE. The HSE recently established an implementation group to ensure that mental health services develop in a synchronised and consistent manner across the country and to guide and resource service managers and clinicians in making the recommendations in "A Vision for Change" a reality. Both of these groups will play an important role in ensuring that the recommendations are implemented in a co-ordinated and timely manner.

The Mental Health Act, 2001, which was fully implemented from 1st November 2006, significantly improves safeguards for mentally ill persons who are involuntarily admitted for psychiatric care and treatment and will bring Irish mental health law in this area into conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It provides a modern framework within which people who require treatment or protection can be cared for and treated.

Mental Health Tribunals will conduct a review of each decision to detain a patient on an involuntary basis or to extend the duration of such detention. The review will be independent, automatic and must be completed within 21 days of the detention order being signed.

All involuntary patients detained in psychiatric hospitals under the provisions of the 1945 Act immediately before the 1 November 2006 will also have their cases reviewed by a Mental Health Tribunal. This review must take place before the expiration of their existing detention orders in the case of temporary patients and within 6 months of the 1 November 2006 in the case of persons of unsound mind.

The Inspector of Mental Health Services carries out inspections of all psychiatric hospitals and units, including private facilities, at least once a year. The Mental Health Commission has introduced rules governing the use of ECT and the use of seclusion and mechanical means of bodily restraint and has issued Codes of Practice relating to the use of physical restraint in approved centres.

Suicide Incidence.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

116 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the high incidence of suicide among the Traveller community; the measures and supports she will put in place to specifically target this group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41387/06]

I am aware of the report of the high incidence of suicide among the travelling community. I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government is fully committed to the implementation of suicide prevention initiatives and the further development of our mental health services in order to prevent and reduce further tragic loss of life.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) was established by the Health Service Executive in 2005 to oversee the implementation of "Reach Out", the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention. This Office is responsible for the implementation of the Strategy and provides support to groups and organisations for their work in the development of suicide prevention initiatives. In 2006, an additional €1.2m has been allocated to the Health Service Executive specifically for suicide prevention initiatives and research.

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.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Hospital Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

118 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports of severe deficiencies in the provision of neurosurgical services here; the number on waiting lists to neurosurgical units; the locations of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41386/06]

The Health Services Executive recently published a Review of Neurosurgical Services in Ireland. It identifies a clear need for significant investment in and organisational reform of neurosurgical services.

Neurosurgery is currently provided at the national centre in Beaumont Hospital and in Cork University Hospital. The Report recommends that the future development of safe, high quality neurosurgical services in Ireland would be best served by a two-pronged approach:

1. Increased capacity in Dublin and Cork;

2. Improved access to neurosurgical units, including transport and telemedicine facilities for referring hospitals.

The HSE is committed to progressing the recommendations of the Report. It is undertaking a national neurosciences needs assessment. Neuroscience includes neurology, neurophysiology and neurosurgery. This assessment is guided by previous reviews of neurology and neurophysiology services and the recent report on neurosurgery. It aims to clearly identify the requirements for neuroscience services as a whole across the country.

An additional €3m was provided in 2006 to develop 3 new neurology units in Waterford, Limerick and Sligo through the appointment of 3 consultant neurology teams. In addition, the HSE provided funding for the appointment of an additional paediatric neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital this year. The recently published Estimates for the Health Service Executive provides a further €4m to continue these developments into 2007.

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 in relation to the information requested.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

National Cancer Strategy.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

120 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the lack of ring fenced funding for the recent cancer strategy; the progress that has taken place for the cancer strategy to date and the details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41394/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

318 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that provisions made in the context of the national plan and in the interim in respect of the treatment of cancer patients is adequate in terms of location, extent, ready access and expertise with particular reference to patient requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41681/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 318 together.

I am committed to investing significantly in the implementation of the National Cancer Control Strategy. The Estimates for 2007 include additional revenue funding of €20.5m for cancer control. This is an increase of 74% on the 2006 investment.

This funding includes €3.5m to support the initial implementation of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme. The HSE will establish four Managed Cancer Control Networks to deliver the Programme. Clinical leaders in oncology will be appointed to lead the delivery of quality multi-disciplinary care. The main priorities are the establishment of the leadership team to implement the Programme, including the National Cancer Control Director and key medical leaders at network level. The Programme will facilitate national standards for equity and access and will maximise ambulatory care.

I will shortly establish a National Cancer Screening Service to amalgamate BreastCheck and the Irish Cervical Screening Programme (ICSP) to deliver both programmes nationally. BreastCheck will commence national roll-out in Spring of next year. The ICSP will commence roll-out in late 2007, based on an affordable model. I have allocated additional funding of €8m and €5m to BreastCheck and the ICSP respectively to deliver on these commitments. The Service will also advise in relation to a colorectal cancer screening programme.

My Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive and the National Development Finance Agency to progress the delivery of the National Radiation Oncology Plan for which additional revenue funding of €3.25m has been allocated in 2007. This will support the appointment of additional Consultant Radiation Oncologists, Specialist Registrars and support staff. Six new linear accelerators will be provided in the Eastern Region in the short term, two in St. Luke's Hospital Dublin in late 2007 to provide much needed interim capacity pending roll-out of the national plan and two each in St. James's and Beaumont Hospitals by early 2009.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken to introduce a comprehensive ambulance navigation system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41175/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Care of the Elderly.

Seán Ryan

Question:

123 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals for the development of regulations surrounding the use of restraints in nursing homes and care facilities here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41490/06]

In relation 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. Article 19.1(h) of the Regulations state that "In every nursing home the following particulars shall be kept in a safe place in respect of each dependent person; a record of any occasion on which physical or chemical restraint is used, the nature of the restraint and its duration". In addition, a Working Group was established by the Department to develop standards for residential care settings, both public and private, for older people.

The Department is currently in discussion with the interim Health Information and Quality Authority in relation to a consultation process on the draft standards. These draft standards deal with best practice in relation to the use of restraints in all residential care settings for older people.

Hospital Services.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

124 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if capital funding required for upgrading of accommodation to enable additional facilities to be provided for a number of new consultants who will be attached to the hospital for the purpose of providing consultation service and outpatient services will be provided to Mallow General Hospital. [41181/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

140 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding is being provided in capital funding for a day procedures unit for Mallow General Hospital in 2007 as it is so urgently required. [41183/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 140 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Mental Health Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

125 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports that children with intellectual disabilities are forced to wait up to three years for assessment and treatment; the waiting lists for children to access speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and psychiatry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41393/06]

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.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

126 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on reports that the accident and emergency task force will say in its final report that bed capacity is a problem in a number of hospitals; her further views on reports that there are ongoing issues that delay the discharge of patients from a number of hospitals; when the Health Service Executive’s report on bed capacity will be published; when the task force report on bed capacity will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41461/06]

My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that the Task Force on Accident and Emergency Services is currently finalising its report, and that the approach to the implementation of its recommendations is under discussion. A number of short-term measures are to be prioritised for implementation as part of the HSE Winter Initiative.

The number of patients in acute hospitals whose discharge has been delayed has fallen significantly, reflecting the positive impact of the current initiative of discharging patients to private nursing homes, and the increase in the number of home care packages that have been made available. A number of initiatives are underway to address capacity issues in the long-stay care and community settings. The HSE has developed proposals in relation to additional private nursing home beds, as well as additional extended care beds in the public sector, including 350 beds in Community Nursing Units in the Dublin region where the difficulty in accessing extended care beds has been most acute.

A Steering Group has been established under the chairmanship of the National Director of the National Hospitals Office to review our acute hospital bed requirements up to the year 2020. The Group includes representatives of the Health Service Executive, my Department, the Department of Finance and the Economic and Social Research Institute. The Health Service Executive is about to appoint external consultants to carry out the review. The review will provide for an assessment of acute bed capacity requirements for Ireland to 2020 and will be published when it is completed.

Question No. 127 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Health Repayment Scheme.

Liz McManus

Question:

128 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is acceptable that public representatives are unable to obtain information from her Department or from the Health Service Executive with regard to dates of repayments for applicants for the repayment of nursing homes fees; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the repayment scheme does not deal with e-mail or written queries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41378/06]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act, 2006 came into effect on 30 June 2006. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the scheme. Accordingly, all queries relating to the operation of the scheme are referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive for investigation and direct reply.

The HSE has advised the Department that the Scheme Administrator has recently issued correspondence to all public representatives informing them that a facility has been put in place to make enquiries apart from the information phone line which is in place to assist the general public. As well as direct communication the Scheme Administrator is also working with bodies such as the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE and Regional Health Forums to ensure public representatives are kept up to date about the scheme and its progress.

The HSE has also advised the Department that written queries received are dealt with by the Scheme Administrator and that there is no e-mail facility available. Queries can also be directed to the Health Repayment Scheme helpline 1890 886 886.

In relation to dates of repayments to applicants, the HSE has informed the Department that over 21,000 forms have been submitted to the scheme administrator applying for repayments and these applications are being processed at present. The timeframe for repayment is predicated primarily on whether the applicant is alive or whether the application is being made by the estate of a deceased person. Living people who were wrongly charged will be the first to receive payments under the scheme. It is estimated that there are now in the region of 15,000 people within this category.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

129 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will implement the recommendations of the report, Sexual Assault Treatment Services, A National Review, published in June 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41454/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

154 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is no access to medical help for victims of rape in Dublin at weekends as there is no doctor available for on-call duty in the city’s sexual assault unit; her views on whether this is acceptable; the locations and hours of sexual assault units here; the steps she will take to address the gap in cover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41390/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 154 together.

The Report Sexual Assault Treatment Services — A National Review was received by my Department in June this year and is currently being examined.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Question:

131 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the pharmacy review group recommendations were published; if the Government accepts the recommendations; the steps she has taken to implement the recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41405/06]

The Pharmacy Review Group was established by my predecessor in November 2001 to examine the pharmacy issues raised in the OECD report on regulatory reform in Ireland. The Group submitted its report on 31 January 2003. The report was published in February 2004 and is available on my Department's website, www.doh.ie, along with reports prepared for the Group by Indecon International Economic Consultants.

On foot of the recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group, my Department commenced drafting new pharmacy legislation in two pharmacy Bills. I consider the first Bill a priority piece of legislation. It will deal with the governance of the Pharmaceutical Society, registration and fitness to practice issues. It will also remove the EU derogation for supervisory pharmacists (where only Irish-trained pharmacists can supervise pharmacies less than 3 years old). The general scheme and draft heads of the first Bill were approved by Government on 25th May 2006. Work on the drafting of the Bill is ongoing between my officials and the Parliamentary Counsel's Office. Subject to the Cabinet's approval, I hope to publish the Bill before the end of the year.

The second Bill will address the regulation of pharmacy and pharmacy services, including the definition of pharmacy services and of a community pharmacy, enhanced provisions for the inspection of pharmacies, and the provision for regulation of pharmacies for matters such as physical conditions, standards, record keeping and promotional activities. It is also proposed to deal with general provisions relating to community pharmacy contracts for services, as well as the remaining recommendations of the Pharmacy Review Group.

Questions Nos. 132 and 133 answered with Question No. 54.
Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

EU Directives.

Jack Wall

Question:

135 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if Ireland voted in favour of the proposed directive on processed cereal based foods and baby foods for infants and young children at the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health Nutrition Section meeting on 26 and 27 October 2006; and if she will explain Ireland’s position on this issue. [41474/06]

This proposal relates to the codification of Commission Directive 95/6/EC on processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children and its eleven subsequent amendments. As the codification involves no change to current provisions, Ireland voted in favour of it at the meeting in question.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

136 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that only 13 counties are represented on the Health Service Executive website for nursing homes inspections reports; when the public can expect to see reports on nursing homes all over the country posted on this website; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41392/06]

The HSE has informed my Department that they commenced publishing nursing home inspection reports on their website in September 2006. The plan to publish nursing home inspection reports follows considerable consultation within the HSE and also with representatives of nursing homes organisations. It should be noted that the reports being published on the website will give a snapshot of the situation in a particular nursing home on the date of inspection. Information of a confidential nature will not be published.

As operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, the Executive is the appropriate body to respond in relation to the detailed information sought by the Deputy. 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 Funding.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

137 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the disparity in funding increases in the eight Health Service Executive regions; if she will provide figures for funding per head of population; if she will explain the differences in the funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41477/06]

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.

Vaccination Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

138 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there will be no further examination of the question of vaccine trials involving babies and children in institutional settings in the 1960s and 1970s; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41470/06]

On Tuesday 28th of November I announced that I had decided that there would be no further examination of the question of Vaccine Trials involving babies and children in institutional settings in 1960/61, 1970 and 1973. The trials which involved both children in institutional settings and within the family home, were the subject of a report by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jim Kiely, which was laid before the Oireachtas in November 2000.

This decision follows a detailed examination of judgements in court cases heard in both the High and Supreme Court. As the House is aware, Justice Ó Caoimh in the High Court in June 2004 adjudged that the essential issue of the matter was not one suggestive of abuse as defined in the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000. The Judge was satisfied that nothing disclosed in Dr Kiely's report suggests that the conduct of the trials was such that they could be said in any way to amount to abuse as defined by the 2000 Act. Justice Ó Caoimh was conscious that the term abuse is widely defined in the Act, but in his judgement it was clear that none of the issues raised in Dr Kiely's report were even suggestive of abuse as so defined in the conduct of the trials. Justice ó Caoimh adjudged that the Additional Functions Order which sought to allow the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse to inquire into the matter of Vaccine trials was ultra vires.

I understand that it is difficult for people to accept not knowing exactly what occurred when they were children in these institutions and that those who were participants in the trials may be disappointed at my decision but the difficulties encountered to date would undoubtedly arise again if this matter was to be investigated by another forum. These difficulties include the availability of persons with a necessary knowledge of events and the scarcity of documentary records of the trials.

It is important to note that there is no evidence available which suggests that any of the participants in the trials had experienced reactions to the vaccines other than those normally expected. There can be no doubt that the consent for the trials described in Dr Kiely's report were certainly not those that would be applied today. However in the era under consideration the levels of consent sought were very different.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 113.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 124.

Medicinal Products.

Willie Penrose

Question:

141 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the reported links of sudden deaths in children and an anti-influenza drug (details supplied); the measures in place to ensure the safety of persons who may have to use this drug; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41464/06]

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) is responsible for the protection and promotion of public and animal health, through the evaluation and supervision of medicines for human and veterinary use. It co-ordinates the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products throughout the European Union and brings together the scientific resources of the 25 EU Member States in a network of 42 competent national authorities. A network of some 3,500 European experts underpins the scientific work of the EMEA and its committees.

Tamiflu is an antiviral drug approved in the European Union for the treatment of influenza in children between 1 and 13 years of age and for the prevention and treatment of influenza in adults and in adolescents over 13 years of age. Two cases of alleged suicide associated with the treatment of influenza (involving a 17 year old boy in February 2004 and a 14 year old boy in February 2005) were reported to the EMEA. In both cases the adolescents exhibited abnormal/disturbed behaviour prior to their deaths.

No causal relationship has been identified between the use of Tamiflu and psychiatric symptoms (such as hallucination and abnormal behaviour). All adverse reactions of Tamiflu are monitored and assessed by the Agency's scientific committee, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) on a continuous basis. In addition, close monitoring of psychiatric disorders has been in place for Tamiflu since February 2003 at the request of the EMEA, following the safety information provided by the manufacturers November 2002.

The CHMP, at its meeting of 14-17 November 2005, decided to request the Marketing Authorisation Holder of Tamiflu to provide a cumulative safety review of all available data on serious psychiatric disorders, including all case reports with a fatal outcome where Tamiflu was involved. Further to the evaluation of the data submitted in November 2005, the CHMP concluded that close monitoring of psychiatric disorders should continue.

The Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of human and veterinary medicines in Ireland. The Board works closely with both the EMEA and other European regulatory bodies on issues of safety concerning medicinal products. As with all medicinal products, the Board will continue to assess new information concerning Tamiflu and take appropriate action, where necessary.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

142 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details on the finding that the loss of private bed revenue to hospitals would amount to €111million under her co-location plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41424/06]

The figure of €111 million is an estimate by Health Service Executive of the amount that the 10 public hospitals selected as sites for co-located private hospitals charged private health insurers in 2005. I was informed by the HSE yesterday that, as a result of the ongoing public procurement exercise, the colocation initiative will not be proceeding on two public hospital sites at this time. These sites in question are Galway University Hospitals and Letterkenny General Hospital. Leaving aside those two hospitals, the figure reduces to €88.6 million.

The loss of private insurance income to public hospitals arising from the colocation initiative must be seen in the context of the freeing up of 1,000 beds that are currently reserved for private patients. It also has to be seen in the context of the significant benefits that the HSE expects to receive in return for the concessions granted to the private operators.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 98.
Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

Infectious Diseases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

145 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on Ireland’s preparedness and supplies of Tamilfu and Relenza in view of a recent claim by scientists that the UK Government is failing in the fight to prevent a flu pandemic by stockpiling just one anti-viral drug, Tamiflu; if this is part of the recommendations; when the report from the influenza pandemic expert group will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41383/06]

The Influenza Pandemic Expert Group is finalising its report for publication later this month. I can confirm that our pandemic influenza preparedness strategy includes the stockpiling of supplies of Tamiflu and Relenza.

An emergency supply of over 45,000 treatment packs of the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, was purchased in 2004. A further 1 million treatment packs of Tamiflu have now been stockpiled as part of our pandemic preparedness strategy. This quantity is sufficient to treat 25% of the population and is in line with international trends. We have also stockpiled 63kg of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (oseltamivir phosphate powder). This will allow for treatment of approximately 60,000 children aged between 1 and 5 years of age.

We are also stockpiling 706,000 courses of Relenza. This is sufficient to cover 20% of the population over the age of seven. This antiviral can be used in the event of resistance developing to the first line drug, Tamiflu, and will also provide cover if the clinical attack rate is higher than 25%. This stockpile will be complete by September 2007; the first 70,000 courses have been delivered.

Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Mental Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

147 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on criticisms that a month after Part 2 of the Mental Health Act 2001 was brought into force there remain gaps in the provision which could cause significant difficulties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41467/06]

The full provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001 came into operation on 1 November 2006. The Mental Health Act 2001 significantly improves safeguards for persons who are involuntarily admitted for psychiatric care and treatment. The Act changes the procedure for involuntary admissions and provides for an automatic and independent review all involuntary detentions by a mental health tribunal. This brings Irish mental health legislation into line with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. A review of the operation of the Act will be carried out in 2007 and any concerns will be examined in this context.

Medical Cards.

Joan Burton

Question:

148 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner only cards that have been issued; the number of GP cards waiting to be issued; the breakdown of GP cards per Health Service Executive area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41380/06]

The most recent information provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department shows that 48,761 GP visit cards have been issued as at 29th November, 2006. More detailed statistical data provided by the HSE to my Department and correct as of 1st November, 2006 contains county-by-county figures for the number of GP visit cards issued and this information is in the table.

My Department has requested the HSE to provide the Deputy with the current figures regarding the number of GP visit cards waiting to be issued and the breakdown of GP visit cards per HSE Area.

HSE — Shared Services

Primary Care Reimbursement Service

Position regarding medical cards as at 1st November 2006

Regions

Number of Family Units as at 1st November 2006

Number of Eligible Persons on Medical Cards as at 1st November 2006

Number of Eligible Persons on GP Visit Cards as at 1st November 2006

Number of Eligible Persons as at 1st November 2006 as of Population (2006 Census)

Number of Eligible Persons 1st October 2006 as of Population (2002 Census)

Population

%

%

Eastern Region

Dublin

198,621

288,636

4,502

24.71

24.40

1,186,159

Kildare

26,581

40,597

967

22.34

21.97

186,075

Wicklow

20,470

29,588

945

24.17

23.74

126,330

Total

245,672

358,821

6,414

24.37

24.04

1,498,564

Midland

Laois

12,233

17,980

942

28.24

28.00

67,012

Longford

8,988

12,988

577

39.48

39.29

34,361

Offaly

14,149

20,525

1,021

30.52

30.42

70,604

Westmeath

15,094

22,176

948

29.12

28.77

79,403

Total

50,464

73,669

3,488

30.69

30.47

251,380

Mid-Western

Clare

22,225

33,152

841

30.68

30.57

110,800

Limerick

37,219

53,537

1,216

29.78

29.55

183,863

Tipperary NR

14,515

20,909

575

32.56

32.16

65,988

Total

73,959

107,598

2,632

30.56

30.34

360,651

North Eastern

Cavan

13,573

20,580

971

33.69

32.84

63,961

Louth

24,449

37,710

1,635

35.48

34.65

110,894

Meath

21,866

32,086

1,733

20.80

20.25

162,621

Monaghan

11,140

16,352

766

30.67

30.63

55,816

Total

71,028

106,728

5,105

28.44

27.83

393,292

North Western

Donegal

43,078

70,940

2,832

50.20

49.75

146,956

Leitrim

7,797

11,681

457

42.09

41.62

28,837

Sligo

13,870

19,716

878

33.84

33.31

60,863

Total

64,745

102,337

4,167

45.00

44.53

236,656

South Eastern

Carlow

11,055

16,939

1,085

35.71

35.10

50,471

Kilkenny

14,831

20,952

1,096

25.23

25.00

87,394

Tipperary SR

21,013

29,696

1,468

37.52

37.02

83,052

Waterford

25,923

37,955

1,239

36.31

36.12

107,942

Wexford

28,045

42,766

1,743

33.82

33.62

131,615

Total

100,867

148,308

6,631

33.65

33.34

460,474

Southern

Cork

99,798

137,820

6,118

29.93

29.73

480,909

Kerry

30,539

42,325

1,752

31.57

31.67

139,616

Total

130,337

180,145

7,870

30.30

30.17

620,525

Western

Galway

47,542

68,739

2,950

31.03

30.83

231,035

Mayo

33,507

48,735

1,884

40.94

40.75

123,648

Roscommon

14,788

21,264

885

37.73

37.19

58,700

Total

95,837

138,738

5,719

34.95

34.70

413,383

Grand Total

832,909

1,216,344

42,026

29.71

29.41

4,234,925

The population figures for each area and nationally above are taken from the 2006 census.

HSE — National Shared Services, Primary Care Reimbursement Service, Exit 5, M50, North Road, Finglas, Dublin 11.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

149 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in developing a national strategy on rehabilitation for stroke victims and people with severe injuries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41439/06]

I regard the continued development of rehabilitation services as an essential element of providing appropriate care to patients across a wide range of health services. In April 2003, Comhairle na nOspidéal submitted a report of a review of neurology and neurophysiology services.

It recommended a significant enhancement of services, including increases in consultant manpower. It also recognised that there are aspects of a number of other specialties and services, such as rehabilitation medicine, geriatric medicine and old age psychiatry, which are related to and overlap with neurology services. It recommended that a national multi-disciplinary review of rehabilitation services be undertaken to further inform the policy framework in relation to the development of neurology services.

Consistent with this recommendation, and in line with commitments in the National Health Strategy, a national action plan for rehabilitation services is currently being prepared by my Department in consultation with the HSE. The action plan will set out a programme to meet existing shortfalls in services and to integrate specialised facilities with locally based follow-up services. This will be informed by Comhairle Report and the work undertaken by the Neurological Alliance of Ireland. The intention is to have a comprehensive policy framework for the future development of neurology and neurophysiology services in this country.

Additional revenue funding has been made available in 2005 and 2006 and an additional €4m will be provided in 2007 to the HSE to support the development of neurology/neurophysiology services in a number of regions, having regard to agreed priorities. The continuing development of the services is a matter for the Health Service Executive, having regard to available funding and other competing service priorities.

Shane McEntee

Question:

150 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the fact that a member of the Health Service Executive review group on orthodontics claims that children in need of orthodontics are being damaged due to the lack of services available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41429/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group. The terms of reference for the group are:

to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports;

to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status;

to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity.

Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard;

the recommendations thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

I have been advised that the Review Group has concluded its meetings and is finalising its report and recommendations. The report will be presented to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE in the near future. I look forward to receiving and considering the Report.

I have not received any clinical evidence that children in need of orthodontic treatment have been damaged.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

151 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure the Health Service Executive appoints an oncology liaison nurse at Cavan General Hospital, funding for which post has been available from the Irish Cancer Society since 2004 and which is in jeopardy due to the failure of the HSE to permit the appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41452/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

262 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure the Health Service Executive appoints an oncology liaison nurse at Cavan General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41212/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 262 together.

The Health Service Executive has advised my Department that in 2005 the Irish Cancer Society offered to part fund a post for an Oncology Liaison Nurse at Cavan General Hospital. It was not possible to fill the post at that time. However, my Department has been informed that the filling of the post is being actively pursued by the Health Service Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to progress on the filling of this post.

Medicinal Products.

Joe Costello

Question:

152 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if in view of the recent granting of a pan European licence to suboxone, a sister product of subutex, she will develop a protocol for its use along the lines of the methadone protocol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41382/06]

I am aware that the drugs Suboxone and Subutex (active ingredient buprenorphine) is an alternative choice to methadone in the treatment of opiate dependent addicts.

The current position is that Subutex (buprenorphine only) can be prescribed to opiate users by addiction service consultants in specialist drug treatment clinics, where the prescription and dispensing of Subutex is tightly controlled.

I am informed that the combination drug Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone combined) has recently been granted an EU license via central procedure by the EMEA, and that preliminary studies have shown that the combination drug is as effective as Subutex (buprenorphine alone) in the management of opioid dependence and that it has less abuse potential.

My Department is considering the implications of the introduction of the combination drug Suboxone and its use as a possible treatment for opiate dependency. In that context, my officials will be meeting the license holders, Schering-Plough in the coming week to discuss the best approach on its probable Irish launch in early 2007.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 67.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 94.

General Practitioner Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

156 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason general practitioners received an additional €4 million, after the deduction of back pay, bringing total payments in 2005 for general practitioners to €414 million and in the same year administrative costs increased from €15.5 million to €17 million with regard to the national shared services primary care reimbursement service for 2005; the reason for the disproportionate costs to this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41395/06]

In 2006, total health funding is €13.147 billion, which represents an underlying increase of 12.04% over 2005. The vast bulk of this funding is provided under the vote of the Health Service Executive (HSE) which has statutory responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. This continuing high level of investment by the Government provides the Executive with considerable capacity to address the healthcare needs of the population in the most effective manner.

The information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. 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.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

158 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the number of public health doctors per county; the number of vacancies for public health doctors per county; the locations of these vacancies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41384/06]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future. The Deputy may wish to note that between end-1997 and June 2006 there has been an increase of nearly 39,000 Whole-Time Equivalent posts (+58%) in employment levels for the health services.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Departmental Bodies.

David Stanton

Question:

159 Mr. Stanton asked the Taoiseach if an upper age limit applies regarding membership of State boards; if so, the reason for the age limit; his plans to remove same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41118/06]

On 18 December, 1973, the Government established 70 years of age as the normal upper age limit for persons to be appointed to Boards of State-sponsored bodies. The position regarding the age limit for such appointments remains unchanged and it would be matter for the Minister for Finance in the first instance to bring any proposals to change this to Government.

Consultancy Contracts.

Seán Ryan

Question:

160 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Taoiseach the amount of expenditure on consultancy by his Department in 2003, 2004 and 2005; the number of consultants engaged by his Department in those years; and the steps which have been taken to reduce the expenditure on consultancy and the reliance on consultants by his Department in these years and for the future. [41728/06]

The amount of expenditure on consultancy in my Department in 2003, 2004 and 2005 was:

Year

Expenditure

No. of Consultants Engaged

2003

313,694

10

2004

435,861

20

2005

147,155

7

These consultancies in the main related to the modernisation of the Civil Service, both as it relates to my Department and across the Civil Service generally. These included for example Employee and Customer Surveys, Regulatory Reform initiatives etc.

Consultants were also engaged to deal with aspects of Ireland's Presidency of the EU in 2004, as well as to provide expertise and advice on matters relating to the successful implementation of Social Partnership Agreements.

Every effort is made by my Department to minimise expenditure on Consultancy Services. However, where it is necessary to engage consultants in order to avail of their particular expertise or experience, the procurement of consultancy services is subject to tendering procedures as laid down in Public Procurement Guidelines and, where applicable, EU procurement rules and guidelines.

The procurement of consultancy services in my Department is subject to Public Procurement Guidelines from the Department of Finance as set out in "Guidelines for Engagement of Consultants in the Civil Service — 1999". Procurement of outside expertise in the public relations field is also subject to Public Procurement Guidelines as set out in the 2004 Department of Finance publication "Public Procurement Guidelines — Competitive Process", which replaced the previous Department of Finance guidance entitled "Public Procurement — 1994 Edition (Green Book)". In addition, the procurement of these services is also subject to applicable EU Procurement rules and guidelines. There are also additional guidelines agreed by Government specifically for PR and communication type consultancies which are now incorporated into the Cabinet Handbook.

The application of these guidelines requires that appropriate competitive procurement procedures are carried out in order to select the best service available, taking account of a number of important criteria including cost, the ability to undertake the work required and other relevant criteria, which may vary from project to project. This is an objective process, which results in selection of a provider, which should provide good value for money.

Every effort is also made to reduce the cost of consultancy by providing, where possible, any administrative or other support from existing resources within the Department. It is also our policy that skills-transfer from consultants to Departmental staff takes place as an integral part of all consultancy engagements. The purpose of this is to increase the knowledge and expertise of Departmental staff and to reduce and, if possible, eliminate future dependance on consultants in the areas concerned.

There are a number of safeguards in place which give assurance that value for money is obtained. These include:

Competitive selection processes in accordance with the Guidelines for engagement of consultants, which ensure that the most economically advantageous proposal is selected;

Monitoring of the work of consultants on a regular basis throughout the engagement and the use of appropriate project management techniques to ensure that the work is proceeding according to schedule;

Placing of Department staff to work on project teams alongside consultants to benefit from skills transfer;

Payment of fees according to the achievement of pre-agreed milestones; and

Approval of expenditure on consultancy projects at the appropriate level depending on the scale and nature of each engagement.

I am satisfied that these guidelines and procedures are followed in my Department and are fully reflected in the Department's internal procedures including the training provided to relevant staff.

The use of consultants by my Department has decreased substantially over the period 2003 to 2005 and there is in fact a relatively small provision in the Estimate for my Department of €143,000 in 2006 and €145,000 in 2007. I consider that this relatively small provision made for consultancy services in my Department's Vote is necessary and appropriate for the effective discharge of its functions.

Coroners Service.

Dan Neville

Question:

161 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average time it takes to obtain results of a post mortem from time of death to report to families. [41109/06]

I can inform the Deputy that, insofar as the question of the receipt of post-mortem reports are concerned, it is not possible to provide an average timeframe. A number of factors can influence this in different cases including whether toxicological or other specialist reports are required as part of the post-mortem process.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

162 Mr. Cuffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department is currently drafting legislation or intends to draft legislation in the lifetime of the current Government to regulate the use of closed circuit television cameras on private dwellings in residential areas. [41111/06]

The Data Protection Acts 1998 and 2003 already apply to personal data recorded through the operation of CCTV systems or other monitoring equipment.

The Privacy Bill which was published on 4 July 2006 creates an offence to be known as the tort of invasion of privacy, for a person wilfully and without lawful authority to violate the privacy of another individual. Where material obtained from closed circuit television or other monitoring equipment may be used in an inappropriate manner, then the aggrieved person will have an accessible remedy in law.

The Privacy Bill contains a defence (in Section 5) in a privacy action for a defendant to prove that the act in respect of which a privacy action is being brought consisted of the installation or operation, in good faith, of a closed circuit television system or other surveillance system for a purpose authorised by law, or for the purpose of detecting or preventing the commission of an offence or the protection of persons or property.

Registration of Title.

John Perry

Question:

163 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when deeds to property will be issued for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41112/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority was established as and from 4 November, 2006. The Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland and, subject to the above Act, is independent in the performance of its functions.

In order to be of assistance I forwarded the Deputy's registration query to the Authority for its attention and direct reply. I understand that a reply has already issued.

I would also like to refer the Deputy to my letter of 26 May, 2006 to members of the Oireachtas regarding a new service for T.D.s and Senators concerning the current status of applications of this type. As outlined in my letter, the service was introduced, inter alia, to provide a speedier and more cost effective alternative to submitting Parliamentary Questions.

Citizenship Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

164 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for naturalisation from a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if a decision on this application will be expedited in view of the nature of the applicant’s work which requires them to travel freely within the EU and is hindered in doing so by virtue of the fact that they must repeatedly satisfy visa requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41141/06]

An application for naturalisation from the individual in question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department on 16 October 2006.

In the interests of fairness to all concerned, it is the practice of the Citizenship Division to process cases in chronological order based upon the date of receipt of the application. However, due to the circumstances outlined by the Deputy, I understand that a submission will shortly be made to my Office for decision on whether this case might be expedited.

While awaiting my decision, the applicant may apply for a Multiple Re-entry Visa which is designed to cater for persons in her position. I will inform the Deputy and the person in question once I have reached a decision on the application.

Asylum Applications.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

165 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41154/06]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 1121 of Wednesday, 25 January, 2006 and No. 199 of Thursday 29 June, 2006, and the written replies to those Questions. The position is unchanged.

Garda Deployment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

166 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of traffic corps personnel on road duty on a typical day on average in the Dublin area; and the number in the greater Dublin area. [41158/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

167 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of the typical day for a traffic corps garda; when the night shift commences; and the number of gardaí from the traffic corps normally on duty after peak times in the Dublin area and in the greater Dublin area. [41159/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 167 together.

Traffic Corps personnel deployments are designed to optimise service delivery and are intended to match as closely as possible operational demands in the areas of both traffic management and traffic law enforcement.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that peak traffic times in Dublin on weekdays are approximately 07.00 to 10.30 and 16.00 to 20.00, when the primary focus of Traffic Corps personnel is on traffic management.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel, including Traffic Corps personnel, in accordance with requirements. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public. I am informed that the strength of the Traffic Corps in the Dublin Metropolitan Region as of 15 November was 263 members.

The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Traffic has been tasked with implementing the recommendations contained in the Strategic Review of Traffic Policing which will see 1,200 personnel attached to the Traffic Corps by 2008. This increase of personnel is taking place on a phased basis as the strength of An Garda Síochána increases to 14,000.

Members of the Garda Síochána who are not members of the Traffic Corps have the responsibility, inter alia, to deal with traffic duties when breaches of road traffic law occur. Marked and unmarked patrol vehicles driven by these members are therefore also available for road traffic law enforcement on a daily basis.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a directive has issued from the Garda Commissioner to all Garda divisions advising that members of the force are obliged to carry out mandatory breath testing where such members of the force attend the scene of a motor accident; and if he will confirm the wording of said directive. [41192/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a Headquarters Directive was issued to An Garda Síochána on 8 November 2006 outlining the provisions of section 12 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 (substituted by section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2003), whereby a member of An Garda Síochána may request the provision of a preliminary breath specimen in a public place, and section 15 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, whereby a member may request a blood/urine specimen from a person in hospital where the member is of the opinion that the person has been involved in a collision.

I am also informed that the Directive stated that as a matter of policy the powers should be utilised unless the circumstances pertaining, such as the need to render medical assistance, require otherwise.

It is the policy of An Garda Síochána to make the fullest use of all legislative powers available in investigating the commission of offences, including road traffic offences.

Family Reunification.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

169 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage of an application for family reunification (details supplied); if the extenuating personal circumstances faced but the family in question will be taken into account when considering this application; if the processing time on the application will be reduced in view of the circumstances that have come to light; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41228/06]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that a decision has been reached in relation to the application in question. The refugee will be informed of the details of the decision shortly.

Garda Deployment.

Mary Upton

Question:

170 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community gardaí and their ranks assigned to stations (details supplied) on 1 September 2006. [41241/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday, 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Community Gardaí attached to Terenure, Kevin Street, Ballyfermot, Crumlin, Kilmainham and Sundrive Road Garda Stations as at 1 September, 2006 was as set out in a table:

Station

Inspector

Sergeant

Gardaí

Total

Terenure

1

5

6

Kevin Street

1

1

6

8

Ballyfermot

1

7

8

Crumlin

1

3

4

Kilmainham

1

6

7

Sundrive Road

1

5

6

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Visa Applications.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

171 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for a holiday visa for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41252/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Dublin Visa Office on 16th November, 2006. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application in question was approved on 28th November, 2006.

Citizenship Applications.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

172 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41257/06]

An application for naturalisation from the individual in question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department on 6 December, 2004.

Applications received in the second half of 2004 are currently being processed and there are approximately 500 applications awaiting processing before that of the person in question. I would expect the file to be presented to me for decision by mid 2007.

I will inform the Deputy and the applicant once I have reached a decision on the application.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Curran

Question:

173 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions and convictions for breaches of the three ton restriction on Kennelsfort Road, Palmerstown from January 2004 to date in 2006; and the number of fines that have been issued and paid for this offence under the fixed penalty notice system. [41258/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that from January 2004 to date there have been 243 prosecutions initiated for breaches of the three tonne restriction on Kennelsfort Road, Palmerstown.

I am also informed that there are 77 convictions recorded for the same period. Since 3 April, 2006 this offence is captured by the Fixed Charge Processing System (FCPS). Forty two fixed charge penalty notices have been issued since that date of which 19 have been paid to date.

It will be appreciated that proceedings are not necessarily commenced and concluded in the same year.

Garda Vetting Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

174 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legislation underpinning the Garda central vetting unit and the vetting procedures; when it is proposed to begin and complete the vetting of child care staff; when it is proposed to begin and complete the vetting of teaching staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41323/06]

The vetting of persons by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) is statutorily supported according to the category of person to be vetted by, inter alia, the Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956, Employment Agency Act 1971, Child Care Act 1991 and Private Security Services Act 2004.

Moreover, legislative proposals are currently under preparation within my Department to statutorily underpin the vetting by the Garda Síochána of persons recruited to work with children and vulnerable adults. Proposals in this regard will be submitted to the Government in the normal manner.

In respect of the primary and post-primary education sectors, the GCVU has already expanded its vetting service in respect of all new teaching recruits as of the start of the school year this year.

In respect of the childcare sector, the GCVU is ready to commence expansion of its vetting service, on a phased basis, to all such service providers from early 2007, subject to agreement on appropriate liaison mechanisms for the sector, including the identification of a sectoral central point of contact to manage vetting applications and disclosures thereon.

Garda Deployment.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

175 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí involved in traffic duties on a daily basis on the road network here; the annual expenditure of An Garda Síochána on traffic management duties; the percentage of the Garda overall budget dedicated to traffic and road safety enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41345/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána increased to a record 13,000 on Thursday, 16 November, 2006, following the attestation of 299 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June, 1997 and represents an increase of 2,298 (or 21.5%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. The induction of 280 new Garda recruits to the Garda College on 6 November, 2006 resulted in a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,137. The Garda Budget now stands at €1.3 billion, a 13% increase on 2005 and an 85% increase since 1997 in real terms.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that all members of An Garda Síochána have a duty and responsibility to enforce all aspects of road traffic legislation on a daily basis.

Between now and 2008, it is planned that the Traffic Corps will increase its numbers to a complement of 1,200. The new members will be assigned to areas identified to be in most need of additional resources to pursue enforcement strategies.

I should also say that an additional 163 Probationer Gardaí have been allocated to the Dublin Metropolitan Region since 17 November, 2006 with particular responsibility for the enforcement of Operation ‘Freeflow' which came into effect on Monday 27 November, 2006 and will continue until 7 January, 2007.

Garda Management state that Traffic Management and enforcement duties are carried out as part of normal operational policing duties and, as such, are not assigned a specific budget within the total Garda Vote. Therefore, it is not possible to quantify the cost of Garda duties dedicated to traffic and road safety enforcement. However, I am informed that funds provided are consistent with the objectives in the Annual Policing Plan which include Garda duties and initiatives in relation to road traffic matters.

I should add that it is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

Garda Operations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

176 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of calls made to Clontarf Garda station, Dublin 3 during October and November 2006 regarding scramblers trespassing on the football pitches at Alfie Byrne Road, Dublin 3; the action the gardaí took in response to those calls; if any of the motorcyclists involved were apprehended or charged; if there is an issue preventing the gardaí from taking action; if their attention was drawn to the fact that the pitches were destroyed during the past week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41351/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there were two calls received by Clontarf Garda Station during October and November concerning scrambler motorcycles in the area referred to. These calls were attended to by Gardaí who located and took possession of two motorcycles for the purpose of establishing ownership of same. However, no reports of damage to the pitches referred to have been received by the Garda authorities. The pitches are patrolled by foot and bicycle units.

I understand the local authority has recently erected new railings which should act as a deterrent to the activity referred to by the Deputy.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

177 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of applicants who include an Irish citizen child and a non-national parent or parents who apply or have applied to stay in the State under administrative arrangements established in 2005 which became known as the IBC/05 scheme, consequent upon a recent decision of the High Court delivered on judicial review proceedings on 14 November 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41361/06]

Under the administrative arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme, applications for permission to remain in the State were received from non EU national parents of Irish citizen children who were born in the State prior to 1 January 2005.

In order to qualify for permission to remain in the State under the IBC/05 Scheme each applicant had to satisfy defined criteria. Some 17,917 applications were received of which a total of 16,984 applicants were granted permission to remain in the State. A further 933 applicants were refused under the IBC/05 Scheme. Each applicant who was refused under the revised arrangements was advised of the reasons for their refusal in writing.

The closing date for the receipt of applications was 31 March 2005. Applications received after this date were considered as "late applications" and were returned unprocessed to the applicants. A number of applicants who were refused under the IBC/05 Scheme challenged their refusal decision by way of Judicial Review proceedings. The judgments delivered in the High Court on 14 November 2006, as referred to by the Deputy, were test case proceedings taken in relation to the IBC/05 Scheme.

I am currently considering an appeal to the Supreme Court of the High Court judgements delivered on 14 November 2006. As the outcome of such an appeal is inextricably linked to the position of the applicants referred to in the Deputy's question, I am unable to comment further until those proceedings, if any, have been determined.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41367/06]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of Wednesday, 8 November, 2006, and the written reply to that Question. The position is unchanged.

Garda Recruitment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is seeking employment as a garda or garda reserve in order that they can utilise their Romanian language and translation skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41368/06]

Recruitment as a Garda trainee is governed by the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations, 1988 as amended. Recruitment as a Garda Reserve trainee is governed by the Garda Síochána (Reserve Members) Regulations, 2006.

The recruitment of Garda trainees and Garda Reserve trainees, is a matter for the Public Appointments Service (PAS) and the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. The closing date for the recent Garda trainee competition was 19th September, 2006. Applications for Reserve members continue to be accepted by the PAS, both by internet and phone.

In addition, Regulation 14 of the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations, 1988, as amended, allows the Commissioner, without regard to the normal entry requirements, to appoint persons with special aptitudes, knowledge, skills or technical qualifications.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

180 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will furnish the information sought by way of Parliamentary Question No. 229 of 14 November 2006 and not provided in the response in relation to traffic accidents involving ministerial cars. [41370/06]

I refer the Deputy to my letter to him, dated 30th November, 2006 in this regard. The information sought is contained therein.

Residency Permits.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

181 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that a person (details supplied) in west Cork has permission to remain in the State following their marriage to a citizen of the EU and their formal application lodged on 4 April 2006. [41371/06]

The person concerned submitted an application for residence on the basis that he is the spouse of an EU citizen, having married the EU citizen in Ireland on the 25 January, 2006.

The application has been examined under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2006. These Regulations give effect in Irish Law to the European Directive on the rights of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (Directive 2004/38/EC).

An examination of the documentation submitted shows the person who is subject to Irish entry visa requirements did not obtain the appropriate Irish entry visa prior to their arrival in the State. While he was issued with a UK entry visa this only entitled him to enter the territory of the United Kingdom. UK entry visas are not valid for entry to this State . It is therefore the case that the person entered the State illegally, and has remained illegally in the State for a number of years.

I understand that the Immigration Division of my Department has recently informed the person concerned that he does not qualify for residence on the basis sought. A further letter will be issued to him shortly outlining the various options open to him.

Jack Wall

Question:

182 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be entitled under his Department’s guidelines and records of the person to make an application for a long-term residency visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41488/06]

The position in relation to granting long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

The dependants of the aforementioned, who have been legally resident in the State for over five years may also apply for long term residency. This particular long term permission does not grant an exemption from employment permit requirements to any such dependants.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date. I understand that applications received in May 2006 are currently being dealt with.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

183 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will clarify that local arrangements exist with gardaí covering Chapelizod whereby the school bus is permitted to pull up outside the main gates of a school (details supplied) as there is no alternative way to allow children to disembark safely on such a busy road; the reason, if such an arrangement is in place, parking tickets are being issued to the driver, which may have repercussions for the driver’s livelihood as well as the safety of school children coming from Palmerstown and Ballyfermot; if a clear notice will be given to all local gardaí and traffic gardaí to ensure that temporary dropping off is permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41499/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the public road at the entrance of the school referred to by the Deputy is governed by a continuous white line in the centre and double yellow lines on both sides. It is the duty of An Garda Síochána to enforce parking regulations.

Proposed Legislation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a submission from a person (details supplied) in County Cork on the Criminal Justice (Trafficking and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006; if he will give favourable consideration to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41517/06]

I have received a copy of the submission, dated 24 November 2006, referred to by the Deputy. Many of the suggestions made in the submission are either already in the draft Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 or give direct effect to the criminal law aspects of several international instruments on trafficking. The general scheme of the 2006 Bill has been approved by Government and is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. I will give consideration to the recent submission and, if the need for any changes to the text are identified, I will seek Government approval for their inclusion in the draft Bill or other appropriate legislation.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the application for extended residency for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41522/06]

The person concerned arrived in Ireland on the 30 April, 2005 and was permitted to enter the State for a three month period. This permission was later extended by her local registration office up to the 07 February, 2006.

The person concerned lodged a residence application with the Immigration Division of my Department in December, 2005 on the basis that she was in a relationship with an EU citizen. The documentation submitted in support of the application indicates that the relationship was of a relatively short duration, and that the EU citizen was still married to another person at the time of the application and could not be deemed to be in a long term relationship with the person who is the subject of this application.

I understand that the documentation submitted will be re-examined and the my Department will be in touch shortly with the person concerned.

John Curran

Question:

186 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 for permission for start a business here will be processed as quickly as possible. [41526/06]

The person in question currently has permission to remain in the State on the basis of a work permit until 8 September 2007. There is no record of an application having being received to-date from the person concerned for permission to engage in business in the State.

I am informed that correspondence recently issued from the Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department in response to a written enquiry regarding permission to remain in the State. The person in question was informed that, in order to engage in business in the State he must first obtain prior permission from my Department to do so. This permission may be sought by writing to the Business Permission Section, Immigration Operations, 4th Floor, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Crime Levels.

John Gormley

Question:

187 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent spate of vandalism and hooliganism in the Sandymount and Irishtown area; the measures he has taken and will take to combat same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41531/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is patrolled by uniformed and plain-clothes Gardaí from Irishtown Garda station, including the District Drugs Unit, Detective Unit, Mountain Bike Unit and the Community Policing Unit. I am further informed that in addition to regular mobile and foot patrols the area is patrolled by the Divisional Crime Task Force to ensure that a concentrated visible Garda presence is maintained.

I am further informed that the Gardaí are aware of a number of recent incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour that have occurred in the area and these are currently being investigated by the Garda authorities.

Current policing plans for the area concerned are predicated on the prevention of anti-social and public order offences, the prevention of crime, including crimes of violence against persons and property, and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of a policing service to the area.

John Gormley

Question:

188 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent spate of attacks on women in the Ranelagh area; if a rape occurred; the measures he has taken and will take to combat same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41532/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there have been five recorded incidents of sexual assault in the area referred in the last two months. All of these incidents are under active investigation by the Garda authorities.

I am further informed that one of these alleged assaults has been categorised as a rape. A suspect was arrested in relation to this incident, and a file is being prepared for submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Garda authorities are using their resources to prevent and combat such incidents. The area concerned is regularly patrolled by Garda uniform and plain-clothes beat and mobile patrols. These patrols are augmented by other Garda units including the Mountain Bike Unit, Drugs Unit, Community Policing Unit and the Divisional Crime Task Force.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

John Perry

Question:

189 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress he has made on the revised documentation submitted with regard to the provision of closed circuit television in O’Connell Street, Sligo and adjoining streets which has been promised by two Government Departments; the amount of funding that has been ringfenced; when it will be rolled out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41543/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Sligo is one of the 17 areas which form part of the Garda CCTV Programme, as follows (listed alphabetically): Athlone, Ballyfermot, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Drogheda, Dungarvan, Ennis, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Mullingar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Tallaght, Tullamore and Waterford.

The Garda authorities are currently evaluating tenders for the installation of three Garda CCTV Systems in Ballyfermot, Clondalkin and Tullamore. These three towns were chosen as representative of the average size of a Garda Síochána CCTV system, containing a good cross-section of the type of urban area in which Garda CCTV is typically deployed. These systems will use wireless CCTV technology which will allow CCTV cameras to be redeployed as necessary to meet changing policing requirements. Contractors will be required to complete the deployment of these CCTV systems before the end of March 2007.

Further such projects are under consideration by the Garda Commissioner as part of the process of outsourcing Garda CCTV systems. Sligo will be considered together with the remainder of the Garda CCTV Programme.

The recently published Estimates for 2007 contain an increased provision of €7.5m for CCTV to meet a range of developments which will incur costs in 2007.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

190 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if visas will be granted to persons (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41566/06]

The applications referred to by the Deputy were received in the Dublin Visa Office on 27th November, 2006. A decision in respect of the applications in question will be made in the coming weeks.

Garda Operations.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

191 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if An Garda Síochána has a policy on hospitality; if so, if that policy is available for public inspection; if he is satisfied that the policy is adequate; and if a record is maintained of gifts, invitations and hospitality received by An Garda Síochána. [41596/06]

The Garda Code covers all areas of Garda duties including guidance to all members of the Force on ethical and professional behaviour and discipline. All members of An Garda Síochána are issued with a personal copy of the Code, which is retained by the member for the duration of their service. The Garda Commissioner is of the view that it is necessary that confidentiality be maintained in respect of the Code in order to maintain the operational effectiveness of An Garda Síochána.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that a working group was established by the Commissioner to bring forward new proposals governing the behaviour of members of An Garda Síochána in relation to the acceptance of gifts, hospitality and sponsorship. It is envisaged that their report will be finalised in early 2007.

Prison Committals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

192 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons committed to prison for non-payment of fines for each of the years 2003 to 2005 and to date in 2006. [41600/06]

A breakdown of the number of persons committed to prison for the non-payment of fines for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 is set out in the table.

Year

Number of Persons

2003

1,800

2004

1,599

2005

1,798

2006 (up to 30.11.06)

1,509

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

193 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons committed to prison for the non-payment of debts for each of the years 2003 to 2005 and to date in 2006. [41601/06]

On 4 December 2006, there were 7 persons in custody for debt-related offences. This includes 6 persons in respect of whom the debt-related offence is the principal basis for their imprisonment.

A breakdown of the number of persons committed to prison for the non-payment of debts for each of the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 is set out in the table.

Year

Number of Persons

2003

213

2004

200

2005

223

2006 (up to 30.11.06)

198

Garda Investigations.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

194 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of the death of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in February 2002, he has sought or received a copy of the report of the reinvestigation team; if so, the date of the request and the date on which it was received; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in response to a number of questions put to him by RTÉ radio, the Garda Commissioner stated that there were several failings in the investigation into the person’s death; if he has received an indication from the Commissioner as to the action, planned as a consequence of these failings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41602/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

195 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of the death of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in February 2002, any serving or retired members of the Garda have been interviewed by the team reinvestigating the death; if so, if disciplinary action has been taken or is planned; if the Commissioner has established the way the contents of an unsigned statement taken by the gardaí from another person and presented to the jury at the inquest into the person’s death was subsequently denied in its entirety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41603/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

196 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of the death of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in February 2002, the Garda Commissioner has established the members of the Garda who are alleged to have informed the State pathologist that the person was suicidal; the reason the gardaí did not take a witness statement from the person’s alleged assailant until six months after the disappearance; the reason having taken apparently contradictory witness statements from three men among the last to see the person alive, the gardaí did not re-interview the men in an attempt to reconcile these statements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41604/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 to 196, inclusive, together.

I am informed that at an inquest on 26 April, 2004 into the death of the person referred to by the Deputy, the jury brought in a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence that the cause of death was due to immersion in fresh water.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that as a result of allegations made by the family of the person the Garda authorities examined the investigation file on the death of that person, as a result of which they decided that a Superintendent from outside the Garda District where the death took place should carry out a new investigation. This investigation is now completed and I received the findings of this investigation on 28 November, 2006. I am currently examining the findings of the report.

I understand that in the second investigation the Garda authorities did not find evidence to substantiate the allegations regarding the cause of death or the conduct of the original investigation. However, that second investigation did find that some aspects of the original investigation could have been carried out more professionally, but that these did not affect the outcome of the investigation.

In addition to the second Garda investigation, I further understand that the State Pathologist reviewed two medical opinions obtained by the family and also the post mortem findings. She did not find anything to cast doubt on the inquest's findings.

I am advised that arising from the findings of the second investigation the Assistant Garda Commissioner for the Eastern Region has been directed by the Garda Commissioner to address the issues highlighted in the report and to report on the action taken on them. In addition, he has been directed by the Garda Commissioner to have correspondence received from an RTE correspondent, including contents of a Radio interview conducted by that correspondent, examined to ascertain if the interview disclosed any new information which would warrant further investigation by the Garda authorities. I have asked for a report on the Assistant Commissioner's findings.

I also understand that the second Garda investigation file has been forwarded to the Law Officers and their directions are awaited. It would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 17 October 2006, who the adoption society were and the actual information that suggests the parents had ceded parental responsibility; if so, the reason there is no evidence of this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41605/06]

As I indicated in my replies to Parliamentary Questions No. 195 of 1 December 2004, No. 343 of 26 April 2005 and No. 228 of 17 October 2006 all of the Department's records on this matter were supplied to the individual concerned on foot of a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Copies of a letter and an agreement were produced as evidence that the parents of the person in question had ceded parental control and responsibility to the adoption society and to his being placed in the care of the persons who sponsored his application for naturalisation. The records do not indicate the name of the adoption society.

Advice has recently been received from the Office of the Attorney General in this matter. This advice will form the basis of a response due to issue shortly to solicitors representing the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41606/06]

An application for naturalisation from the individual in question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department on 13 January 2004.

I am advised that a decision on this application will be communicated to the person concerned in the coming days.

Consultancy Contracts.

Seán Ryan

Question:

199 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of expenditure on consultancy by his Department in 2003, 2004 and 2005; the number of consultants engaged by his Department in those years; and the steps which have been taken to reduce the expenditure on consultancy and the reliance on consultants by his Department in these years and for the future. [41726/06]

The total spend by year in relation to expenditure on consultancy for my Department's Vote is as follows:

Year

Amount

€M

2003

2.6

2004

2.5

2005

1.8

A total of 126 different consultants were engaged over this period. Expenditure on consultancy has been reducing year on year over the period reflecting the increased emphasis and examination of the requirement for the engagement of consultants within the Department.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Question:

200 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will establish an independent inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied). [41794/06]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 196 of 04 May 2006. The position remains unchanged.

Crime Levels.

David Stanton

Question:

201 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of 28 November 2006, the reason recorded incidents of domestic violence in the past two years were not published in the Garda Síochána annual reports in 2004 and 2005, as they were in previous years; if his attention has been drawn to this and if he gave his consent to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41795/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda management are satisfied that all criminal incidents reported to them are being recorded. Incidents are recorded on PULSE on the basis of the criminal offence they disclose, which may range from homicide to minor assault, whether related to domestic violence or otherwise.

I understand that instructions relating to the recording of incidents involving domestic violence were issued by the Garda authorities earlier this year and the operation of this policy is being monitored.

Statistics relating to the number of breaches of court orders issued under domestic violence legislation have been published in the Garda Annual Report since 2004.

I am further informed that until 2004 statistics published were generated from a stand alone paper based system. Since 2004 the statistics published are based on the number of breaches of court orders issued under domestic violence legislation as recorded on the PULSE system. The PULSE data is more comprehensive and provides a greater level of detail about detections, arrests, proceedings and a more complete view of breaches of domestic violence legislation than that provided by the previous system.

Prison Accommodation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

202 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of works carried out at a location (details supplied), he will confirm that the building works consisted of the provision of a two storey building incorporating administration offices, visitors room and industrial workshop; if he will further confirm the name of the construction firm involved; if this building was provided in kit form and held in cold storage and was originally intended for use as accommodation for asylum seekers; when the decision was made to have this provided on location at the site concerned; the number of firms asked to tender for this work, the number of firms who submitted tenders; the successful tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41801/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

203 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm if works carried out at a location by a company (details supplied) took place in 2004 or 2005; the extent of works carried out; the extent of tender involved; the number of firms asked to tender; the number of firms which submitted tenders and to whom the successful tender was eventually rewarded; the basis that tender was awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41802/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

204 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the works currently being carried out or proposed to be carried out at a location (details supplied); if a contract has been awarded to a firm for the purpose of these works; the number of firms asked to tender; the number of firms which submitted tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41803/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 to 204, inclusive, together.

In relation to the two storey building incorporating administration and visitors facilities at Loughan House the position is as follows. A number of modular accommodation units which were procured by the Office of Public Works in the context of the provision of asylum seeker accommodation and which were subsequently surplus to requirements were utilised to provide a new building incorporating visiting and administration facilities at Loughan House in 2004. This resulted in a significant saving in the overall cost of the project. The contract for the work involved was awarded to Glenbeigh Construction Ltd who submitted the most competitive quotation for a prison construction project on 22 March 2002 under the terms of a tender competition dated March 2002. The tender included a provision for draw-down facility as required by the Prison Service. A total of six companies were invited to submit tenders for the above project.

A subsequent competition which was advertised in the EU Journal on 2 July 2004 sought expressions of interest from firms to provide an additional accommodation block at Loughan House. The notice also stated that the Prison Service reserved the right to enter negotiations with the successful contractor in relation to other prison projects within a duration of three years from the initial contract. A total of nine submissions were received and following an assessment process a short-list of four contractors was selected for a formal tender competition. The lowest tender subsequently received was from Glenbeigh Construction. A contract was awarded under the tender in respect of a general refurbishment of the existing bedroom accommodation which is now complete. The construction of a new 60 place accommodation unit for offenders with self contained bathroom and shower facilities is also now underway by Glenbeigh Construction under the above tender. Other works being carried out at Loughan House under this tender include a new education and general purpose building, the replacement of the dilapidated fence surrounding the facility, and repairs to the roof of the main building.

Visa Applications.

John Perry

Question:

205 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 190 of 28 November 2006, if emergency temporary visas to come here will be issued to persons (details supplied) in view of the tragedy that has struck the family in County Sligo and that the family needs the support of each other during such extenuating circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41806/06]

The persons in question were initially refused permission to travel to Ireland for a wedding. In the new circumstances, in the wake of the Tragedy to which the Deputy refers, they are entitled to appeal this decision and any such appeal will be fully and sympathetically examined by my Department.

Departmental Bodies.

David Stanton

Question:

206 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an upper age limit applies regarding membership of State boards under his aegis; if so, the reason for the age limit; his plans to remove same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42084/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the only State Board under the aegis of my Department where an upper age limit applies is the Private Security Authority Appeal Board. The Private Security Services Act 2004 Schedule 2, Part 1, provides that a member of the Appeal Board of the Private Security Authority must vacate office on attaining the age of 70 years. There are no plans to remove this upper age limit at present.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

207 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if persons paying tax under PAYE receive relief in respect of the health levy, of standard pension contributions, and AVCs; and if similar concessions apply to the self employed. [41366/06]

Employee contributions to approved occupational pension schemes, including AVCs, are exempt from income tax, subject to certain limits, as are contributions made by self-employed individuals to retirement annuity contracts. Similar relief applies to contributions to personal retirement savings accounts (PRSAs). With effect from 1 January 2006, the maximum annual tax relieved contribution that an individual may make towards all of his or her pension funds is determined by the individual's age and the level of his or her remuneration, subject to an overall earnings cap which currently stands at €254,000. The age related percentage limits are as shown in the table.

Age

Limit as a % of relevant earnings

%

Under 30

15

30 to 39

20

40 to 49

25

50 to 54

30

55 to 59

35

60 or over

40

If the pension contribution (including an AVC contribution) exceeds these percentages, the excess contribution can be brought forward to a following tax year against relevant earnings for tax relief purposes (subject of course to the above annual percentages not being exceeded in any one tax year).

I understand that the position regarding PRSI refunds on pension contributions (which also cover the health contribution elements of PRSI), insofar as it relates to individuals paying tax through the PAYE system, was set out to you in a recent response to a question to my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan. My understanding is that such refunds do not apply in the case of self-employed individuals paying tax under the self-assessment system.

John Gormley

Question:

208 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the reason tax breaks for private hospitals represents good value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41669/06]

By using capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals, I believe that the hospitals will come on stream quicker than if they were being provided by the public sector. The Government is committed to exploring fully the scope for the private sector to provide additional capacity needed in the health system. The HSE will be able to take up a proportion of the additional beds at a discounted price to address their waiting lists - the legislation specifies that a qualifying hospital must undertake to make available 20% of its capacity for public patients at a discount of 10%. The effect of this measure will be to reduce the pressure on public hospital beds. Providing hospital facilities for those with private health insurance in private hospitals will enable more beds in public hospitals to be made available for public patients.

I should also point out that the scheme of capital allowances for the construction of private hospitals was reviewed by Indecon Economic Consultants as part of the overall review of property tax incentives in 2005. Indecon consulted widely in the course of their review, including consultations with the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive. The report was published on 6 February and is available on my Department's website. Among the findings of the review, it is stated that: "While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the impact of the scheme on the supply and on the costs of hospital beds, Indecon believes the scheme has the potential to address supply shortages in the sector and to reduce costs."

Denis Naughten

Question:

209 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 138 of 22 November 2006, his views on reducing the level of VAT paid on such products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41068/06]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the Sixth VAT Directive, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. While Annex H does include the supply of children's car seats, it does not include car safety equipment. The reduced rate cannot therefore be applied to such goods.

With the exception of child car seats the only rate of VAT that can apply to car safety equipment, under EU law, is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

National Development Plan.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

210 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if he will address the injustice which exists within the Border Midland Western region; the way he will address the injustice to the BMW region in the last remaining weeks to make up for the deficit in the underspend under the current national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41073/06]

I cannot accept the Deputy's contention that an injustice exists in the BMW region.

Under the National Development Plan/ Community Support Framework (NDP/CSF) 2000-2006, there has been substantial investment in infrastructure — such as roads, public transport, water and waste services — in health facilities, social housing, education, industry and rural development in Ireland. The most recent information available to my Department indicates that some €48 billion had been spent by the end of June 2006, with €13 billion spent in the BMW region. This represents a sizable investment in the region.

The House will be aware of the general state of play in relation to expenditure in the BMW region from previous debates and questions on this issue. The figures reported at the recent Monitoring Committee meetings indicate that some €11.1 billion or 82% of forecast Exchequer and EU expenditure had been incurred by the end of June 2006.

In view of the slow start up in some areas at the beginning of the programme and the relatively disappointing response in certain demand led schemes due mainly to the impact of the slowdown in economic activity in 2000-02, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and a lower than anticipated take up of financial opportunities by the private sector, this can be considered to be a good implementation rate.

Based on the most recent information available to my Department, I anticipate that by the end of the programme period which under EU Rules, does not actually end at the end of 2006 but rather continues to 2008, the original forecasts for Exchequer and EU spending in the BMW region will largely be met.

Results over the 2000 to mid-2006 period show that, from a slow start up, there has been a steadily improving trend with over €5.8 billion invested in the BMW region under the key Economic and Social Infrastructure programme — of which €1.1 billion was invested in 2005 alone representing 105% of forecast expenditure for that year. Under that programme, almost €1.8 billion was invested in national roads, €2.1 billion on housing, over €850 million on water and waste services and €819 million on health facilities. Under the Employment and Human Resources programme, €4 billion has been invested in the BMW region to end June 2006. The other operational programmes show investment of €2.5 billion under the BMW regional programme, €837 million under the Productive Sector programme and €120 million under the Peace and Technical Assistance programmes.

The Government's commitment to the Region under the current NDP/CSF is delivering results. The ESRI carried out a mid-term evaluation of the NDP/CSF 2000-2006 which stated that the BMW region had all but closed the gap with the S&E region in respect of the rate of unemployment and employment growth. The ESRI in its recent ex-ante assessment of investment priorities for NDP 2007-2013 concludes: "The current NDP has greatly enhanced the economic and social infrastructure of the State with major benefits to economic development throughout all regions".

The Government's commitment to the BMW region does not cease when the current funding round draws to a close. Investment to achieve more balanced regional development is a key Government priority. An important objective of the next NDP (2007-2013) will be the promotion of balanced regional development in line with the National Spatial Strategy (the NSS). The details of the strategy for regional development will have to await publication of the Plan. I am confident that the level of ambition in the overall NDP 2007-2013 investment envelope combined with a commitment to utilise this investment to implement the NSS will lead to a better balance in economic development.

In addition, the BMW region will also receive an EU Structural Funds allocation of €458 million under the next round of funding for 2007-2013.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

211 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimate of the amount of excise duty that would need to be added to a litre of petrol if vehicle registration tax were removed; the equivalent income that would be derived for the Exchequer through additional excise duties on petrol and diesel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41075/06]

It is assumed that the information sought by the Deputy is the additional excise duty on a litre of petrol that would be required to produce the same yield as Vehicle Registration Tax in the event of that tax being abolished.

On the basis that the VRT yield for 2006 will be approximately €1,300 million, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a yield of this amount from excise duty and additional VAT could be achieved by increasing the excise duty on a litre of unleaded petrol by 85 cent. This method assumes that the normal price elasticity factors will apply and consumption would fall as a result. However, if there were no change in purchasing patterns or consequent reduction in consumption the increase required would be 54 cent per litre.

In the scenario outlined in this reply there is no provision for a price increase in diesel and additional yield does not therefore arise.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

212 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the revenue accruing to the Exchequer from excise duties on bio-fuels for each of the years from 2000 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41076/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there has been no significant Mineral Oil Tax yield from biofuels over the period. I introduced a full relief from Mineral Oil Tax in the Finance Act 2004 for biofuel produced or used in pilot projects. The Revenue Commissioners are not aware of any commercial biofuel operations that are not currently relieved from Mineral Oil Tax.

Also in Finance Act 2006 I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. The scheme of excise relief for biofuels will:

provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum;

cost over €200m over 5 years;

when fully operational, result in CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum;

meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008;

help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels, and

stimulate activity in the agricultural sector.

The scheme was publicly advertised in July by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. An assessment panel was established to review applications and make recommendations to my Department. The successful applicants to the scheme were recently announced by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Pension Provisions.

Paul McGrath

Question:

213 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of investments per month since the SSIA scheme was operative in May 2006 in relation to the pension incentive introduced in the Finance Act 2006, for persons to reinvest part or all of their SSIA on maturity. [41090/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of investments per month in pension products using all or part of matured SSIA funds and availing of the new Pensions Incentive Tax Credit introduced in the Finance Act 2006, is as follows:

June 2006

78

July 2006

267

August 2006

575

September 2006

892

October 2006

1,293

The total number of investments in pension products using all or part of matured SSIA funds up to end October 2006 is 3,105.

Oireachtas Members’ Remuneration.

Joan Burton

Question:

214 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the details of TDs and Minister’s salary structures; the percentage increase of the recent raise in salaries; the arrangements in relation to payments made to TDs that lose their seat; when this measure was introduced; the rate of increase in this payment since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41091/06]

The table shows the salary rates payable from 1 June 2006 and the salary rates applicable following implementation of the first phase of the agreement Towards 2016 i.e. 3% from 1 December 2006. Please note that the Minister and Minister for State receive the TD's basic salary in addition to their ministerial salary.

Post

1 June 2006 Sustaining Progress Final Phase — 2.5%

1 December 2006 Towards 2016 Phase 1 — 3%

TD — basic

90,770

93,493

—1st LSI

93,667

96,477

—2nd LSI

96,560

99,457

Taoiseach

167,960

172,999

TD

90,770

93,493

Total

258,730

266,492

Tánaiste

131,486

135,431

TD

90,770

93,493

Total

222,256

228,924

Minister

113,250

116,648

TD

90,770

93,493

Total

204,020

210,141

Minister of State

49,420

50,903

TD

90,770

93,493

Total

140,190

144,396

The following arrangements for TDs who lose their seat came into operation on 1 November 1992 for members of the New Pensions Scheme for members of the Oireachtas which was introduced at that time (termination payments are not payable to members of the Old Pensions Scheme.

Prior to receiving his or her pension entitlements, each former member who is a member of the New Pensions Scheme receives a Termination Lump Sum and a series of Termination Payments. To qualify for these he or she:

Must have at least six months continuous service as a Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas; and

Must not become a member of the following Oireachtas or immediately become an MEP or be appointed by the Government to a full-time position.

Where the above conditions are satisfied, a Termination Lump Sum is payable. This is equivalent to 2 months' salary, including salary allowances. In addition to a Termination Lump Sum, a maximum of 12 monthly Termination Payments are payable. The payments are based on the current rate of the relevant salary. A person must have at least 3 years continuous service to qualify for these. The number and rate of payments is conditional on the number of years' continuous service (see Table 1 below for details). Additional salary allowances are reckonable and a person may elect to move to pension at any time if it is more beneficial to do so. Termination payments are expressed as a percentage of current salary. Accordingly, they have increased in line with salary increases since their introduction.

Oireachtas Termination Payments

Service Years

Monthly payments

3

1 @ 75%

4

2 @ 75%

5

3 @ 75%

6

4 @ 75%

7

5 @ 75%

8

6 @ 75%

9

6 @ 75% + 1 @ 50%

10

6 @ 75% + 2 @ 50%

11

6 @ 75% + 3 @ 50%

12

6 @ 75% + 4 @ 50%

13

6 @ 75% + 5 @ 50%

14 +

6 @ 75% + 6 @ 50%

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Lowry

Question:

215 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the criteria a person must meet in order to qualify for the disabled drivers fuel refund; his views on expanding the scheme to include long-term disabled drivers not at present eligible under the disabled drivers scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41108/06]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

(b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

(c) be without both hands or without both arms;

(d) be without one or both legs;

(e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

(f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) for the relevant local Health Service Executive administrative area makes a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant satisfies the medical criteria. An unsuccessful applicant can appeal the decision of the SMO to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, which makes a new clinical determination in respect of the individual.

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.

Tax Code.

Phil Hogan

Question:

216 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when a tax refund will be awarded to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41117/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, according to their records, this taxpayer is currently in employment and a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut off point issued on 1 November 2006 in respect of this employment. Any refund due to the taxpayer because of unused credits on his behalf will be made by the employer. If the taxpayer is no longer in employment he should submit a claim for repayment by completing a form P50 and submitting this, together with his P45 issued by his last employer, to the Kilkenny Revenue District.

John McGuinness

Question:

217 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance his views on not taxing the State pension in cases where a person who is over 66 years continues to work and has no other employment related pension; if it is possible to quantify the number of people in this category and the loss of revenue to the State arising from such a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41128/06]

It is a general principle of taxation that, as far as possible, income from all sources should be subject to taxation. This includes the contributory and non-contributory pensions paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and there are no plans to change this position.

However, in the case of social welfare pension income, the extent to which taxation actually arises in a given case depends, of course, on the amount of other income that the social welfare recipient, or the recipient's spouse, has in the particular tax year. If there is no other income in addition to the social welfare payment, the existing exemption limits or tax credits can be expected to ensure that there is no tax to be paid on the social welfare income itself.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their income tax statistics do not generally distinguish between the amounts of tax that arise from pensions and from other sources. However, it is estimated that for 2003 — the latest year for which the necessary detailed information is available — the total tax liability on the combined social welfare pension and other income of some 41,200 income earners aged 65 years or over was of the order of €253 million.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

218 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated amount charged for the collection, management and investment, and other services including the provision of advice services connected therewith, of contributions including AVCs and PRSAs and existing invested funds by insurance fund providers and intermediaries and other agents in each of the most recent three years for which data is available or can be estimated; if estimated, the basis of such estimates; if there are other significant fees on pension contributions earned by the financial services sector not explicitly comprehended in the amounts in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41137/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available to my Department, as neither the Financial Regulator nor the Pensions Board collects such data.

The Deputy should note that the administration of pension schemes is primarily the responsibility of scheme trustees. Trustees are required to, at all times, act in the best interests of scheme members, with due regard being paid to the legislation governing the operation of pension schemes and the trust deeds and rules of individual schemes. In discharging their duties to members, trustees must ensure that they are achieving best value in terms of administration charges and other fees and commissions payable arising from the operation of pension schemes.

It should also be noted that the Financial Regulator published a Consultation Paper, Review of Remuneration Structures and Transparency, in January 2005 seeking views in relation to remuneration structures in the insurance market and also in relation to non-insurance investment products. This would include certain investment-type pension products. It sought views, on amongst other things, as to how the charging structures could be made simpler and clearer for the consumer and looked for suggestions as to what would be an appropriate measure of the impact of those charges and a means of comparing one product with another. The Financial Regulator's public response to the first phase of consultation was published on its website on 30 November setting out the questions that were posed as part of the review, the views received and the Regulator's response.

The Government is also committed to publishing a Green Paper on pensions as part of its commitments under Towards 2016. It is expected that this will be published by the end of March next year. Given the role which annuities play in delivering retirement incomes the Green Paper will include an examination of that market.

Departmental Properties.

Tony Gregory

Question:

219 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the plans the Office of Public Works has for the Debtors Prison, Dublin 1. [41144/06]

The Office of Public Works has recently completed the legal arrangements for the return of the Debtor's Prison into unencumbered State ownership from Dublin City Council and the Green Street Trust. The Office is currently actively studying several options for the future use of the building and a decision is expected to be made in the new year.

Tax Code.

Tony Gregory

Question:

220 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 299 of 24 October 2006, if the results of the examination are available to him. [41145/06]

In his question of 24 October last, the Deputy raised the issue of the tax treatments of pensions of Irish nationals who are retired officials of the EU as compared with the pensions of Irish nationals who are retired officials of the United Nations.

I informed the Deputy that there are legislative provisions which relieve the salaries and pensions of Irish nationals from the charge to Irish income tax in respect of service to the EU. However, both the salaries and pensions of serving or retired EU officials are subject to EU tax and are not paid tax-free.

There are also legislative provisions which relieve the salaries and emoluments of officials of the United Nations and its specialised agencies from the charge to Irish income tax. These provisions do not apply to ex-officials or retired officials and, accordingly, UN pensions payable to Irish nationals are not relieved of the charge to income tax in Ireland.

I undertook to have my Department and the Revenue Commissioners examine this matter further. My Department has asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to request background information from the United Nations on these general issues. This request has been made and a response is awaited. I will provide the Deputy with a copy of any response received. It does appear, however, that pension payments to former officials of the United Nations are generally not relieved of the charge to national taxation by reason of any international agreement. This reflects the tax position under Irish legislation and, in line with the general principle of taxation that, as far as possible, income from all sources should be subject to taxation somewhere, I see no reason to change that position.

Simon Coveney

Question:

221 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Finance the number of appeals which have been lodged each year against the assessment for vehicle registration tax since 2003 to date in 2006 for new and used cars; the outcome of the appeal in each case by make, model, age, condition, original OMSP and original VRT and revised OMSP and revised VRT. [41240/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of appeals, in the case of vehicles where the VRT was assessed by reference to the Open Market Selling Price, which have been lodged and determined by the Revenue Commissioners in the period 1 January 2003 to 1 December 2006, is as set out in the table and comprises appeals in relation to VRT category A vehicles and VRT category B vehicles. Category A includes cars, minibuses seating up to 12 persons, and campers which do not meet the VRT motor caravan definition. Category B includes car-derived vans, light crew-cabs, and light motor caravans.

Appeal Year

Number of appeals Category A

Number of appeals Category B

Total number of appeals

2003

219

18

237

2004

198

19

217

2005

306

26

332

2006

293

17

310

I understand that the Revenue Commissioners will be writing directly to the Deputy to supply the remainder of the information requested as it amounts to some 25 pages.

Architectural Heritage.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

222 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance if he provide the necessary funding to bring to completion the reconstruction works that are being carried out at Doe Castle, County Donegal, including the re-roofing of the Great Hall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41263/06]

In relation to possible further conservation works at Doe Castle the position remains as set out in my reply to question 108 of 9 November 2005.

Tax Code.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

223 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to introduce equity between the treatment for stamp duty purposes of first time buyers of new dwelling houses for personal occupation and those who buy sites of land in order to build dwelling houses for their personal occupation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41270/06]

The Deputy will be aware that I am delivering the Budget tomorrow. He will also be aware that it is not practice to comment on issues, such as this, prior to the Budget.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce appropriate tax arrangements in order to ensure that the maximum amount of funds are available to persons affected by the compulsory buy out of drift net fishermen which will result in the closure of their industry. [41284/06]

It would be premature to make any comment on this matter as the details of the proposed scheme have not yet been finalised.

Bernard Allen

Question:

225 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce a compensation scheme for charities who work in developing countries and who could do much more with fundraised moneys if they did not have to pay VAT on items and services. [41305/06]

I should explain that the VAT regime and rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the Sixth VAT Directive charities and non-profit groups engaged in non-commercial activity are exempt. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide and cannot recover VAT incurred on goods and services that they purchase. Essentially only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

Ministerial Orders have been used in the past in a limited way to provide refunds of VAT on certain aids and appliances for the disabled and on medical equipment donated voluntarily to hospitals; equipment and buildings used by water rescue organisations; and, humanitarian goods for export. These orders are focused and are designed to target specific circumstances. However, under EU law, it is no longer possible to introduce new schemes within the VAT Act 1972 to relieve charities from the obligation to pay VAT on goods and services that they purchase.

Furthermore, under EU law, it is not possible to remove or reduce the VAT rate for a particular customer, in this case charities, as the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the good or service, and not by the category of customer. It would, therefore, not be possible to remove or reduce the VAT paid by charities.

In summary, EU law precludes removing or refunding the VAT which charities are required to pay under the taxation system. This view is also held by the European Commission, who have stated that while charities cannot be refunded through the VAT system, there is nothing to prevent national Governments paying charities a subsidy to compensate them for the irrecoverable VAT which they have incurred, provided that State Aid rules are observed. Given that Exchequer funding is made available to very many charitable organisations this is in effect already happening.

I should say that the tax code currently provides exemption for charities from Income Tax, Corporation Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Deposit Interest Retention Tax, Capital Acquisitions Tax, Stamp Duty, Probate Tax and Dividend Withholding Tax. Moreover, charities also benefit significantly from the uniform scheme of tax relief for donations, which was introduced in the Finance Act 2001 and which, for the first time, allowed tax relief on personal donations to domestic charities and other approved bodies. The relief is based on the taxpayer's marginal rate which for an individual donor could be as high as 42%. In the case of donations from the PAYE sector the relief is given directly to the charities.

Garda Stations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

226 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the reason 14 mature trees were removed from the surrounds of Irishtown Garda station during the period 20 to 25 November 2006; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is a conservation area and as such material changes should not be made without the due processes being followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41319/06]

The removal of the trees was carried out following technical advice that the trees were adversely affecting the structural stability of the boundary wall. As part of the redevelopment of the site currently underway new trees will be planted.

Architectural Heritage.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

227 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will surface dress the area in front of Carrigafoyle Castle, Ballylongford, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41350/06]

The area in front of Carrigafoyle Castle is not in the care of the Office of Public Works and therefore the question of the OPW resurfacing it does not arise. The Office of Public Works is, however, prepared in the context of the presentation of the Castle to make an equitable contribution to the costs on completion of the resurfacing by Kerry County Council.

Tax Code.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

228 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [41352/06]

The question of refunds of tax is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I have been advised by Revenue that the person in question applied for an unemployment repayment on 22 November 2006. This was dealt with on 27 November 2006 and a cheque will issue to the person in question shortly.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

229 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals in regard to entitlement to the Civil Service retirement pension being extended to women who had to retire from the Civil Service due to the compulsory marriage ban (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41376/06]

Prior to 1 June 1973, no superannuation benefits were payable to civil servants, male or female, on cessation of service prior to age 60 other than in cases of retirement on grounds of ill-health or death in service. Prior to 1974, female officers were required to resign on marriage and received marriage gratuities.

Following the abolition of the marriage bar, any officer appointed prior to early 1974 now has the option of resigning within two years of marriage or remaining in employment. Officers who resign may preserve their pension entitlements until minimum pension age, normally 60, or receive a marriage gratuity in lieu of any pension entitlements.

I do not have any plans to extend civil service pension benefits to former officers who received marriage gratuities. However, any officer who has received a marriage gratuity, including those who resigned prior to 1974, who is subsequently reappointed to the civil service or any other area of the public service may, on refund of the gratuity with appropriate interest, have all service given prior to that resignation aggregated with subsequent service for pension purposes.

Tax Code.

John Gormley

Question:

230 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the reason singers do not qualify for artistic tax relief here; if he will change this rule; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41501/06]

Income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from tax in Ireland in certain circumstances. The exemption is only available to individuals who are resident here for tax purposes.

Section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, formerly section 2 of the 1969 Finance Act, allows the Revenue Commissioners to make a determination, under guidelines drawn up by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, and the Arts Council, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, that certain artistic works are original and creative, and generally recognised as having cultural or artistic merit. Earnings derived from such works are exempt from income tax.

Under the terms of Section 195, the Revenue Commissioners can make determinations in respect of artistic works in the following categories:

1 — a book or other writing

2 — a play

3 — a musical composition

4 — a painting or other like picture, and

5 — a sculpture.

Singing is not a specified category within section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and therefore, the artists exemption is not currently available to singers. In fact, performances of any kind, such as dancing or acting, do not qualify for the exemption.

I have no plans to amend the Artists Exemption to allow singers to qualify for tax relief. There are already very significant supports in place for arts industries through the tax and public expenditure systems. When the Artists Exemption was introduced in 1969 it was intended as a secondary measure to providing direct funding to the arts to help ensure sustained employment for artists. The review of the scheme carried out last year by my Department in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners concluded that this should remain the case and I have accepted this recommendation.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

231 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if the new charges being applied by the Health Service Executive of between €90 and €120 per week in respect of persons with physical or intellectual disabilities residing in residential care are tax deductible as a necessary medical expense; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41503/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the charges being applied by the Health Service Executive under the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulation 2005 are health expenses within the meaning of Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and may be included in a claim for relief under the section.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

232 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to Irish public investment, made through the National Pension Reserve Fund, in companies complicit with ongoing genocide in Darfur; the action he has been taken to modify or remove that investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41534/06]

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission controls and is responsible for the investment of the National Pensions Reserve Fund. It has discretionary authority to determine the Fund's investment strategy in accordance with the Fund's statutory investment policy of securing the optimal total financial return provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the Commission.

The Commission is a founder signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment launched by the UN Secretary General in New York on 27 April last. The aim of the Principles is to integrate consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into investment decision-making and ownership practices. They stem from a growing view among investment professionals that ESG issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios. Investors fulfilling their fiduciary (or equivalent) duty therefore need to give appropriate consideration to these issues, but to date have lacked an appropriate framework for doing so.

In announcing its decision to sign the Principles, the NPRF Commission said the launch of the Principles is the beginning of a process which will see the Fund taking account of environmental, social and governance factors in its investment strategies and becoming a more engaged shareholder in the companies in which it invests. It said it would be taking specific measures to implement the Principles. Actions it is planning to take over the first 12 months include:

development and implementation of a comprehensive proxy voting policy;

development of an engagement capacity with investee companies on ESG issues; and

refinement of its investment manager selection process to include specific consideration of ESG issues.

The Commission stressed that incorporation of environmental, social and governance issues into the NPRF's investment and operating framework is a long-term project and it would be taking further implementing actions as its capacity in the area develops.

On my own behalf, I would like to add that I welcome the launch of the Principles. I believe they represent a significant step towards ensuring that investors take into consideration the environmental, social and corporate governance aspects of the businesses in which they invest and I am pleased that the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission is a signatory to them.

Flood Relief.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

233 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 28 November 2006, the estimated cost of the Tramore Road element of the proposed Waterford city flood relief and details of the anticipated benefits resulting from the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41574/06]

A flood relief scheme, the John's River (Waterford City) Drainage Scheme, which aims to prevent or substantially reduce localised flooding in the John's River and the Lisduggan Stream catchment, was publicly exhibited in Waterford in March / April 2002. A report entitled John's River (Waterford City) Flood Relief Scheme – Potential for Phasing of Works was commissioned by OPW in 2003 and completed in 2004. This report investigated the viability of carrying out the flood relief works on a phased basis.

The report recommended that the proposed works, as exhibited, could be carried out in five phases. The fifth phase, incorporating works on the Tramore Road, provided for approximately 3 km of new road construction and associated road works and the re-alignment of several short sections of the John's River. The estimated overall cost of this phase was €7million. The benefit area would be the section of Tramore Road where the works would be undertaken. However, there are no properties in this area and the only benefit accruing would be in relation to avoidance of costs associated with traffic disruption. The phasing report concluded that the Tramore Road phase of the works had a negative benefit to cost ratio of 0.05 and was therefore not deemed to be economically viable. As it is a requirement of the Department of Finance that all flood relief works be economically viable, the decision was taken to omit this phase of works from the scheme and to proceed only with the remaining four phases. Also, the Report of the Flood Policy Review Group, which was approved by Government in September 2004, proposes that all future expenditure must be consistent with the Review's recommendations. The proposed works on the Tramore Road do not currently meet this requirement.

Consultancy Contracts.

Seán Ryan

Question:

234 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of expenditure on consultancy by his Department in 2003, 2004 and 2005; the number of consultants engaged by his Department in those years; and the steps which have been taken to reduce the expenditure on consultancy and the reliance on consultants by his Department in these years and for the future. [41723/06]

In the years 2003 to 2005 my Department entered into contracts for consultancy services with 77 consultants. In the same period my Department spent some €6.57m from its vote on those consultancy services. A significant proportion of this was related to ICT system and software development.

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department issues comprehensive guidelines concerning the engagement of consultants. In the period to which the Deputy refers, the guidelines entitled Engaging Consultants: Guidelines for the Civil Service were in effect. My Department complied with those guidelines.

The guidelines cover a range of topics relevant to the decision to commission external support or assistance. They stress that value-for-money considerations must be paramount when deciding whether or not to engage consultants, that projects should be strictly necessary and that consultants should only be engaged where specialised knowledge is not available internally, or in the wider civil service, or where independent advice is deemed essential, and that as far as possible skills are transferred to the civil servants involved. My Department is distributing revised guidelines on the engagement of consultants to all Departments and Offices.

In addition, the recent establishment of a Central Expenditure Evaluation Unit will provide my Department with internal expertise on programme evaluation and project appraisal. This initiative will allow it to reduce its reliance on consultants for such functions. The Department's Training and Development Strategy (training and post-entry education) supports this by facilitating the participation of staff in the Master of Economic Science in Policy Analysis Programme at the Institute of Public Administration.

Departmental Bodies.

David Stanton

Question:

235 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if an upper age limit applies regarding membership of State boards under his aegis; if so, the reason for the age limit; his plans to remove same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42081/06]

Government approved guidelines are in place in relation to appointments to boards of commercial State-sponsored bodies. These guidelines cover competence of appointees, gender balance etc. While an age limit of 70 years as the normal upper age limit for persons to be appointed to boards of State-sponsored bodies was established many years ago, my understanding is that an upper age limit is not generally applied to the appointment of members of State Boards, including to Boards under the aegis of my Department.

Child Care Services.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

236 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 can obtain funding for the preschool overheads in order that no charge will be imposed on the disadvantaged parents of the area and to give equality with the early start schools operating in the greater Ballyfermot area. [41299/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Investment Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children. Capital grant assistance is available to both community based/not for profit organisations and private sector child care providers to build, renovate, or equip child care services where a proposal meets with the programme objectives. In areas of significant disadvantage staffing grants are available to community based groups providing child care services which meet the needs of disadvantaged parents. To benefit from staffing funding, groups must pay particular attention to supporting disadvantaged families and to the implementation of a fee policy tailored to the differing economic circumstances of their client group, thereby ensuring that child care places are targeted at those most in need.

I understand from enquiries I have made that the Group in question was provisionally approved €100,000 over 16 months in staffing grant assistance under the EOCP in August of this year. This funding is approved subject to the Group concluding a satisfactory contractual agreement by the end of 2006 with Pobal, which is engaged to administer the grants on behalf of the Office of the Minister for Children. I also understand that, to date, the Group has not submitted any further formal requests for funding under the EOCP or the NCIP.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

237 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide €10,000 to finance the start costs for the provision of tables, chairs, knives, forks and other accoutrements for the canteen in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [41308/06]

Seán Ardagh

Question:

273 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a report on a national lottery and Health Service Executive application for funds for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 to staff the toddler and baby care units with child care staff. [41306/06]

Seán Ardagh

Question:

274 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the provision by the Health Service Executive of a supervisor for the care unit in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10. [41307/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237, 273 and 274 together.

In 2006, total health funding is €13.147 billion, which represents an underlying increase of 12.04% over 2005. The vast bulk of this funding is provided under the vote of the Health Service Executive which has statutory responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. This continuing high level of investment by the Government provides the Executive with considerable capacity to address the healthcare needs of the population in the most effective manner.

Funding for all health services has been provided as part of the Executive's overall vote for health and personal social services in 2006. The allocation of resources in the case raised by the Deputy is a matter for the Executive to be determined within the overall priorities for particular services set out by me in the Budget. 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.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Question:

238 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if in respect of children who attend special schools in the Dublin area, she will confirm that where such children have an existing speech and language facility provided through various service providers, that that service is then lost to such children when they attend special schools, as her Department states that these schools have access to speech and language training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41344/06]

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 Service Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

239 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if community welfare officers are supplied with mobile phones to help them carry out their work; if not, her plans, to supply same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41487/06]

Over 120,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Departmental Funding.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

240 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there has been no increase in funding for the regional planning committee against violence against women over the past four years; if it is intended to increase funding for these groups in view of the continuing problem of violence against women; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41498/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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. 241 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Nursing Home Charges.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for the refund of nursing home charges has been received which was submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; when it will be processed; the position of this application; and when this person can expect to receive the refund. [41079/06]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

243 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo and have them called for treatment in Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41084/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Parliamentary Questions.

Michael Ring

Question:

244 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason no response issued from the Health Service Executive to a parliamentary question placed several weeks ago (details supplied). [41092/06]

I understand from the Health Service Executive that a reply will issue to the Deputy in the next few days.

General Practitioner Co-operatives.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of vehicles currently being used by a service in the west (details supplied) giving details on a county basis; the number of vehicles purchased new in the past 12 months for this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41093/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff recruited in the past twelve months, giving details for each county in relation to a service (details supplied) in the west; and the number of staff currently employed in this service by category on a county basis. [41094/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245 and 246 together.

Out of hours co-operatives allow general practitioners to put in place arrangements to provide services to their patients, while their surgeries are closed in the evenings, on weekends and bank holidays. The development of GP co-operatives is in line with the overall health service policy of strengthening primary care services and ensuring that to the greatest extent possible, people's care needs are met in the primary care setting.

Out of hours co-operatives are now in place in all Health Service Executive (HSE) areas, providing coverage in all or in part of all counties. Between 2000 and 2005 approximately €105 million was allocated to the HSE for out of hours GP co-operatives and in 2006 almost €34 million is available to the Executive for these services.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for this service, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues in the questions raised by the Deputy . 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 Aids and Appliances.

Finian McGrath

Question:

247 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 who had applied for assistance with a new special bike as they need this as a priority; and if she will urgently take action regarding this request. [41097/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

248 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the provision of a bed at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41129/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services has been assigned to the Health Service Executive. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

249 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the level of home care and home help hours in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response in the case. [41130/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

250 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [41131/06]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

John McGuinness

Question:

251 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an application for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [41132/06]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, child care and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed with the Health Service Executive a further adjustment to the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

252 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Osteoporosis Society has not been allocated funding for 2006; if she will make a statement on the fact that due to the lack of funding the society is facing closure; and if she will immediately address the situation. [41138/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

260 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if and when service level agreement funding for 2006 to 2007 will be confirmed or arranged for the Osteoporosis Society, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41191/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 260 together.

The Irish Osteoporosis Society (IOS) received funding from the Health Service Executive (HSE) of €130,000 in 2005. The IOS sought further funding of €128,000 during 2006. Following a series of meetings and checking of documentation, the HSE provided this amount to the IOS on 22 September 2006. Representatives from the Population Health Directorate, HSE met with the Irish Osteoporosis Society on 28 November to discuss funding. It was clarified at the meeting that future funding for osteoporosis will be provided in the context of the estimates process.

Hospital Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

253 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the prospect of radiotherapy facilities being provided in the north west region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41139/06]

The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital and progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to Belfast. Until recently, cancer patients in Donegal requiring radiation oncology treatment were referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or to University College Hospital Galway. I am pleased that a Service Level Agreement has now concluded for the referral of about 50 radiation oncology patients annually from Donegal to Belfast.

It has also been agreed that the number will be increased if there is sufficient demand from patients in Donegal. Three assessment clinics will be held each month on an ongoing basis. The first referral clinic took place on 8 November. As regards progressing the consideration of a satellite in the North West, the Deputy will appreciate that my first priority was to gain access for cancer patients in the North West to Belfast as early as possible. The issue of a satellite centre in the North West will be pursued with the authorities in Northern Ireland at both Departmental and Ministerial levels.

Questions Nos. 254 and 255 answered with Question No. 113.

Pat Breen

Question:

256 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans there are to establish a neurosurgical national centre of excellence at University College Hospital Galway to complement the existing centres in Cork and Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41164/06]

The Health Services Executive recently published a Review of Neurosurgical Services in Ireland. It identifies a clear need for significant investment in and organisational reform of neurosurgical services. Neurosurgery is currently provided at the national centre in Beaumont Hospital and in Cork University Hospital. The Report recommends that the future development of safe, high quality neurosurgical services in Ireland would be best served by a two-pronged approach: 1. Increased capacity in Dublin and Cork; 2. Improved access to neurosurgical units, including transport and telemedicine facilities for referring hospitals.

The HSE is committed to progressing the recommendations of the Report. It is undertaking a national neurosciences needs assessment. Neuroscience includes neurology, neurophysiology and neurosurgery. This assessment is guided by previous reviews of neurology and neurophysiology services and the recent report on neurosurgery. It aims to clearly identify the requirements for neuroscience services as a whole across the country. An additional €3m was provided in 2006 to develop 3 new neurology units in Waterford, Limerick and Sligo through the appointment of 3 consultant neurology teams. In addition, the HSE provided funding for the appointment of an additional paediatric neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital this year.

The recently published Estimates for the Health Service Executive provides a further €4m to continue these developments into 2007. Lengthy consideration was given to the case for a neurosurgical unit in Galway. The conclusion was that a neurosurgical unit in Galway would not be viable and that the needs of the entire population would be best served by increasing capacity in Dublin and Cork and improving access to services. The HSE is convinced that the implementation of the recommendations of the report represents the best way forward in terms of building a high quality neurosurgical service that will meet the needs of the entire population.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

257 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason post-mortems are no longer carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; the number of post-mortems that have been transferred out of the hospital in each of the past three years, including figures available for 2006; the cost per transfer; if it is planned to carry out post-mortems again at the hospital; and if so, when. [41165/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

258 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if all patients have been relocated from unit 3 of James Connolly Memorial Hospital to an alternative facility within the hospital complex as promised; if patients are being provided with the appropriate level of occupational therapy in the interim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41173/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

259 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41176/06]

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. 260 answered with QuestionNo. 252.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

261 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive will not give extra home help which had been agreed previously to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [41199/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Question No. 262 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Richard Bruton

Question:

263 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request that the Health Service Executive reconsider the catchment area imposed for access to the physiotherapy service of Beaumont Hospital. [41216/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. 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.

Smoking Ban.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

264 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have been convicted for smoking in company cars and vehicles since the smoking ban came into effect; the number of inspectors employed in order to carry out such prosecutions; and the amount of fines paid for such breaches. [41239/06]

The responsibility for initiating prosecutions in such cases lies with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Accordingly, officials of my Department have asked the HSA to reply directly to the Deputy in this matter.

Health Insurance.

Michael Lowry

Question:

265 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the outcome of a recent High Court case regarding risk equalisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41254/06]

Michael Lowry

Question:

266 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures she has planned in the event of a retraction in the level of competition in the health insurance market; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41255/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 266 together.

Private Health Insurance is an integral part of the Irish health care system covering over half of the population. It has, for nearly 50 years, played a major role in the financing of our health services. There is considerable support for community rating as a fundamental principle of the health insurance market in Ireland. This principle, together with lifetime cover and open enrolment, guarantees an equitable non-discriminatory regulatory framework for voluntary private health insurance, and compares favourably with private health insurance systems found elsewhere.

This Government is intent on supporting genuine competition and development in the private health insurance market. However, in the first instance consideration has to be given to the stability of the community rated health insurance system, and the safeguards provided to protect it, such as risk equalisation. The ultimate beneficiary of risk equalisation is the insured population, particularly the elderly and the ill, who would otherwise be vulnerable to the effects of risk selection, and would find the cost of private health insurance unaffordable at the point in their lives when it was needed most. A market without the balancing measure of risk equalisation to address the effect of mandatory community rating exposes insurers with higher risk members to spiralling claims and ultimately threatens their viability while opening the possibility of super-normal profits being made by other insurers, at the expense of consumers and the insured community as a whole.

Risk equalisation will not over-compensate any insurance undertaking for the share of the total community of sick and elderly it serves, and is neither disproportionate, a cause for any distortion of competition in the market place, nor does it constitute State Aid. Risk Equalisation is about compensating for differential risk profiles. It is not about transferring profits. It is about ensuring that competition takes place on an equitable basis.

The Competition Authority and the Health Insurance Authority are examining the health insurance market and are to bring forward recommendations on how greater competition could be encouraged in this market. Their joint report is expected early in 2007. It is the Government's view that the regulatory framework for private health insurance, including the provision for risk equalisation, is appropriate. This position has been endorsed by the High Court. While the Government accepts that the framework influences the market environment, it does so for a good reason, namely, the protection of the consumer and in the interests of the common good.

Question No. 267 answered with QuestionNo. 115.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

268 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 260 of 4 October 2006, if she will consider an orthodontic reassessment for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41259/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

269 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children if expressions of interest have been received arising from the proposed health campus building at Tuam, County Galway; the closing date for such expressions of interest; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41271/06]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in health care has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, the sum available for expenditure in health under the Health Service Executive's capital plan is €555 million. The HSE has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development referred to in the Deputy's question. 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.

Question No. 270 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

271 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the timeframe for the transfer of oncology services out of St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar; her plans for the hospital site once this takes place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41273/06]

The Government and I are anxious to build on the expertise and ethos of St. Luke's. It is held in great affection by the Irish people. Many thousands of Irish patients and their families from every part of the country have experienced high quality cancer care at St. Luke's.

The decision to transfer St. Luke's Hospital to St. James's Hospital, Dublin was taken by the Government in the best interests of cancer patients. The decision was based on expert medical, scientific and management advice. It is designed to ensure that radiation oncology is integrated with all other aspects of cancer care, including surgery and medical oncology. It is in line with best international practice. This is the model that exists at Cork University Hospital and University College Hospital Galway and which is being developed at Beaumont and St. James's Hospitals, Dublin.

The Board of St. Luke's Hospital and its Executive Management Team are fully committed to supporting this decision. A transfer on similar lines took place earlier this year in Northern Ireland when radiation oncology services transferred from a stand alone facility to Belfast City Hospital, which is a major academic teaching hospital. In recognition of the role for St. Luke's in the new facility at St. James's, I have made a commitment to pursue discussions with the Boards of both Hospitals about its governance and a re-configuration of the Boards, with the twin goals of ensuring continuity of expertise and ethos in the care of cancer patients and the effective integration of multidisciplinary patient care at the one site. I remain confident the transition will be managed with great sensitivity and skill by the two hospital Boards to achieve those objectives.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

272 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be granted to persons (details supplied) in County Louth in view of their tragic circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41285/06]

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for health benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Questions Nos. 273 and 274 answered with Question No. 237.

Health Promotion.

Pat Carey

Question:

275 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures introduced by her Department to promote cycling as a healthy form of exercise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41312/06]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

276 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money provided in 2006 for the treatment of public patients in the new radiotherapy unit at the Mid-West Regional Hospital; the amount that has been paid to the Mid-West Hospitals Trust in recoupment of money already paid by it for public patients; the amount set aside for 2007 to pay for public patients in the radiotherapy unit in Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41320/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Health Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

277 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress being made in implementing the Government’s policy on obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41321/06]

The National Taskforce on Obesity published a report in 2005 containing 93 recommendations to halt the rise in levels of overweight and obesity. The Taskforce recognises that a multi-sectoral approach is necessary, involving other state agencies and government departments and real engagement of the public and private sectors to implement all of the report's recommendations.

The HSE has the lead responsibility for implementing those recommendations of the National Taskforce on Obesity relevant to the health sector and has been allocated €3 million for this purpose. My Department has therefore 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

278 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospitals where it is proposed to remove seven day 24 hour accident and emergency services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41322/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive is currently undertaking a number of reviews of acute hospital service configuration. The overall objective is to ensure the optimum configuration of acute hospital services across the country, with a view to developing acute health care which minimises risk to patients and is in line with national policy and best international practice.

The Deputy is aware that, in the North East, acute services are being developed in line with the recommendations in the Teamwork Report. In line with the report, services across the region are to be reconfigured to centralise the expertise required for the optimum care of critically ill and trauma patients. The Deputy has been briefed by the Executive on the future service configuration planned for Monaghan General Hospital, where it is planned to provide nurse-led treatment services on a 12 hour/seven day basis under the supervision of A & E consultants. The HSE will be working to ensure that changes to the existing service are introduced in a phased, planned and structured way. In the meantime, there will be no diminution in local services until suitable alternative arrangements have been put in place. I am not aware of any plan by the Executive to remove 24/7 A & E services in other regions.

The policy of the Government is to ensure the provision of safe, high-quality services that achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. Patient safety and quality must be paramount and must be the key drivers in configuring acute hospital services, including accident and emergency services. This will mean that those services that can be safely delivered locally are delivered locally and that more complex services that require specialist input are concentrated at regional centres, or, in the case of highly specialised services, in national centres of excellence. This approach is consistent with international best practice for the optimum delivery of patient care.

Care of the Elderly.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

279 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of long-stay elder care beds purchased in the private sector in each of the Health Service Executive areas to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41330/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to provide any such information to the Deputy. 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.

Mental Health Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

280 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of the total allocated health budget that is allocated to mental health services; the percentage allocation for the years 1980, 1981, 1982, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2000, 2001 and 2002; and the allocation for the development of autistic services. [41333/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the table.

When examining mental health expenditure as a proportion of total health spending, it is important to note that the scope of services provided under the overall health heading has widened considerably. Services in a range of areas such as child care, older persons and intellectual disability have been substantially expanded since 1980 and have led to an increase in total health spending. As a result, it is not very informative to compare mental health spending as a proportion of total health expenditure over a number of years. In fact, the Government has trebled mental health expenditure in the period 1997 to 2006, from €326m to €835m.

Non-capital expenditure on mental health as a percentage of total health expenditure

Year

Total health expenditure

Mental health expenditure

Mental health expenditure % of total health

€m

€m

1980

668

73

10.9

1981

858

106

12.3

1982

999

120

12.0

1990

1,576

169

10.7

1991

1,752

183

10.5

1992

1,956

197

10.1

2000

5,610

434

7.7

2001

7,006

497

7.1

2002

8,167

564

6.9

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy in relation to autistic services. 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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ivor Callely

Question:

281 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children her Departments policy and strategy regarding the provision of support services to children with an intellectual disability; the services that are provided by health agencies; the services where there are long waiting lists to avail of a service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41335/06]

As the Deputy may be aware additional funding of €12.5m was provided to the Health Service Executive, in the 2006 Budget, to enhance the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, with a priority in 2006 on enhancing the assessment and support services for children with disabilities The Health Service Executive have also indicated to my Department that their priority in 2006 has been to increase the multi-disciplinary support services for children with developmental delay.

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. 282 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Suicide Incidence.

Ivor Callely

Question:

283 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health and Children the allocation for suicide prevention; the breakdown of the allocation of such funds; the additional services that have been put in place to assist in early identification of suicidal behaviour and to provide support and treatment; the additional services to be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41337/06]

In the region of €835 million will be spent on mental health services in 2006. This includes an additional €26.2 million allocated for the further development of our mental health services, €1.2 million of which was allocated specifically for suicide prevention initiatives.

In 2005 the National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) was established by the Health Service Executive to oversee the implementation of "Reach Out", the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014. This Office is responsible for the implementation of the Strategy and provides support to groups and organisations for their work in the development of suicide prevention initiatives.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

284 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding to extend hours in a day care centre (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41338/06]

An additional €150 million was allocated in this year's Budget for improving services to older people. This funding is enabling significant expansion of community based services including day care/respite services.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

285 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the minority report of a member of the orthodontic review group and on the non-implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Health and Children regarding orthodontics; the action she will take to ensure that children who need orthodontic treatment receive it within a reasonable timeframe; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41339/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) established an Orthodontic Review Group. The terms of reference for the Group are to review the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee Reports; to examine the recommendations within the operational remit of the HSE and to establish their status; to conduct an analysis of the HSE's existing orthodontic delivery structure and capacity. Based on that analysis, to make recommendations in that regard; the recommendation thus made to be costed and a time-frame for their implementation proposed.

I have been advised that the Review Group has concluded its meetings and is finalising its report and recommendations. The Report will be presented to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE in the near future. I look forward to receiving and considering the Report.

I have not received a minority report from a member of the Review Group as referred to in the question.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Question:

286 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if further to Parliamentary Question No. 304 of 10 October 2006, she will request the Health Service Executive to issue a comprehensive response and ensure that increased subvention is granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41485/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

287 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason information (details supplied) which was requested was not given and still has not issued; when this information was sought by others; and the person who made the application for it from that sector. [41494/06]

I have made inquiries of the Health Service Executive (HSE) regarding the issues raised in the Deputy's question. The Executive has indicated that a reply issued to the Deputy in respect of Question number 663 (28630/06) on 18th October, 2006 and that replies issued in respect of Questions numbers 661 (28628/06) and 662 (28629/06) on 4th December, 2006.

As the remaining information being sought by the Deputy comes within the operational responsibility of the HSE, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised. 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 Charges.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

288 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the changes made to the medical card system for persons with a physical and intellectual disability living in community residences where a nurse is employed allowing medical card recipients to be charged for their care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41495/06]

There were no changes made to the medical card system for persons with a physical and intellectual disability in long stay care which includes community residences where nurses are employed.

The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. It is a matter for the HSE, 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 any charges levied.

I take it the question refers to charges for persons with a physical and intellectual disability in long stay care which includes community residences where nurses are employed.

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 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 in-patient 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 in-patient 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 a person in either class. The HSE 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 HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

289 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children the advice she was provided with by the expert group formed following the enactment of the Health Act 2005 in relation to charging fees to persons with physical and intellectual disabilities living in community residences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41496/06]

The Expert Group referred to in the question is a HSE Group which produced the Long Stay Charges National Guidelines. The HSE implement the charges in accordance with these guidelines.

The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. It is a matter for the HSE, 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 any charges levied.

The Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 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 in-patient 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 in-patient 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. The HSE 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 HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

290 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the annual allocation to community residences will be reduced as a consequence of charges collected from persons with a physical or intellectual disability who will be levied with charges by the Health Service Executive; if the cost of administration will be provided for by the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41497/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005 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. This includes people with disabilities in long-stay and other institutions.

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of in-patient 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 in-patient 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. The HSE 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 HSE can examine a person's overall financial situation in view of the person's reasonable expenditure in relation to themselves or their dependants, if any.

The Deputy's specific 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.

Joe Costello

Question:

291 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who had been diagnosed by their general practitioner with pneumonia and sent to the accident and emergency of the Mater Hospital, was not admitted on four separate occasions and on the fifth occasion had to be taken immediately into the intensive care unit as their organs were collapsing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41504/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. 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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

292 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the schedules for repaying the illegal nursing home charges are not being met; and if she has received the same flow of complaints from people who are getting repeat requests for information already submitted which this Deputy is receiving. [41507/06]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

Richard Bruton

Question:

293 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the conditions under which mobility allowance is granted in order that it would cover conditions such as agoraphobia where persons with this condition have a clear need and would benefit from opportunities for mobility. [41508/06]

The mobility allowance is a monthly payment administered by the Health Service Executive, which provides financial support to severely disabled people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings, for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey.

To be eligible to receive the mobility allowance applicants must satisfy the following conditions: Be over 16 years and under 66 years. However, an allowance, once granted, will be continued after the age of 66 as long as the other criteria for eligibility are met; Be living at home or maintained by a health board in any long-term institution; Be unable to walk, even with the use of artificial limbs or other suitable aids, or must be in such a condition of health that the exertion required to walk would be dangerous; Inability to walk has to be likely to persist for at least one year; Moving of the applicant must not have been forbidden for medical reasons; Be in a condition to benefit from a change in surroundings.

It is a matter for the Senior Area Medical Officer in the relevant Health Service Executive area to decide whether the medical criteria are satisfied in each case. My Department currently has no plans to review these qualifying criteria.

Food Safety.

Denis Naughten

Question:

294 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on its 2004 report into breaches of food labelling laws; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41184/06]

The report that the Deputy is referring to is the "Report of the Food Safety of Authority of Ireland Audit to determine compliance with Labelling and Traceability Requirements". This was an internal report prepared by following a small scale audit undertaken by the Food Safety Authority (FSAI) in 2004, which drew attention to some deficiencies in traceability and labelling regimes.

The enforcement of food labelling legislation is included in the service contracts between the official agencies and the FSAI. The official agencies include the Health Service Executive, the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and the local authorities.

In discussions with my Department, the FSAI has confirmed that the official agencies were provided with a report on the premises under their supervision which were visited as part of the audit. Follow up action, by way of additional visits and inspections were undertaken, and I have been assured that the matters which required attention have now been rectified.

Denis Naughten

Question:

295 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to ensure that country of origin labelling is clear and transparent to the public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40467/06]

The general EU food labelling regulations covering all food sold in Ireland require that information be given clearly, accurately and in a language understood by the consumer. Among these requirements is origin marking in cases where failure to provide such information would be likely to mislead the consumer to a material degree.

My Department is in touch with officials of the Department of Agriculture and Food and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on an ongoing basis and regular meetings are held to discuss a wide range of issues — including labelling. Guidance is currently being prepared by the FSAI for enforcement officers and for the industry on these regulations and this will be published shortly.

Denis Naughten

Question:

296 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on the enforcement of the food labelling laws; and ifshe will make a statement on the matter. [40497/06]

Officials in my Department liaise with officials of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) on an ongoing basis and regular meetings are held to discuss a wide range of issues. Any issues which arise in relation to the enforcement of food legislation, including breaches of labelling legislation are discussed, where necessary.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

297 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the number of calls to the Women’s Aid helpline that went unanswered in 2005; her plans to provide additional funding to Women’s Aid to enable the organisation to provide adequate staffing; when such funding will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36333/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

David Stanton

Question:

298 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the locations where the teen support programme is in operation; the number of participants in the programme; her plans to extend same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37640/06]

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 theDeputy.

David Stanton

Question:

299 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a request from the Health Service Executive for a new day care centre and medical centre in Youghal, County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41518/06]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, the sum available for expenditure in health under the Health Service Executive's capital plan is €555 million.

The HSE has responsibility for the planning and management of capital projects in the health sector, including the development referred to in the Deputy's question. 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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

David Stanton

Question:

300 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money she has made available for the rest of 2006 for enhanced nursing home subventions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41519/06]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider th