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 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 44, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 45 to 54, inclusive, answered orally.

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

55 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will waive the moratorium on staff recruitment in the mental health community teams and child and adolescent teams to ensure that vital posts can be filled to facilitate the implementation of A Vision for Change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10429/10]

Pat Breen

Question:

79 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the impact of the moratorium on the recruitment of nurses and essential staff in mental health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10466/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 79 together.

The 2009 Employment Control Framework, which encompasses the moratorium, contains a number of provisions that are designed to ensure that key services are maintained insofar as possible.

The Framework provided for the creation of 225 new development posts, including 35 posts specifically for the development of child and adolescent mental health teams.

The Framework also included a general exemption from the moratorium for certain therapy, psychologist and counsellor posts. This was designed to provide further flexibility to the HSE in order to maintain key front line services and to support the implementation of policies such as A Vision for Change.

The 2009 Employment Control Framework also provided for a process whereby a limited number of exceptions to the moratorium were approved by my Department with the consent of the Department of Finance. Amongst the exemptions approved during 2009 were 23 mental health nurse posts at the Central Mental Hospital and 36 mental health nurse posts at St Loman's Hospital, Lucan. These exceptions were approved on the basis of the two hospitals making better use of their staffing resource, leading to overall efficiencies in the delivery of services.

A 2010 Employment Control Framework is currently being finalised between my officials and the Department of Finance. Although this Framework is not yet finalised, I expect that in 2010, it will again provide my Department and the HSE with the ability to deal with critical exceptions to the moratorium once the overall reduction in health employment numbers, as agreed by Government, are being met.

Private Health Insurance.

Shane McEntee

Question:

56 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will fulfil her legal obligation to bring the Voluntary Health Insurance within the remit of the Financial Regulator by the end of March, 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10513/10]

The Government have been clear in our view that the VHI should achieve authorisation on a level playing field with other insurers. A stable, community-rated health insurance market, supported by a robust risk equalisation system, will be achieved in circumstances where all the players in the market are authorised and regulated on a level playing field.

The capital position of the VHI presently, and the prospects for its reserves over the medium term, are some of the key factors in the decision of the Financial Regulator to grant authorisation. Clearly, the reserve position of the VHI is influenced by the measures in place currently, and in prospect for the future, whereby the costs of claims for older people are supported by younger insured persons.

There are a great many inter-related factors involved in setting out the roadmap now to a stable, community-rated health insurance market, all of which are under consideration by the Government. I have raised the full issues relating to the private health insurance market with Government and I expect that decisions will be made in the first quarter of this year.

Medicinal Products.

John Deasy

Question:

57 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason consumers here are paying almost twice as much for over-the-counter medicines as persons in the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10488/10]

Joe Costello

Question:

123 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to reduce the cost of over-the-counter medicines; her plans to meet with the pharmaceutical industry regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10435/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 123 together.

Where over-the-counter medicines are prescribed and supplied under the GMS and community drugs schemes, reimbursement prices are controlled by regulations and agreements between the HSE and pharmaceutical manufacturers. However, when over-the-counter products are supplied otherwise, pharmacists and other retail outlets set the price to the consumer. There is no regulation of the prices of over-the-counter products in Ireland.

Retail prices in Ireland may differ from those in the UK for a variety of reasons. These include changes in the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro, differing VAT rates and market size.

In September 2009 the National Consumer Agency carried out a survey on the cost of personal care goods and over the counter medicines. The survey revealed significant price differences between retailers for these products. The National Consumer Agency has advised consumers to be conscious of the options available to them when purchasing over the counter medicines and to check where the best value can be found.

Hospital Accommodation.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

58 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if funds will be provided to restructure and extend, if necessary, St. Mary’s Hospital, Castleblayney, County Monaghan to ensure that bed spaces are retained in one of the best known nursing homes here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10265/10]

While the Health Service Executive has operational responsibility for the delivery of health and social services, including those at facilities such as St Mary's, I would like to reassure the Deputy that no decision has been taken by the Executive to reduce the existing number of beds in the Hospital at this time.

As the Deputy is aware, the total bed complement in St. Mary's Hospital is currently 141. It had operated with a complement of 144 beds since 2006. However, in September 2009, following the introduction of National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland, the Health Service Executive decided to reduce the number of beds by three to assist with its obligation under HIQA Standard No 25, The Care Environment.

The hospital provides a range of facilities for elderly people including day care, respite, convalescence, rehabilitation, extended care and terminal care. It is a nurse led hospital with a multidisciplinary team approach to care. The team includes Nursing Staff, Non-Nursing Staff, GP Medical Team, Social Worker, Physiotherapy, Chiropodist, Community Liaison Nurse and Occupational Therapy.

There is a National Review of the number of non acute beds required for Older People's Services being carried out by the HSE. This review is intended to establish the number of places required in residential centres for older people and the results will feed into any decision by the HSE concerning the provision of residential services in the Cavan/Monaghan Primary Community and Continuing Care area.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

59 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to build further primary care units from public moneys; the locations and timeframe for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10436/10]

I understand the Deputy to be referring to the provision of primary care centres through the Exchequer funded Capital Programme.

The building or extension, refurbishment and fitting out of primary care facilities in deprived urban areas and in small rural towns continues to be funded through the Exchequer funded Capital Programme.

New centres completed in 2008 and 2009 include Pearse Street in Dublin; Westbury, Co Clare and Coolaney, Co Sligo. A number of centres in other locations such as Shantalla, Inis Oirr and Clonbur, Co Galway; Strokestown, Co Roscommon; Irishtown, Dublin 4; Millbrook Lawns, Tallaght; Newport, Ballycastle and Louisburgh, Co Mayo were extended or refurbished and a leased facility at Dundrum, Dublin was fitted out.

A Primary Care Centre at Inchicore which is part of a major infrastructural development for the area will be progressed from the Capital Programme and is expected to be completed by late 2011. A facility at Ballyogan is expected to be fully operational by mid-2010.

The Deputy may also be aware that the HSE, with my support, is implementing an innovative new programme for financing the development of 200 primary care centres. The HSE sought expressions of interest from the private sector in December 2007 and in July 2008 for the provision of primary care centres for primary care teams through leasing arrangements. Seven such centres have opened to date. Another 25 will open by the end of 2010.

Private Health Insurance.

Joe McHugh

Question:

60 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce risk equalisation legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10516/10]

Following the Supreme Court decision of July 2008, which found the Irish Risk Equalisation Scheme to beultra vires, the Government decided to introduce an interim scheme of loss compensation. This was provided for under the Health Insurance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, covering the period 2009 to early 2012.

In any community rated health insurance market, a comprehensive risk equalisation or loss compensation system is required in order for the market to operate in the best interests of all consumers. Without a risk equalisation or loss compensation system, insuring older or ill people will be loss making. As a result, insurers that cover a higher proportion of older people will be at a significant competitive disadvantage and insurers will seek to avoid insuring older people. It follows that, without risk equalisation or loss compensation, competition will not function properly and the market will operate counter to the interests of ill and older people. This is why it is the international norm for risk equalisation or loss compensation to apply in community rated markets.

The Health Insurance Authority has started work on preparing a comprehensive risk equalisation scheme to replace the interim scheme of loss compensation when it expires. I intend to bring proposals in this regard to the Government before the end of March.

Organ Transplants.

John Perry

Question:

61 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to establish an organ transplant authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10531/10]

I believe that there is a need for a national approach to the organ transplant programmes in Ireland. In this context, I have agreed with the Health Service Executive, as part of its 2010 Service Plan, that it will establish an organ donation and transplantation unit within its existing national structures and resources. This unit will provide a national focal point for reporting, monitoring and assessing organ donation and transplantation activities. It is appropriate that these functions be carried out at a national level on the basis of regular, comprehensive performance data provided by all the transplant centres. This approach will provide a sound basis for evaluating performance and examining other issues related to transplantation.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

62 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Education and Science in relation to the commencement of Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 which relates to assessment of need since the decision was taken in October 2008 to postpone its proposed implementation dates of 2010 for children aged six to 18 years and 2011 for adults; if future timescales have been proposed or developed regarding when Part 2 will be fully implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10544/10]

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced on 1 June 2007 in respect of children aged under 5. In October 2008 the Government decided, in the light of financial circumstances, to defer further implementation of the Act and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004. No alternative timescales for full implementation of Part 2 of the Act have been developed to date.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

63 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute hospital beds which will be closed as a result of the implementation of the Health Service Executive plan for 2010. [10452/10]

Charles Flanagan

Question:

73 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to close 1,100 hospital beds in 2010; the location of these beds; her views on the impact this will have on patient services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10498/10]

Brian Hayes

Question:

85 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of acute hospital beds closed nationally; the reason these beds are closed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10502/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 73 and 85 together.

The most recent information on bed closures in the acute hospital system refers to the week ended 17 January 2010. At that time, 689 inpatient beds and 37 day beds were closed for reasons of cost-containment, infection control, refurbishment and seasonal closure of facilities. Due to industrial action involving members of IMPACT, my Department has not been in a position to obtain more up-to-date information from the HSE in this regard.

While public debate tends to focus on bed numbers, it is much more meaningful to measure the actual number of patients treated. In 2009, the combined number of inpatient and day case discharges was 3% greater than the equivalent figure in 2008, despite the difficult situation in relation to resources.

The preparation of the HSE's 2010 National Service Plan, which I approved on 5 February, maintains the focus on increased efficiency and targets broadly the same level of overall hospital activity as in 2009. This involves a shift from inpatient to day cases, a reduction in emergency admissions and a further increase in day cases.

While there is no proposal in the Service Plan to close a specific number of beds, the reduction in inpatient treatments will mean that less capacity will be required in this area during 2010. The exact number of beds available at any one time will fluctuate depending on such factors as planned activity levels, maintenance and refurbishment requirements and staff leave arrangements. Beds may also be closed from time to time in order to control expenditure, given the need for every hospital to operate within its allotted budget for the year.

Meeting the agreed efficiency targets will require increased access to the specialist skills and senior clinical decision-making available in Medical Assessment Units, to diagnostics and to other ambulatory care services. The HSE will also focus on minimising length of stay, with a particular focus on reducing the current variation across different hospitals for similar procedures. It will also work to increase same day of surgery admission and to protect inpatient beds for elective surgery in order to reduce waiting times.

By reforming the manner in which services are provided, I am confident that the HSE can deliver the volumes of service provided for in the plan, while at the same time continuing to improve service quality and patient outcomes.

Combating Obesity.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

64 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the task force on obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10440/10]

The Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity was published in 2005. An Inter-sectoral Group on Obesity, comprising relevant Government Departments and key stakeholders was established early in 2009 to oversee and monitor implementation of its recommendations. The Inter-sectoral Group published a report in April 2009, detailing progress on each of the Taskforce recommendations.

The report provided 93 recommendations for action aimed at six sectors. These included:

5 aimed at high level government

22 for the education sector

13 that targeted the social and community sector

24 for the health sector:

9 for food, commodities, production and supply

20 for those responsible for the physical environment

The examination by the Group showed that significant progress has been made on implementation of over 30% of these recommendations while partial implementation has occurred in another third and action is still progressing on 25%.

However the Report indicated that while significant progress had been made across all sectors, there is a continuing need for concerted action in order to halt the rise in obesity. The Group also gave some consideration to key priority areas for action in the short to medium term.These included measures to increase physical activity among children; continued awareness programmes on the dangers of excessive consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt; increased control on advertising and marketing of food and drinks aimed at children; and improved training for health professionals in obesity prevention and diagnosing and counselling those at risk of obesity.

The work of the Inter-sectoral Group on Obesity is currently being examined in the context of a wider review of the policy in relation to lifestyle-related illnesses to which obesity is a major contributory factor.

Medical Cards.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

65 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the average time it takes to process medical card applications in the centralised service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10542/10]

The Health Service Executive, with my full support, has decided to centralise the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications and renewals at its Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in Dublin.

The process commenced in January 2009 when the PCRS took over the processing of all medical card applications for persons aged 70 or over.

The second phase commenced in September 2009 with the transfer of the case load from two local health offices in Dublin (Dublin North West and Dublin Central) to the PCRS.

The HSE has advised that when fully implemented, the initiative to centralise the processing of all medical card and GP visit card applications and renewals will ensure improved turnaround times for processing of applications: under the new arrangements the HSE will be aiming for a turnaround time of 15 working days or less, with provision for emergency applications to be dealt with immediately.

The PCRS currently has responsibility for about 337,500 medical card clients aged 70 and over and over 90,000 medical card clients from the two local health offices, who qualified for their medical card under the general medical card scheme. This brings the total medical card population currently under PCRS management to 427,500, which represents almost 29% of the total medical card population (1,486,084).

The most recent figures provided to my Department by the HSE show that in 2009, the PCRS processed over 72,000 medical card applications. This included nearly 42,000 reviews. In relation to these reviews, 85% of cases where the required information was supplied were completed within 20 days and 95% within 30 days. The HSE has no control over delays where relevant information is not provided but it has confirmed that when the required information is received, the review is processed without further delay.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

66 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a medical card to those who suffer from motor neurone disease as a right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10431/10]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

80 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a medical card to those who have been affected by thalidomide as a right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10432/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 80 together.

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing the eligibility criteria for medical cards with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible, taking into account financial and medical need.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 53.

Legal Services.

Alan Shatter

Question:

68 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the details on Health Service Executive plans to set up its own law office while at the same time outsourcing its legal services needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10538/10]

The HSE currently outsources all its legal services. The Executive is now setting up a small legal office but will continue to outsource appropriate aspects of its legal services. The HSE expects this change to result in significant annual savings.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Question:

69 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to reform hospital laboratory services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10535/10]

Approximately 77 million laboratory tests are undertaken annually across 44 public hospitals. At present the annual cost of this service is approximately €470 million. The workload comprises both urgent and non-urgent tests and a significant proportion of the activity originates in the primary care setting.

An external review of laboratory services was conducted for the HSE by Teamwork Management Services in 2007. The review highlighted limitations in the current organisation of laboratories, which have an impact on quality, turnaround time and cost.

In light of the review, the HSE announced plans last year to modernise laboratory services and to introduce significant efficiencies in the configuration and operation of these services. The HSE has already had significant engagement with stakeholders in progressing this initiative. Groups such as the Faculty of Pathology, the Association of Clinical Biochemists and the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association will have an ongoing input into the process.

As part of this initiative, the HSE has commenced discussions with the National Development Finance Agency about the capital financing of a small number of dedicated "cold" laboratories to process the large volumes of routine patient tests currently undertaken in hospital laboratories. This will include a robust analysis of the cold laboratory business model from a ‘Value for Money' perspective.

I am also pleased to say that some improvements in laboratory service have taken place since the completion of the review. The number of individual laboratory disciplines which have been accredited has increased significantly. In addition, some reconfiguration of laboratory services has been achieved by transferring work undertaken in a number of small laboratories to larger laboratories. This allows for a higher level of throughput. I want to acknowledge the important role of staff and other stakeholders in effecting these changes and the shared commitment of all to the objective of high quality, cost effective laboratory services.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

70 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children if construction plans for the proposed new National Children’s Hospital have been affected by the current economic climate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10420/10]

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board was established in May 2007. Its primary function is to plan, design, build, furnish and equip the new National Paediatric Hospital. The framework brief was published in 2007. In 2008, the officers of the NPH Development Board were recruited. Business Management and Project Management Consultants were appointed in 2008/2009. The design brief for the new hospital and the paediatric ambulatory and urgent care centre at The Adelaide and Meath Hospital Dublin incorporating the National Children's Hospital in Tallaght has been developed. It is planned to progress this centre in the same manner and in the same timescale as the main hospital development. A design team was appointed in late 2009. The design fees reflect the current economic climate and are line with the Board's expectations. The design team has commenced the exemplar design which will form the basis of the design/build tender documentation. A definitive estimate of the projected development costs will be available when this stage is completed. Enabling works and sub-structure works are scheduled to commence on site in late 2010.

Development of the hospital is expected to progress on schedule with the development costs reflecting the increased value for money currently applying to large construction contracts.

Hospital Accommodation.

James Bannon

Question:

71 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a 25-bed ward at Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin 12 remains closed in view of the fact that seriously ill children are waiting more than a year for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10462/10]

Each hospital funded by the HSE is required to deliver services within the financial allocation provided. In common with all hospitals, Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin is faced with the challenge of delivering a high quality service to its patients, while remaining within budget.

The priority of the HSE and hospital management at Our Lady's Children's Hospital is to ensure that services at the hospital are maintained at an optimum level and to protect patient care. The HSE is involved in ongoing discussions with hospital management regarding its 2010 financial allocation and Service Plan and the exact services to be provided in the hospital during the year will be addressed in this context.

The HSE is pursuing ways in which services across the three Dublin paediatric hospitals can best be coordinated, to avoid unnecessary duplication and to achieve savings that can be put back into patient care. A Paediatric Hospitals Operations Group has now been established for ongoing network management and enhanced integration of the three paediatric hospitals in advance of the transfer to the new paediatric hospital.

Health Warnings.

Richard Bruton

Question:

72 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children when legislation to introduce graphic images to cigarette packs will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10468/10]

Section 6 of the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act, 2009 provides for regulations to facilitate the introduction of the combined text and photo warnings on tobacco products. These regulations are currently being drafted.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 63.
Question No. 74 answered with Question No. 52.

Redress Schemes.

James Bannon

Question:

75 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects to receive the State Claims Agency report on a possible redress scheme for thalidomide victims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10461/10]

The information requested by the Deputy cannot be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil & Public Services Union (CPSU) and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU).

Health Service Staff.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

76 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the number of general practitioner training places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10472/10]

There are 12 GP specialist training programmes currently in operation, which are all of four years duration, two of which are spent in hospital posts, under the supervision of hospital consultants, and two years in an approved general practice at registrar level, under the supervision of a general practice trainer.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has reported to my Department that the number of General Practitioner (GP) training places is being increased from 120 per annum to 157 per annum, with effect from 1st July 2010. This increase has been brought about following collaboration between the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and the HSE.

The Executive has reported to my Department that the following are the enabling steps in this process:

Additional GP training places will be made available via a formal re-alignment of existing Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor's training posts to the ICGP training programme.

An additional GP training programme is being implemented in Dublin's North Inner City, an area identified by both the ICGP and the HSE as requiring additional GPs.

Forty-five additional GP trainers will be appointed to expand the number of general practice placements on training programmes, with a particular emphasis on areas of deprivation and GP shortage.

Training programmes will be restructured on a regional basis in line with the new HSE regional structures.

The additional training places will be allocated as appropriate to meet the projected needs of the regions as informed by work force planning exercises.

Mental Health Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

77 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill will be published; if it will address issues of consent to treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10433/10]

It is proposed to make a number of minor technical amendments to the Mental Health Act 2001 later this year and in this regard, the heads of a bill are currently in preparation. However, a major review of the Act is scheduled to be undertaken in 2011 and the issue of consent to treatment will be among the matters to be considered in that context. Legislation on mental capacity, currently in preparation by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will also be relevant in this regard.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Simon Coveney

Question:

78 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the findings of the recently published report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which found that there has been an increase in the number of patients waiting 12 hours or more between 2008 and 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10481/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

120 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take to address the continuing problems in our public hospital accident and emergency departments as highlighted in the recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10449/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 120 together.

The recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, which I welcomed, highlighted a number of important ways in which services to patients at Emergency Departments can be improved. Many of the findings are being addressed by the HSE in the context of its National Service Plan 2010. The actions include improving access to diagnostics, proactive discharge planning, improving average length of stay, increasing day cases, same day admissions and improving the waiting time for patients following a decision to admit.

The report highlights important issues about how we devote our resources to emergency care and how we can get the best possible outcome for patients. The report is very much in line with the steps already underway by the HSE to reduce waiting times for patients and improve the efficiency of Emergency Departments.

While the report rightly points to unacceptable waiting times for patients waiting to be admitted, it is important to note that:

94% of patients who donot require admission were treated and discharged within the HSE’s maximum target of 6 hours last year.

87% ofall patients at EDs (whether admitted or not) were treated and admitted or discharged within 6 hours.

54% of patients needing admission get a bed within 6 hours. While this remains an area of continuing attention, it has improved from just 40% in February 2009.

The key issues raised by the report are being addressed as a matter of priority. Specifically:

Clinical Directors have been appointed to each acute hospital, and will play a pivotal role in the organisation of effective ED services that meet patients' needs without delay.

The new consultant contract is based on a consultant-delivered service, which will help improve access to senior clinical decision making and help patients move through the service as quickly as possible.

There has been significant capital investment in Emergency Departments to improve both the fabric of the units and their capacity to meet patients' needs effectively. There has also been investment in the provision of Medical Assessment Units.

There has been substantial investment in services that reduce the need for hospital admission, including primary care teams, home care packages and home helps.

The Fair Deal scheme will help reduce delays in discharging patients from hospital, alleviating pressures on beds. The Minister has provided €97m for the scheme this year.

We need efficiencies throughout the health system. The C&AG's report raises important questions about the ratio of staff to patients in different EDs which will be pursued in detail by the HSE.

My Department will continue to work with the HSE to address the issues raised in the report.

In relation to ED waiting times overall, I have held a series of meetings with HSE senior management to review progress and discuss next steps.

Question No. 79 answered with Question No. 55.
Question No. 80 answered with Question No. 66.

Hospital Facilities.

Denis Naughten

Question:

81 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when sterilisation facilities at Roscommon County Hospital will be upgraded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10267/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Due to industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response within the normal timeframe.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

82 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications that have been processed for the fair deal scheme since its inception; the approximate time it takes to process an application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10427/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

83 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the assessment that has been made on the likely number of extra people who will qualify for a medical card in 2010; the funding that has been provided for this purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10441/10]

The Health Service Executive's Service Plan for 2010 shows the projected cost in 2010 of the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, which includes the medical card and GP visit card benefits, as €2.032 billion. The Service Plan also projects increases in medical card and GP visit card numbers of 144,000 and 16,111 respectively for 2010. These targets are based on trends in the last quarter of 2009, including the current economic situation and increases in numbers on the live register.

Primary Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

84 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children report on primary care; the action she proposes to take in response to its recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10448/10]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

90 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the consideration that has been given to the proposals from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children regarding primary care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10437/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 90 together.

I welcome the recent publication of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children Report onPrimary Medical Care in the Community. The Report contains a wide range of recommendations in relation to the further development and the role of Primary Care Teams and Centres. My Department will consider the Report’s recommendations in conjunction with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Finance and other relevant Government Departments.

Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 63.

Industrial Relations.

John O'Mahony

Question:

86 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is seeking to re-engage with the trade union on implementing a reform plan for the health service which was agreed in principle in December 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10528/10]

The HSE and my Department are monitoring the evolving situation regarding this industrial action carefully, in close co-operation with the Department of Finance.

The action, which is underway across the public service, has the potential to cause serious disruption in the health sector, depending on its scope and scale. My main concern is to ensure that the effect of the dispute on patient care is minimised as much as possible and, so far, this has been achieved. The Deputy will be aware that IMPACT commenced an intensification of the industrial action yesterday. This intensification includes the non-answering of telephone calls in certain locations across the HSE for certain periods, a refusal to carry out work of any vacant posts, non-cooperation with the HSE's reconfiguration programme and a refusal to deal with Parliamentary matters, including Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests. I regret that the union has taken this course of action and that members of the public have been inconvenienced as a result.

There is no doubt that, following a period of rapid increase in funding, the health services are now facing the challenge of managing within much tighter resource constraints. There is scope within our health system, by reforming the way services are delivered, to achieve more through greater efficiency and concentrating on services that contribute most to people's health and well-being. There is an onus on all concerned — Government, management, trade unions and employees — to find a way of engaging on the reforms which are needed to deliver better services to patients.

Medical Cards.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

87 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons whose medical cards are due for renewal need to reapply or if cards are automatically renewed when circumstances have not changed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10443/10]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has the operational responsibility for the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, which includes the medical card and GP visit card benefits. The HSE has informed my Department that when a medical card comes up for review, the current circumstances of the medical card holder are evaluated to ensure that they continue to hold eligibility, and that this involves a standard review process. Medical card reviews/renewal forms are issued to medical card clients three months in advance of their eligibility review date in order to give clients sufficient time to complete the review form and to provide the required evidence of income, etc.

Clients are requested to return completed review forms at least one month in advance of the review date in order to give the HSE sufficient time to carry out the review and/or to contact the client if the application is incomplete or further information is required. The HSE will issue a reminder letter to the client if the review form is not received by the Executive within one month of the review date. Where a review is not completed by the review date, it is HSE policy to extend the eligibility of the client until the review is carried out and a final decision is made on the client's eligibility status at that time.

The Executive has indicated to my Department that the majority of clients respond to the relevant requests in time, thus facilitating their eligibility status to be reviewed and a decision made on time. If a completed review form is not received by the Executive or a client does not provide the information required by the HSE to carry out the review within a period of months, the eligibility of the client may be suspended until an appropriate communication is received from the client, or from a person acting on their behalf.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

88 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department will develop a national strategy for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10444/10]

The Deputy will be aware that Government Policy is to support people including those suffering from all forms of dementia to live in dignity and independence in their own homes and communities for as long as possible and, where this is not possible, to support access to quality long-term residential care. Community supports have been enhanced over the years and increased levels of funding have been made available to develop a wide range of community based services, including for example community nursing, home help services and support to family carers.

Current policy on dementia is informed by a number of reports and strategies, principally the Action Plan on Dementia. However there is now a need to re-examine this issue and it is intended that preliminary work will be carried out in 2010 on scoping work for developing a Dementia Policy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

89 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed regional hospital for the north east region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10451/10]

It remains the intention of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to proceed with the development of the North East Regional Hospital as resources permit. I am advised by the HSE that alternative funding mechanisms such as Public Private Partnerships are currently being explored. In the interim the focus is on restructuring acute hospital services in the area concerned in line with its Transformation Programme and on ensuring that services in the area are organised in a way which optimises patient safety.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 84.

Organ Transplants.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

91 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of heart and lung transplants conducted here in 2009; if she is satisfied with the number of heart and lung transplants that took place in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10497/10]

James Reilly

Question:

144 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of heart and lung transplants conducted here in 2009; if she is satisfied with the number of heart and lung transplants that took place in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10867/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 144 together.

Heart and lung transplantation operations take place in the Mater Hospital Dublin. Eleven heart transplantation procedures were carried out in 2009; this compares with 4 heart transplants in 2008. Five lung transplantation procedures were carried out in 2009; this compares with 4 lung transplants in 2008. I am encouraged that the total number of heart and lung transplantation procedures doubled in 2009 to 16 transplants compared to 8 procedures in the previous year.

This performance should also be viewed in the context of the very strong overall performance of organ transplantation and donation in 2009. 172 kidney transplants were carried out in Beaumont Hospital in 2009, compared with 146 transplants in 2008. The 2009 figure is the highest level of kidney transplants ever achieved in the transplant programme. Kidney transplants have increased by 33% between 2005 and 2009. Ireland's deceased donation rate in 2009 is estimated to be about 20 deceased donors per million population, which should place Ireland in the top third of organ donation performance within Europe.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

92 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if all patients awaiting a colonscopy are seen within the 30 day target set by her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10494/10]

The matter raised by the Deputy relates to the provision of healthcare services and accordingly, I have asked the Health Service Executive (HSE) to respond directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Joe Carey

Question:

93 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children her views that vulnerable patients continue to be housed in archaic psychiatric institutions in which they fail to get adequate care and treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10474/10]

Our current model of mental health care is largely institutional based, and there are some 15 Victorian and older asylums still in use. However’A Vision for Change’ the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, provides a framework for action to develop a modern, high quality mental health service over a seven to ten year period and recommends that the remaining psychiatric hospitals should close and that patients should be relocated to more appropriate community based settings.

The mental health capital programme will provide the infrastructure necessary for the patient-centred, flexible community based service envisioned in ‘A Vision for Change’ and will facilitate the closure of the remaining hospitals. In this regard Budget 2010 provided for a multi-annual programme of capital investment to be funded from the proceeds of the sale of lands. In 2010 the HSE will dispose of surplus assets and reinvest an initial sum of €50 million in developing the new mental health infrastructure. Projects which will be progressed in 2010 include the development of an acute unit at Beaumont to replace the acute unit at of St Ita’s Portrane, the construction of a Community Nursing Unit in Clonmel which will enable St Luke’s Hospital to close later this year and the construction of a Community Nursing Unit in Mullingar to facilitate the closure of St Lomans’s Hospital.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

94 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her views that Ireland will be able to achieve the targets set in a draft report by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament to achieve 100% screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer by 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10424/10]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to a recent Draft Report by the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Public Safety which is a response to the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the European Union and the Partnership was established to support Member States by providing a framework for identifying and sharing information, capacity and expertise in cancer control, and by engaging relevant stakeholders across the EU in a collective effort.

The Commission's Communication on the Partnership set out a number of objectives for reducing the burden of cancer. In relation to early detection an Objective for Action is to achieve 100% population coverage of screening for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer as recommended in Council Recommendation 2003/878/EC. This Recommendation proposes that Member States offer screening for these cancers for specified age groups. A 2008 Report by the Commission found that overall only half the population who should be covered by screening according to the Recommendation actually were.

In Ireland, the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) has responsibility for the delivery of population based cancer screening programmes. Considerable progress has been made in recent years in expanding our cancer screening programmes and Government has made available more than €64 million this year for breast and cervical screening and for preparatory work for the national colorectal cancer screening programme.

CervicalCheck, the national cervical screening programme, was established nationwide in 2008. The programme provides free smear tests every three years to women aged 25 to 44 years of age and every five years for women aged 45 to 60. This is in accordance with the Recommendation (screening starting not before the age of 20 and not later than the age of 30). In 2009, around 280,000 women were screened.

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, provides free mammograms every two years for women aged 50 to 64. During 2009 BreastCheck reached all counties and over 122,000 women were screened. I expect this number to increase during 2010. The Council Recommendation is that mammography screening should be provided to women aged 50 to 69 years. It remains my intention to extend BreastCheck to women in the 65-69 age group as resources and capacity allow.

In January I announced the beginning of important work on a national colorectal cancer screening programme. Screening will commence in 2012 for all men and women aged between 60 and 69. This programme will be extended to all those aged 55 to 74 years of age as logistics and resources allow. Other countries including England, Sweden and Finland have aimed their programmes at this 60 to 69 year age group also. While the Council recommends that the colorectal screening test should be available for men and women aged 50 to 74, the Expert Advisory Group convened by HIQA agreed that the appropriate age range for a programme based on faecal testing is 55 to 74 years.

A key objective of our National Cancer Control Strategy is that Ireland will have a system of cancer control that reduces our cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality rates relative to other European countries. Prevention and early detection are vital components of this strategy. Screening has been a priority for the Government and approximately 400,000 women received free screening in the BreastCheck and CervicalCheck programmes in 2009. The commencement of colorectal screening for the 60 to 69 age group in 2012 will be a further important milestone in the implementation of the Strategy. As I have said, it is my intention to extend the age cohorts covered by breast and colorectal screening programmes in due course and to continue to build on the considerable progress already made by Ireland in regard to the provision of cancer screening.

Community Welfare Officers.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

95 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when the transfer of community welfare officers from her Department to the Department of Social and Family Affairs will take place; if she will give an assurance that the staff concerned will transfer without loss of rights and status; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10425/10]

The management of the Health Service Executive, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and my Department remain committed to implementing the Government decision, which was originally taken in 2006, to transfer the Community Welfare Service (CWS) from the Health Service Executive to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There have been prolonged periods of engagement with the health sector unions since that time but, to date, no agreement has been reached. The employment status of employees and their terms and conditions are just some of the issues which have already been identified and on which agreement will need to be reached with the relevant health sector unions, prior to the transfer of the CWS taking place.

Most recently, facilitated talks had begun under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, with a small sub-group, representative of management and unions, engaged in intensive discussions. However, both SIPTU and IMPACT informed the Labour Relations Commission, in January of this year, that they were not in a position to attend the conciliation conferences which had been scheduled to take place. This was due to the fact that they were to be engaged in intensive dialogue/consultation with their membership throughout the month of January, regarding the Government decision to reduce the remuneration of public servants.

Following this consultation, I understand that both unions have informed the LRC that they are unable to engage in these discussions, due to the ongoing industrial action across the public service. As a result of this development, these intensive talks in relation to the transfer of the CWS cannot now go ahead as planned. This decision by the unions is unwarranted, given the already unacceptable delays in implementing a Government decision that was taken nearly 4 years ago now. Ultimately, this transfer is one which will see the CWS being properly located in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, and will result in a better service for the public who avail of it.

National Drugs Strategy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

96 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce legislation to regulate head shops and the products sold within head shops; the timeframe for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10510/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

108 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the scope of the legislation regarding head shops which she has signalled for June 2010; the steps she has taken or will take to address this matter; if these will include studies on the health implications of the substances sold in such shops; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10450/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 108 together.

In the light of the health risks associated with some of the products being sold in so-called head shops, the Government has agreed to the introduction of regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which will introduce controls, similar to those introduced recently in the UK, on a range of substances which are currently on sale in head shops. In accordance with EU law, it will be necessary to notify the Commission of the proposed regulations in case they impact on legitimate industrial activities and this imposes a 3 month stand still period on implementation of the regulations. These regulations will make the possession and sale of these substances illegal and subject to criminal sanctions. Some of the substances in question have legitimate uses — for example, in the production of plastics and industrial solvents. It will be necessary to assess the level of use of these substances by industry in Ireland and the implications for industry of placing these substances under the ambit of Misuse of Drugs legislation.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and its associated regulations control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances listed in the Schedules to the Act. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with Ireland's obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland. Minister of State John Curran, who has responsibility for co-ordinating the National Drugs Strategy, has identified head shops as an area of concern, and is currently considering the options available to more effectively control the activities of head shops.

A Research Advisory Group (RAG) has been established to identify possible options for the regulation of head shops. The RAG held its first meeting on 13 January 2010. It has representatives from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children, the Health Research Board, Revenue Custom's Service, the Forensic State Laboratory and other relevant stakeholders. The RAG will report incrementally until its work is complete.

Proposed Legislation.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

97 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when legislation will be published to clarify eligibility for health and personal social services; the discussions she has had with representatives of health professionals and patient organisations on this proposed legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10426/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the current legislation for health and personal social services has been in place for many years and there is a need now to have a clear set of statutory provisions that ensure equity and transparency and to bring the system up to date with developments in service delivery and technology that have occurred since the Health Act 1970. Accordingly, work is underway in the Department on a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility and entitlement for health and personal social services. The legislation will define specific health and personal social services more clearly; set out who should be eligible for what services, as well as criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. As the Deputy will appreciate, this is a very complex undertaking as the current legislation has been in place since 1970, and there have been significant developments in services since then, with a growing emphasis on delivery of care in a community rather than institutional setting.

On completion of this undertaking, proposals will be brought to Government for approval. A decision will be taken at that point as to the nature of the consultative process to be undertaken.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

98 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the breast cancer family risk assessment clinic in Tallaght hospital, Dublin, has closed; the location at which patients who had attended this clinic will now receive this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10423/10]

The goals of the National Cancer Control Programme are improvements in cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survival through a national service based on evidence and best practice. Under the Programme, all cancer diagnostic, surgical and radiation oncology services are being transferred to four managed cancer control networks, each with two cancer centres. This process was completed in 2009 for breast cancer diagnostic and surgical services, all of which are now located in the eight centres.

The two cancer centres for the Dublin Mid-Leinster region are St.Vincent's University Hospital and St. James's Hospital. Accordingly, breast cancer diagnostic and surgical services, including family risk assessment services, at Tallaght have now been relocated to these two centres. All women who were attached to the Tallaght breast service, and their GPs, have been written to and have been transferred back to their GP or to St. Vincent's University Hospital or St. James's Hospital, as appropriate.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Phil Hogan

Question:

99 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children if pharmacists will be reimbursed for the full cost of drugs purchased prior to the 1 February 2010 when the new lower rates were applied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10505/10]

The Minister for Finance announced in the Budget in early December last that there would be savings in the price of drugs and medicines. I and my officials also discussed the matter with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) and the IPU were fully aware of the impending price cuts. In fact, the price cuts were delayed from 1 January until 1 February to allow, at the request of the IPU, pharmacists to apply stock control measures in advance of impending cuts. I have been advised by the manufacturers and wholesalers that the community pharmacy sector had run down stocks in advance of price cuts.

As all parties have been previously advised, pharmacists will be reimbursed by the Health Service Executive from 1 February using the new rates.

Hospital Staff.

Michael Creed

Question:

100 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details of a recent meeting she had with employees and union representatives of Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe and Roscommon Hospital regarding the Health Service Executive restructuring programme; the details of her plans regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10483/10]

Denis Naughten

Question:

103 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the structural management changes at Roscommon Hospital and at Portiuncula Hospital, County Galway; if she will issue a direction to have this decision changed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10266/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 103 together.

The HSE plans to recruit a General Manager with responsibility for Galway University Hospitals, Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital. The recruitment of a General Manager with responsibility for the three hospitals involves the expansion of the current post of General Manager at Galway University Hospitals. This is designed to improve management processes, promote good co-ordination between hospitals and to improve services for patients. The development is not about downgrading any hospital or reducing its service. It is in line with the greater collaboration between Roscommon and Portiuncula in the provision of services that has been taking place over recent years, for example, in the re-configuration that is underway of the surgical and anaesthetic departments of the two hospitals into a Joint Department of Surgery and Anaesthesia.

The appointment of a General Manager with responsibility for the three hospitals concerned is also in line with the approach on the governance of acute hospitals recommended in the Health Information and Quality Authority's Report on Quality and Safety of Services at the Mid Western Regional Hospital Ennis, which was published in April 2009. This report identified the importance of integrated governance across hospital networks as an important way to ensure higher quality services for patients.

The HSE is committed to full engagement with all stakeholders in relation to the General Manager post. The final interviews for the General Manager post will not be held until the competition to appoint a Regional Director of Operations in HSE West is concluded. This means that the Regional Director can take an active part in the selection process.

I attended a meeting with HSE, hospital staff and union representatives on the 19th February 2010 at Portiuncula Hospital at which the HSE plan was discussed. The HSE gave an assurance to staff and union representatives at the meeting that the Executive would arrange a meeting to discuss the context of the appointment of the General Manager. I understand that the HSE has contacted the unions to make the necessary arrangements in this regard.

I am satisfied that the plan to recruit a General Manager with responsibility for Galway University Hospitals, Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital will enhance the capacity for collaboration in service provision, will provide a more strategic approach to the management of the hospitals concerned and will ensure the provision of better and safer services to the people of the region.

Proposed Legislation.

Joan Burton

Question:

101 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in drafting the proposed National Vetting Bureau Bill; if the consultation phase of preparation for the legislation has been completed; if discussions have been held with authorities in Northern Ireland and other EU jurisdictions regarding the Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10434/10]

The Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is drafting the Heads for the National Vetting Bureau Bill. It is expected that the Heads of Bill will be submitted to Government in the coming weeks. Formal consultations have taken place with the Health Service Executive, An Garda Síochána and colleagues in other Government Departments. My Department has also received a number of public representations on the issue of "soft" information.

This area has also been considered by the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment for Children and the findings of the Committee are being considered in the preparation of the legislation. In relation to international consultation, there is ongoing contact with colleagues in the Civil Service and Police Service in Northern Ireland in relation to the legislation. In addition, the Garda Síochána have regular international contact in the area of vetting and they are bringing this experience to bear on the development of the Heads of Bill.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

102 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce reference pricing; when this will be introduced; the estimated savings from same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10507/10]

The Government has approved my proposal to introduce a system of reference pricing combined with generic substitution under the GMS and community drugs schemes. Reference pricing involves setting a common reimbursement price for groups of substitutable drugs. This will promote price competition in the Irish market and deliver ongoing savings for both the State and for patients.

A working group, comprising of officials from my Department and the HSE, and chaired by Mr Mark Moran, is setting out proposed steps for implementing this initiative. I expect to see significant progress on this in 2010, including the identification and implementation of legislative and administrative changes required to give it effect from the start of 2011.

Reference pricing will deliver direct savings by limiting reimbursement to the level of the lowest priced product within a reference group. Indirect savings will also occur as a result of increased price competition. The level of savings will depend upon a range of factors. These include the number and type of products included in reference groups, the relative and absolute prices of products within reference groups and the market response for each reference group. The working group is considering all of these factors and will recommend a model that will deliver value for money and ensure continuity of supply of medicines. It is anticipated that reference pricing will be initially targeted at high volume products that have the potential to achieve significant savings. It is also of strategic importance that this model is in place as a significant number of drugs are due to come off patent in the coming years.

Question No. 103 answered with Question No. 100.

Departmental Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

104 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if bonuses will be authorised for staff in her Department or in the Health Service Executive in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10417/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the Performance Related Awards Scheme (PRA) which was introduced following a decision by the Government on the implementation of Report No. 38 of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector in 2000. This Scheme, in the Civil Service, applied at the level of Deputy and Assistant Secretary and related grades. On 5th February 2009, the Minister for Finance announced in the Dáil the discontinuation of the scheme within the Civil Service. Performance Related Awards have also been abolished for related grades in the wider public service including the Health Service Executive.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the degree to which her hospital co-location programme has been put in place; the extent to which the administrative issues including title have been completed; the cost to date in 2010; the value of commitments entered into; the extent of discussions under way; the likely cost implications for the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10545/10]

The Renewed Programme for Government re-affirms the Government's commitment to the current co-location programme. Preferred bidders have been selected for six co-located projects at Beaumont, Cork University, Limerick Regional, St. James's, Sligo and Waterford Regional Hospitals. Project agreements have been signed for the Beaumont, Cork, Limerick and St James's projects. Planning permission has been granted for the first three of these projects. Planning permission has been granted by the local authority for the St James's project The grant of planning has recently been appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Two other projects are at earlier stages of the procurement process.

The co-location programme is a complex public procurement process. It is a matter for each successful bidder to arrange its finance under the terms of the relevant Project Agreement. The co-location initiative, like other major projects, has to deal with the changed funding environment. The HSE is continuing to work with the successful bidders to provide whatever assistance it can to help them advance the projects.

The HSE is required to undertake a rigorous value for money assessment of each co-location project. Projects, in order to proceed, must meet a rigorous value for money test which accords with a Public Sector Benchmark. This test is then verified by the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) which acts as advisor to the Department of Health and Children. The HSE and NDFA have confirmed that the tenders received for the six projects where preferred bidders have been selected accorded with the Public Sector Benchmark. As they proceed the projects must continue to demonstrate value for money. There is a requirement on each of the preferred bidders to pay a non-refundable deposit to the HSE on the signing of the project agreement. The intention of this requirement is to allow the HSE to recoup the expenses that it has incurred in this context.

The Finance Act 2009 provides for the termination of the schemes of capital allowances for private hospitals and certain other health facilities, subject to transitional arrangements for projects already in development. Provided that a hospital project conforms to the requirements of these transitional arrangements, and otherwise satisfies the general requirements of the scheme of capital allowances, the tax relief will apply. This includes co-location projects should they wish to arrange their financing on the basis of the capital allowances scheme.

No tax expenditure has been incurred so far and none will be incurred until construction is completed and services are opened. The value of the tax relief in each case will depend on the level of qualifying capital expenditure. I would add that additional revenues will accrue to the Exchequer from the extra activity generated by the construction of the hospitals, the employment arising and the related services provided on which taxes will be paid.

Under the Project Agreements agreed with the HSE, the land on which the Hospitals will be built by the successful bidders, are subject to a 65-year lease from the State at full market value. The intention is that no land will be sold to the successful bidders. This efficient utilization of public resources means that the State will receive an income for land over the 65 year period.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

106 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the fair deal scheme; the number of applications to this scheme; the number of applications approved for this scheme; the number of applications awaiting approval for this scheme; the average time to approve an applicant; the number of appeals; the average time to process an appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10519/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liz McManus

Question:

107 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will roll out the cervical cancer vaccine; if she will confirm that arrangements will be put in place with all schools in order to administer the vaccine in autumn 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10445/10]

I requested the HSE to initiate a tendering process for the procurement of a HPV vaccine with a view to commencing a HPV vaccination programme for all girls in first year in secondary school and this process has now been completed. The programme will be delivered, commencing this year, from the extra resources committed in this year's budget to the overall Cancer Programme.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 96.

Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

109 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made in implementing the recommendations of the orthodontic review group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10422/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

110 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she will take to address the situation whereby there were 611 delayed discharges of patients from hospitals in 2007 and 733 in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10454/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to public service industrial action involving members of IMPACT, the Department has not been in a position to obtain current information from the HSE in relation to delayed discharge numbers in the acute hospital system.

The HSE has taken a series of steps across the health system to shift the balance of care from acute hospitals to community based alternatives and to improve the way in which hospitals operate. These steps include the development of more enhanced community based services, Primary Care Teams, Community Intervention Teams, Rapid Access Clinics, Home Helps and Home Care Packages. The actions are designed to provide care for patients outside the acute setting where appropriate.

The National Code of Practice for Integrated Discharge Planning was introduced last year to target difficulties in the discharge of patients from an acute setting. It will be accompanied by significant changes to internal hospitals processes, work practices and behaviours. Those changes will involve developing the role of nursing in supporting more efficient processes at ward and overall bed management level and improving patient flow in, through and out of the hospital system. The Code also requires changes in clinical practice in terms of scheduling ward rounds to facilitate appropriate and timely clinical review of all patients, seven-day discharging, improving access to senior clinicians, improved tracking and follow up of tests and procedures and improving communication between teams and with patients.

Since the introduction last year of Fair Deal, the Nursing Home Support Scheme, there is no longer an incentive for patients in hospital following completion of the acute phase of their treatment to seek a publicly funded long-term care bed as opposed to a bed in the private sector. A person will make the same contribution towards their care costs, based on an ability to pay, regardless of whether they enter a public or private long-term care facility. At my request, the HSE has streamlined the administrative process for dealing with applications under the Fair Deal so that patients' discharge to a suitable long-stay facility is not delayed unnecessarily.

The HSE Directorate of Quality and Clinical Care will be establishing Clinical care programmes in key health service areas with national clinical leadership. These programmes will have a significant focus on increasing the efficiency of hospital bed use by moving care out into the community, same day admission and increasing day case care.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

111 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will protect the funding of the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association from cutbacks in view of the vital services the association provides for those who suffer from motor neurone disease and their carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10439/10]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

112 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children when the practice of placing children and adolescents with mental health problems in adult wards will end; the plans for the period 2010 to 2015 in respect of child and adolescent psychiatric beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10416/10]

The Mental Health Commission has issued a code of practice relating to the admission of children under the Mental Health Act 2001 which outlines arrangements and facilities that should be put in place to ensure the protection and safety of such children. An addendum to this code of practice was issued by the Commission in June 2009 and provides that;

(a) No child under 16 years is to be admitted to an adult unit in an approved centre from 1st July 2009;

(b) No child under 17 years is to be admitted to an adult unit in an approved centre from 1st December 2010; and

(c) No child under 18 years is to be admitted to an adult unit in an approved centre from 1st December 2011.

If, in exceptional circumstances, the admission of a child to an adult unit in an approved centre occurs, the approved centre is obliged to submit a detailed report to the Mental Health Commission outlining why the admission has taken place.

The HSE has prioritised the development of mental health services for children and adolescents. During 2009 the bed capacity for children and adolescents almost doubled, bringing the total number of in-patient beds to 30. In addition, construction commenced on two purpose built 20-bed units in Cork and Galway. The Deputy's query regarding plans for child and adolescent psychiatric beds from 2010 to 2015 has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

113 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if she sanctioned the removal of services from St. Davnet’s Hospital, County Monaghan, to the basement of Cavan General Hospital; her views on the fact that this is totally against the agreed Cavan and Monaghan hospital approach and is now seen by Monaghan as a takeover; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10264/10]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Martin Ferris

Question:

114 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital admissions that will be reduced as a result of the implementation of the Health Service Executive service plan for 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10453/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Adoption Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

115 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the response of the Health Service Executive to the requests to do everything possible to reduce the waiting times and assessment times for prospective adoptive parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10369/10]

Applicants for adoption must undergo a detailed statutory assessment process. This is undertaken by professional Social Workers and must be approved by the Adoption Board before a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability to adopt can be issued by the Board. I acknowledge that persons applying for adoption have experienced unacceptably long delays as regards waiting times for assessment. I have asked the Health Service Executive to do everything possible to reduce waiting times and assessment times for prospective adopters. Section 37 of the Adoption Bill 2009 provides for accredited bodies to carry out aspects of the adoption process, including assessment, on behalf of the HSE.

Departmental Staff.

Willie Penrose

Question:

116 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to reduce or redeploy staff in her Department in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10418/10]

Staffing levels for my Department over the coming years are currently the subject of discussion with the Department of Finance. The agreed levels will be set out in an Employment Control Framework covering the period 2010-2012 and will include targeted staffing levels for each year in question.

Organ Transplants.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

117 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons waiting for kidney transplants here; her views on whether she accepts that it is not acceptable that kidneys available for such operations are sent abroad; and the steps she proposes to put in place to ensure that this does not happen again. [10370/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

National Nutrition Policy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

118 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children when the national nutrition policy will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10428/10]

A national nutrition strategy framework is being developed by my Department but it is not possible at this stage to say when it will be published. However, a number of the strands which will form part of an overall strategy in relation to nutrition have been developed and continue to be developed on an ongoing basis. These include the issue of guidelines on nutrition and healthy eating to specific groups such as hospitals and schools.

Hospital Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

119 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical assessment units in place in acute hospitals; if an audit has been carried out on the way these units have affected waiting times in accident and emergency departments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10421/10]

The latest information from the Health Service Executive (5 February 2010) indicates that there are Medical Assessment Units at the following locations:

Dublin North Hospitals Group

Beaumont Hospital

Dublin North East

Our Lady's Hospital, Navan

Cavan General Hospital

West/North West

University Hospital, Galway

Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar

Letterkenny General Hospital

Roscommon County Hospital

Sligo General Hospital

South East Hospitals Group

Waterford Regional Hospital

St. Luke's Hospital Kilkenny

South Tipperary General Hospital

Wexford General Hospital has a medical admissions unit

Mid Western Hospitals Group

Mid Western Regional Hospitals at Dooradoyle

Ennis

Nenagh

St. John's Hospital Limerick

Dublin Midlands Hospital Group

AMNCH Tallaght Hospital (39 bed short acute care unit)

Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar

Dublin South Hospitals Group

St. James' Hospital

Southern Hospitals Group

Kerry General Hospital

Bantry General Hospital

Operational decisions in relation to the auditing such Units are matters of service for the HSE and have been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 78.

School Curriculum.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

121 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the consultations she has had with the Department of Education and Science on the content and delivery of health and sexuality education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10438/10]

Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is embedded in the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum in primary schools and in junior cycle. In senior cycle, schools are required to deliver an RSE programme. The content of the SPHE programme, including RSE, is agreed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children work in partnership in relation to the promotion and protection of the health of children and young people in the school setting in the context of curriculum development, teacher education and related policy development. An Inter-Departmental Group, comprising representatives from both Departments and the Health Service Executive, is in place to facilitate this partnership. All areas of SPHE in schools are overseen by the SPHE Management Committee at post primary level and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) at primary level. The SPHE Management Committee and the PCSP National Co-ordinator report to the Inter-Departmental Group on a periodic basis. The Inter-Departmental Group continues to meet on a regular basis.

Medical Cards.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

122 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to leave a frontline service in place for medical card applicants in the context of centralisation of the processing of these cards to enable applicants to discuss their applications directly with Health Service Executive staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10442/10]

I wrote to all Oireachtas members on 19th January 2010 regarding the Health Service Executive's decision to centralise the processing of all medical card applications and reviews and I outlined a range of measures being employed by the Executive to address issues arising from this initiative and I also referred to the various enhancements that this process will facilitate upon completion.

As indicated in my letter, the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) has put in place a national on-line facility which allows local health offices to track the current status of applications and reviews being dealt with by the PCRS.

The HSE has advised my Department that there are no plans to close any of the local health offices and these offices will continue to deal with queries of a general nature about the medical card scheme and provide any assistance needed to medical card applicants.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 57.

Public Sector Reform.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

124 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the main findings of the assessment undertaken under the Organisational Review Programme; the steps she plans to take arising from these findings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10045/10]

At the request of the Department of Health and Children, a review of the Department was carried out last year under the Organisational Review Programme (ORP). The report of this review was received about four weeks ago and the Department is now preparing an Action Plan which will set out its response to the ORP conclusions. The report and action plan will be published in due course along with similar reports and action plans for other Government Offices, following submission to the Government.

The ORP is a public service modernisation initiative under the auspices of the Department of the Taoiseach. It involves assessing the capacity of individual Department's and major Offices to meet their challenges over the coming years. It is essentially a management tool which can be used by Departments to help them improve their performance.

While it would be inappropriate to comment on the report in advance of its consideration by Government and publication, the Department has already made it clear that it welcomes this report and is satisfied that it provides a timely and helpful review.

The report acknowledges the Department's strengths and achievements including, in particular, the ability and commitment of its staff in dealing with a difficult agenda.

It also identifies areas which require improvement, including the need to:

clarify its roles and responsibilities particularly vis-à-vis the HSE;

manage delivery by its agencies through stronger goal setting, output and outcome measurement and performance management;

define its customers and stakeholders more clearly and align itself to serving these appropriately; and

improve its human resource capacities.

I am confident the Department will respond effectively to the ORP and will use it, as intended, to build on its undoubted strengths and to further improve its performance in these changing and challenging times.

Work Permits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new work permits issued in each employment category since introduction of the revised scheme in June 2009; the corresponding number of exceptional cases granted new permits in each category; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10629/10]

The majority of permits now being issued are for non-EEA nationals already in the country — categorised either as renewal of existing permits or new permits for individuals changing jobs. Given the relatively high level of unemployment and availability of labour supply at all levels, there can be little grounds to justify the open-ended availability of new employment permits for non-EEA nationals. 7,962 employment permits were issued in 2009 down from 13,567 in 2008.

The other information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and will be provided at a later date.

Job Protection.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

126 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she will take to protect jobs at a company (details supplied) in County Louth; her views on the recent job loss announcement at this plant; her plans to provide additional jobs in Dunleer, County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10652/10]

I have asked the relevant State Agencies operating under the auspices of my Department to offer their services to the workers concerned.

Appointments to State Boards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

127 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the competencies sought from applicants for appointment to the FÁS board and the weighting attached to each competency. [10666/10]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

128 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedures adopted in deciding appointments to the FÁS board, the composition of any panel appointed to assist the selection and the recommendations of any such panel. [10667/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 128 together.

Following the publication of an advertisement in the national press the Department received 127 expressions of interest in relation to membership of the restructured Board of FÁS. The advertisement set out the criteria required for suitable applicants. Specifically, to qualify for appointment, a person must not have had any conflicts of interest likely to interfere with his/her ability to play a full part on the Board. Furthermore, a person must have had possession of expertise and experience at a senior level in one or more of the following areas: the functions of FÁS, or finance, trade, commerce, corporate governance or public administration.

A selection team comprising officials from my Department and an official from the Public Appointments Service was put in place. The selection team ranked the applications and this resulted in the drawing up of a shortlist of 28 of the most suitable candidates, which were submitted to me for my consideration. Five members of the Board, including the Chair, were selected from the shortlist.

Following consultation with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and the Minister for Education and Science, as required by the Labour Services (Amendment) Act 2009, I then appointed all of the 11 current members to the Board of FÁS. These included the present Director General as an ex-officio member as provided for in the Act.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

129 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason for changing the practice in 1990 of appointing a chief executive officer of a State sponsored body as chairperson of ANCO and FÁS to one of making an appointment from the social partners. [10668/10]

Schedule 1 of the Labour Services Act, 1987, as amended, provides for the appointment of the Board of FÁS including its Chairperson. Each appointment to the Office of Chairperson has been based on the view that the person appointed possessed the right qualities to oversee the work and future strategy of the Agency.

Redundancy Payments.

Catherine Byrne

Question:

130 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 is entitled to statutory redundancy; the way they can access this payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10669/10]

I can advise the Deputy that my Department does not have on record an application for statutory redundancy in relation to the individual concerned.

Under the Redundancy Payments Scheme all eligible employees are entitled to a statutory redundancy lump sum payment on being made redundant. Statutory Redundancy is an employment right, and is available to any employee over the age of 16 who is a class A contributor in insurable employment for two years prior to the date of termination. An employee is entitled to two weeks pay for every year of service, plus a bonus week, subject to a maximum of €600 gross weekly pay. A redundancy situation arises in general where an employee's job no longer exists and he/she is not replaced. It is up to the employer concerned in the first instance to determine whether or not in fact a redundancy situation obtains and to submit to my Department an application form (RP50) completed and signed as appropriate by the employer and employee. This form can be downloaded from the Department's website at www.entemp.ie. Disputes in relation to statutory redundancy entitlement can be referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) for adjudication.

If it is the case that the individual considers that an entitlement to statutory redundancy exists and he has sought and been refused statutory redundancy, it might be prudent at this stage for the individual concerned to bring an appeal for a determination in his favour directly to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). It is important to note that an employee must make application for a redundancy payment or seek a determination from the EAT within twelve months of ceasing his employment, though the EAT has the power to extend the deadline from 52 weeks to 104 weeks. The 52 week deadline applies both to the making of a claim to the employer and to the making of a claim to the EAT in a situation where the employer disputes payment of redundancy.

A claim can be made to the EAT by submitting a form called a T1-A directly to the Tribunal. These forms can be obtained from the EAT website http://www.eatribunal.ie.

Mary Upton

Question:

131 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if employees of a company (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be given their full entitlements following redundancy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10671/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department has received four statutory lump sum claims in respect of former employees of the company concerned over the period July 2009 to February, 2010 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer.

I understand that all outstanding queries raised with the employer in relation to the claims have now been resolved and that payment is expected to issue in relation to three of the four claims over the next one to two weeks. Payment of the claim in respect of one individual not due to terminate employment until towards the end of March cannot be processed at this point but will be paid out after the date of termination of employment.

In relation to the Insolvency Payments Scheme which is operated under the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act, 1984 and administered by my Department, this provides for the payment of certain wage-related entitlements where an employee's employment is terminated as a result of the employer's insolvency. These entitlements include arrears of wages, sick pay, holiday pay, minimum notice, etc. However, claims under the Scheme can only be processed if a company is formally insolvent within the definition of the Act and a "relevant officer" — normally a receiver or liquidator — has been appointed and certifies the claims. To date, my Department has not received any claims under the Scheme from the company in question but, as the Deputy has pointed out, given that the company is neither in liquidation or receivership, claims under the Scheme could not be processed.

Where a company has made employees redundant and has not paid them their outstanding Holiday Pay and Minimum Notice, the employee may refer a complaint against that company to a Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973.

A complaint to the Rights Commissioner Service may be made by giving them notice of it in writing on the appropriate form. The form is available from the Rights Commissioner Service or from Information Services in the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). Such a complaint must be made within a period of 6 months beginning on the date of the contravention to which the complaint relates. If the Rights Commissioner is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances s/he may decide to extend the period for up to a further 6 months.

The employees also have a right of appeal to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Appointments to State Boards.

Pat Breen

Question:

132 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the appointments or nominations made by her to bodies, boards or organisations under the aegis of her Department since 1 January 2009 and to date in 2010; the method used in selecting persons for such appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10684/10]

In the time available it has not been possible to gather all the information requested.

Community Employment Schemes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

133 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the cost of increasing the number of community employment places by 5,000; and the cost of increasing the number of places by 10,000. [10735/10]

Based on current expenditure levels for existing places the estimated cost of increasing the number of Community Employment places by 5,000 would be around €84 million. To double this increase to 10,000 places would therefore cost approximately €168 million.

Redundancy Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

134 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a person (details supplied) will be awarded their full redundancy payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10751/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. There are two types of redundancy payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation.

I can confirm that my Department received a statutory lump sum claim for the individual concerned on 11 November, 2008 claiming inability to pay on behalf of the employer.

In this case, as in all cases where the employer claims inability to pay the employee(s) statutory redundancy, the Department requires the employer to provide sufficient proof to substantiate the claim. In this case, adequate supporting documentation from the employer was not submitted.

In the absence of the necessary documentation being submitted, the employee was advised by my Department to take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) against the employer to seek a determination establishing the employee's right and entitlement to redundancy. Once such a determination is available, this allows the Department to make payment to the employee concerned. Should the outstanding documentation be provided by the employer during the period while the case is pending a hearing before the EAT, this would allow the claim to be processed by my Department in the usual way.

I am advised that the individual lodged a claim with the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) on 17 September, 2009 to seek a determination establishing the employee's right and entitlement to redundancy against his former employer. If a positive determination is given by the EAT in this case, my Department will be able to make payment directly to the employee concerned shortly thereafter.

I understand however that in relation to the area concerned in the case of this individual, there is currently a 45-week waiting period for EAT hearings. Given this backlog of cases pending, it is estimated that a hearing in this case should take place in late August or early September 2010.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent, quasi-judicial body under the aegis of my Department. Secretarial and administrative support is provided by Departmental staff. I understand that the number of claims to the Tribunal up to December 2009, compared with the same period last year, has doubled. Additional administrative resources have been allocated to the Tribunal to help it process claims. I will be keeping the matter under review and will take further action if possible within the constraints which exist in relation to resources.

EU Directives.

Michael Creed

Question:

135 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the services directive; the impact this will have on the Casual Trading Act particularly in the context of Article 12 of the services directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10901/10]

The Regulations to bring the Services Directive [Directive 2006/123/EC] into law are well advanced. My Department is working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel with a view to completing the legislation as soon as possible.

The regulation of casual trading by local authorities under the Casual Trading Act, 1995 is an "authorisation scheme" under the terms of the Directive. Therefore the obligations imposed by the Directive fall to be carried out by the local authorities. Article 12 of the Directive is concerned with the selection of candidates for authorisations (or in this context casual trading licences) in a situation where authorisations are limited for whatever reason. A selection procedure for choosing authorisations have to be devised by local authorities which must be impartial and transparent. It is a matter for each local authority to devise such selection procedures.

Replies to Questions Nos. 136 to 140, inclusive, not received from the Department.

Flood Relief.

John O'Mahony

Question:

141 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the works proposed to ensure that flooding will not take place in Hollymount, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10900/10]

John O'Mahony

Question:

142 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Finance the works that are proposed to ensure flooding will not take place in Roundfort, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10903/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 142 together.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently responded to the proposals of the Office of Public Works for flood mitigation works at Hollymount and Roundfort. The NPWS response, which expresses concern in relation to environmental impacts of elements of the proposed works, is currently being considered.

Youth Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

143 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if sufficient funding will be provided for a youth service (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [10632/10]

The Children and Youth Services Development Unit of my Office provided a grant of €111,586 to the Bru Youth Service under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme and current funding of €241,500 under the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (Round 2 funding stream) in 2009.

The budget for 2010 for the Children and Youth Services Development Unit is €64.89m. The process of determining my Office's financial allocations for 2010 is under way. As in 2009, the focus will be on consolidating, insofar as possible, existing provision and services to minimise the impact of reductions in funding across a number of schemes and programmes under my remit. Every effort will be made to notify the various youth work organisations and administering agencies of their 2010 allocations as speedily as possible.

Question No. 144 answered with Question No. 91.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent the recent measures to centralise administration in respect of rent or mortgage allowances has affected customer access; if adequate staff have been made available to meet customer requirements; the measures proposed to ensure that applicants for such payments have their requirements met with the least hardship to themselves or their families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9035/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Richard Bruton

Question:

146 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the current state of waiting lists for orthodontic services in Dublin and in the rest of the country; if these waiting lists have grown as persons can no longer afford the high cost of private work; if she has proposals to improve the capacity of the public service to meet the growing demand by making a special application to fill vacant posts or by other methods; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10622/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Medical Cards.

Mary Upton

Question:

147 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if the refusal of a medical card to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10637/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Service Staff.

Bobby Aylward

Question:

148 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to make records of mileage available to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who is employed by the Health Service Executive and needs such records for income tax purposes. [10643/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Controlled Substances.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

149 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans on revisiting the listing of benzylpiperazine as a single addition to Schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and substituting a generic listing that will include BZP and all related substances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10678/10]

Benzylpiperazine -1(BZP-1), which had been on sale in so-called ‘head shops', was declared a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 in March 2009. The possession and sale of BZP-1 is illegal and subject to criminal sanctions. As part of the regulations which my Department are drafting this month to introduce controls on a range of substances which are currently on sale in head shops, I intend to include a generic definition of piperazines, which will control all piperazines, other than BZP-1, which is already controlled.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

150 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of beds that are closed in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee, County Louth; the locations to which these beds are being transferred; if this is a permanent transfer of beds from this hospital; her plans to close St Joseph’s Hospital permanently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10693/10]

The information requested by the Deputy cannot be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil and Public Services Union (CPSU) and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU).

Preschool Services.

John Deasy

Question:

151 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application under the early childhood care and education scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford. [10729/10]

I have responsibility for implementation of the free Pre-School Year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme which was introduced in January of this year. The scheme is open to children who are aged more than 3 years and 2 months and less than 4 years 7 months at 1 September each year. This means that children born between 2 February 2005 and 30 June 2006 qualified for a free pre-school place in January of this year and children born between 2 February 2006 and 30 June 2007 will qualify for a free pre-school place in September 2010. As the child referred to by the Deputy was born on 5 July 2006, she will be eligible for a free pre-school year place in September 2010.

Combating Obesity.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

152 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the introduction of legislation to require eateries to indicate on their menus the calorie content of the dishes they serve as a measure to combat obesity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10730/10]

I am not actively considering any proposal to require restaurants or other catering establishments to indicate the calorie content of their dishes on menus at the present time.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

153 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review the decision to remove the genetic outpatient clinics in the west to ensure that persons who live in isolated areas can continue to have this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10740/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Service Investigations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

154 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage of an investigation (details supplied); and the reason for the delay in progressing the investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10750/10]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

155 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a long waiting time for ultrasounds at a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10846/10]

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the HSE and the individual hospitals concerned. I have, therefore, referred the Deputy's question to the Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

156 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a building for a primary health care team (details supplied) will be progressed this year; if funding has been assigned for this purpose in 2010; if the funding assigned in 2009 for this building has been spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10847/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Rural Transport.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

157 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reply to Parliamentary Question No. 259 of 23 February in response to which the Department of Transport indicated that the question, which was transferred from the Department of Health and Children to Department of Transport was, in fact, a question for her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10854/10]

The Deputy's previous question was transferred to, and accepted by, the Department of Transport as the question referred to the Rural Transport Scheme which comes within the remit of that Department. It appears from the answer provided by the Department of Transport that the issue raised relates to the contract between the HSE and Seirbhís Iompair Tuaithe Teoranta. As this is a matter for the HSE, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have received final treatment for orthodontics in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10870/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Acquired Infections.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location of cases of MRSA reported in each of the past five years to date in 2010; the hospitals or institutions that have successfully reduced or managed the problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10871/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location of cases of Clostridium difficile reported in each of the past five years to date in 2010; the degree to which the various hospitals or institutions have managed, contained or reduced the problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10872/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons treated in each of the public hospitals throughout the country in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10874/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and location of hospital theatres in both public and private hospitals that are idle or have become idle in recent years; the reason for such; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10875/10]

I have no function in relation to the day-to-day operation of private hospitals, which are independent commercial undertakings.

As the element of the Deputy's question which refers to public hospitals is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Hospital Charges.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost to the Exchequer and the medical insurers of medical and surgical treatments in all public and private hospitals throughout the country in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10876/10]

The Information regarding private hospitals activity is not available to my Department as it is outside of the Health Acts and is a private arrangement between the patient and the hospital. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to public hospitals.

I wish to advise the Deputy that due to intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

In relation to payments by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, payments to public and private hospitals for the past 5 years is set out in the following table.

Payment Year

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Private Hospitals & Clinics

46,358,197

59,462,965

77,391,997

90,156,742

78,397,833

Public Hospitals

13,578,851

14,625,198

9,838,190

9,821,232

7,190,690

Total Patient Care Payments

59,937,048

74,088,164

87,230,188

99,977,974

85,588,523

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel employed in the delivery of health services throughout County Kildare; the number employed in 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10877/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Nursing Education.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which the number of nurses in training is likely to be adequate to meet requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10878/10]

The current number of undergraduate nursing degree places, each year, across the individual courses is as follows:

Course

Number

General Nursing

860 places

Intellectual Disability Nursing

180 places

Psychiatric Nursing

290 places

Midwifery

140 places

Children’s and General Nursing Integrated

100 places

Total

1,570 places

As a result the total number of nursing undergraduates currently in training is approximately 7,000. My Department and the HSE, in co-operation with relevant stakeholders, is initiating a review of different aspects of the undergraduate nursing degree programme and its findings will inform the future direction of the programme.

By international standards Ireland has a high number of nurses graduating each year. In fact the O.E.C.D. (Health at a Glance 2009) indicates that Ireland at 32.5 is close to the OECD average of 35.5 nursing graduates per 100,000 population.

In comparison to many other countries, Ireland has a relatively high ratio of nurses to population. Compared to others, Ireland has relatively fewer nursing assistants or health care assistants working with nurses. If we can achieve a more efficient and effective use of the nursing resource through advanced practice, improved skill mix and more flexible and efficient rostering this would impact on the projected nursing requirements.

The planned reconfiguration of many of HSE's front line services will also be of assistance in this regard. This reconfiguration includes conversion of in-patient work to day-care work, focusing on reducing patient length of stay in acute hospitals, reducing in-patient bed numbers and providing more services in community settings thus reducing dependency on in-patient beds.

In recent years much progress has been made in the better utilisation of the nursing resource and a number of initiatives have been introduced which facilitate nurses and midwives expanding their roles and improving the services provided to patients and clients. I have amended the relevant legislation and introduced new regulations to allow for the introduction of nurse and midwife prescribing. Currently approximately 400 nurses and midwives have commenced or completed the education programme for nurse and midwife prescribing. These programmes are conducted in University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. There are currently 154 registered Nurse/Midwife Prescribers from a diversity of health service providers and clinical areas throughout the Health Service Executive with the authority to prescribe medicinal products.

I have introduced the necessary regulation to authorise nurses to refer an individual for medical ionising radiation (X-Ray). The introduction of this expanded practice for nurses is a significant initiative in the Irish health service and will have implications for service users in terms of convenience, cost-effectiveness, improved access to radiology services and simplification of the patient journey.

The continuous development of Advanced Nurse Practitioner posts (121 approved) and Clinical Specialist posts (2066 approved) to meet specific service needs in the nursing and midwifery disciplines are further examples of developments in this area.

A small, but extremely significant development in the better utilisation of nurses is the new role nurses are playing in Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATU). Eight nurses have successfully completed the Higher Diploma in Nursing -Sexual Assault Forensic Examination programme. These nurses are now working in their sponsoring SATU areas providing holistic care and undertaking the clinical forensic examination of the victims of sexual assault. This work was previously only undertaken by doctors.

Another example of the new and more effective use of the nursing and midwifery resource is the key role that a large number of nurses and midwives are playing in the administration of the H1N1 vaccine in the current Swine Flu vaccination campaign.

I regard nursing and midwifery as key elements of our health services and I am currently finalising a new nurses and midwives Bill. This will not only recognise midwifery as a separate and distinct profession but will modernise the regulatory framework for these professions and align it to the frameworks governing other health care professions. The new legislation will enhance the protection of the public in its dealings with the professions and ensure the integrity of nursing and midwifery through the continued promotion of high standards of professional education, training and practice and professional conduct.

Hospital Hygiene Audits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of hospital hygiene audits to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10879/10]

The HSE commissioned national hygiene audits in 2005 and 2006. They continue to conduct audits on a local basis in relation to infection control, including hygiene. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to public service industrial action involving members of IMPACT, the Department has not been in a position to obtain information from the HSE in relation to the costs incurred.

In addition, the Health Information and Quality Authority, which was established in 2007, carried out a National Hygiene Services Quality Review which assessed 50 acute hospitals against the National Quality Hygiene Standards in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the Authority continued to monitor compliance with their Standards and this included a number of  unannounced visits to randomly selected acute hospitals with this series of inspections focusing specifically on the day to day delivery of hygiene services, particularly in the areas of cleanliness, hand hygiene and waste and linen management practices. This work was primarily carried out by staff of the Authority. These staff work on a range of programmes and activities and costs relating to this aspect of their work is not separately recorded but the costs are included in the overall expenditure of the Authority. As a result, it is not possible to provide the full cost of the Authority's reviews of hygiene in public hospitals.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital wards in the various hospitals throughout the country which have for one or other reason been decommissioned or are only partially functioning; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10880/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which home help hours to individual qualified recipients has been cut back in the past two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10881/10]

The information requested by the Deputy cannot be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil & Public Services Union (CPSU) and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU).

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the process associated with the health repayment scheme; when she expects such payments to be concluded; the costs associated with the refunds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10882/10]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Health Repayment Scheme in association with the appointed Scheme Administrator KPMG accountants and McCann Fitzgerald solicitors. Over 35,300 applications have been received under the Health Repayment Scheme and 35,200(99%) applications have been finalised resulting in over 21,200 offers of repayment totalling €433 million. It is expected that the 100 remaining applications will be finalised over the coming weeks.

Over 18,900 repayments have issued to the value of €424 million. A repayment cannot be completed until the statutory 28 day appeal period has elapsed and a completed acceptance form has been returned to the Scheme Administrator. Applicants must be provided with the opportunity to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator and this appeals process will impact on the overall timeframe for the completion of repayments. The total cost of the Health Repayment Scheme is estimated to be €465 million comprising of repayments totalling €438 million and overheads totalling €27 million.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the strength of the ambulance service nationwide; her plans for increasing staffing levels, equipment or vehicles; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10883/10]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if adequate accident and emergency staff are available at all hospitals throughout the Country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10884/10]

As this is a service issue, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of health centres in County Kildare; the number of these that require extension, refurbishment or upgrading in line with demographic requirements or otherwise; when it is likely the relevant works will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10885/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the planned expenditure on health centres as anticipated in the 2010 Book of Estimates and provided for in the 2010 budget throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10886/10]

I have referred this matter to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who received their initial orthodontic treatment in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10887/10]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to an intensification of industrial action in the public service by members of IMPACT, the HSE may not be in a position to provide a response to this Parliamentary Question within the normal timeframe.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the numbers of psychologists available through the various health boards; her plans to increase the numbers in line with current demands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10888/10]

To qualify as a clinical psychologist, a post-graduate qualification in clinical psychology must be completed after an initial undergraduate degree in psychology. Students are sponsored by health agencies and spend time over three years in clinical placements in different specialties; course work and a thesis must be also satisfactorily completed.

The number of training places in clinical psychology is dependent on the availability of clinical placements. A National Review of Clinical Psychology Training Places is under way within the Health Service Executive, to consider the adequacy of training places, and accordingly I am referring the Deputy's question to the Executive for attention and direct reply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the adequacy of respite care for parents and carers of children and adults with special needs throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10889/10]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds available in County Kildare; the number required; her plans to expand this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10890/10]

The information requested by the Deputy cannot be supplied at the moment due to industrial action by the Civil & Public Services Union (CPSU) and the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU).

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is intended to provide the full complement of speech and language therapists throughout County Kildare; if the full requirement has been identified; and if she will give an indication as to when such requirements are likely to be met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10891/10]

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. With regard to the provision of speech and language therapy services, as this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

179 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 309 of 26 January 2010, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [10897/10]

I wish to advise the Deputy that, due to public service industrial action involving members of IMPACT, the Department has not been in a position to obtain current information from the HSE as to when a reply will issue to Parliamentary Question No. 309 of 26 January 2010. The position at 26th February 2010 was that the HSE was still awaiting a reply from one Area but that an interim response to the Deputy was pending.

Road Network.

Liz McManus

Question:

180 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether savings can be made on street lights on motorways and major national routes without compromising safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10256/10]

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The construction, improvement and maintenance of national roads is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

The Government's National Climate Change Strategy requires all traffic lighting to be energy efficient. The implementation of this policy is a matter for the (National Roads Authority) NRA and the local authorities concerned.

Tourism Industry.

Pat Breen

Question:

181 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the progress made to date in implementing the commitments as outlined in the economic and tourism development plan for the Shannon catchment area published on 24 January 2008; the monetary value of projects delivered to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10651/10]

The purpose of the Economic & Tourism Development Plan for the Shannon Airport catchment area was to present a focused Action Plan to assist the airport and the wider Mid-west region to adapt to new circumstances brought about by the phasing out of the Shannon stop rule, under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, and the withdrawal by Aer Lingus its Shannon-Heathrow service.

Significant progress has been made since the report was published in January 2008. Aer Lingus has reinstated its Shannon-Heathrow service and daily connectivity from Shannon to the US has been maintained, despite the ending of the Shannon-stop rule and the dramatic fall in consumer demand for air travel generally in the past 12 months.

Last year, US pre-clearance facilities were established at the airport for commercial air carriers. Shannon is the only airport in the world outside of the Americas offering these facilities. Preclearance of U.S. bound private aircraft commenced on 1 March 2010. This development has the potential to deliver significant new business for Shannon Airport.

A key component of the Shannon Economic and Tourism Development Plan is a focused tourism-marketing programme introduced by the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism to promote the wider Shannon catchment area. I understand that Tourism Ireland, the body with responsibility for the overseas promotion of Ireland as a tourist destination, continues to engage in cooperative marketing campaigns with air carriers to promote ease of access and to stimulate demand for travel to the Shannon region from key source markets. The "Discover Ireland's Wonderful West" campaign was commenced in 2008 on foot of the Shannon Economic and Tourism Development Plan and highlights the attractions of the western region and good value packages on offer. I am advised that €3 million was provided specifically for this purpose in 2008 with a further €2.05 million spent on the campaign in 2009.

I am also advised that the 2010 Budget of the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism includes €4.9 million for regional tourism marketing campaigns including additional funding provision for the promotion of the wider Shannon Airport Catchment, over and above the funding for promotion of the regions generally. The detail of the marketing activity for the wider Shannon Airport Catchment is being finalised by Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland at present.

Under the Plan the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism asked Fáilte Ireland to arrange an objective and independent study of the feasibility of a regional conference centre for the Shannon region. Indecon Consultants carried out the study which was submitted to Fáilte Ireland and was subsequently presented to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The report concluded that the case for a regional conference centre in the Shannon/Limerick area is subject to considerable uncertainty and is marginal at best. Having examined the report, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism agreed with its findings and the report was subsequently made available on the Fáilte Ireland website.

Regarding tourism development generally, Shannon Development, as the regional tourism authority for the Shannon region, continues to work closely with Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland to ensure that tourism in the Shannon region grows to the maximum extent. In addition Fáilte Ireland provides a range of business supports and training which are available to tourism enterprises in the region.

The Economic and Tourism Development Plan also highlighted a number of Road Investment projects for the region. As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme element of Transport 21. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, including those listed the Shannon Economic and Tourism Development Plan, is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Once the Major Interurban Routes, which includes the M7 Dublin/Limerick motorway, are completed by the end of 2010, the NRA will focus on the completion of the Atlantic Road Corridor (ARC). The ARC will run from Letterkenny to Cork and Waterford via Limerick. The Ennis bypass forms part of this route and was completed in early 2008. The Crusheen to Gort phase is under construction at present. Further details are available from the NRA.

Construction of the first phase of the Western Rail Corridor (Ennis-Athenry) has been completed and services are scheduled to commence at the end this month.

Appointments to State Boards.

Pat Breen

Question:

182 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Transport the appointments or nominations made by him to bodies, boards or organisation under the aegis of his Department since 1 January 2009 and to date in 2010; the method used in selecting persons for such appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10683/10]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question No. 251 of 3rd February 2010 in which I set out the appointments to State Boards under the aegis of the Department of Transport from 6th June 2002 to end 2009.

To date in 2010, the only appointments I have made are the appointment of Ms Laetitia Baker to the Board of Iarnród Eireann from 15 February 2010 for a period of 3 years and the re-appointment of Ms. Jacqueline Cross to the Board of the Railway Procurement Agency and her appointment to the Board of the National Roads Authority for a period of 3 years from 1 March 2010 in both cases.

Appointments to the boards of State bodies under the remit of my Department are made on the basis of appointees having the necessary skills, competencies and experience to contribute effectively to the work of the boards.

Light Rail Project.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

183 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a copy of a report by consultants (details supplied) for Galway City Council on the Galway light rail system proposal; his views on the report and the development of a Galway Luas system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10692/10]

The Programme for Government of 2007 made a commitment to conduct feasibility studies into Luas-type light rail systems in Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. I subsequently asked the local authorities in these cities, which have responsibility for these studies, to see that the feasibility of Bus Rapid Transit systems was simultaneously taken into account. These studies, which are being carried out by consultants appointed by the relevant local authorities, with funding from my Department, are examining the most appropriate and feasible public transport systems for the cities in question.

In the case of Galway, the Final report on the Public Transport Feasibility Study has recently been submitted to the City Council. However, the City Council has not yet concluded consideration of the Report. I understand that, following a presentation of the Report to the City Council on 8th February, further consideration of the Report will take place at the City Council meeting on 8th March, and City Councillors have requested the promoters of the GLUAS proposal to attend that meeting. I understand that when the City Council has concluded its consideration the final report will be forwarded to my Department together with the outcome of the City Council's consideration of the matter.

Decentralisation Programme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

184 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the proposals to decentralise offices under the remit of Bus Éireann to Mitchelstown, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10734/10]

The Budget of December 2008 included the announcement of a Government decision to defer a number of decentralisation projects pending a review in 2011, including the move of Bus Eireann to Mitchelstown Co. Cork.

National Transport Authority.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

185 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the person to whom the National Transport Authority will be accountable. [10742/10]

The National Transport Authority (NTA) is, in accordance with the Dublin Transport Act, 2008 (DTA Act) and the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies , accountable to the Minister for Transport. The Chief Executive is also accountable, in relation to the matters specified in Section 41(1) of the DTA Act, to the Public Accounts Committee and, together with the Chairman of the NTA, is accountable, in accordance with Section 41(2) of the DTA Act, to other Oireachtas Committees in relation to the performance of the functions of the Authority.

Public Transport.

John Deasy

Question:

186 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that due to cutbacks in Bus Éireann many rural villages will now be without transport to their local towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10853/10]

Decisions in relation to bus services are an operational matter for Bus Éireann in conjunction, in the case of PSO services, with the National Transport Authority, and not one in which I have any role.

Departmental Correspondence.

John O'Mahony

Question:

187 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has not answered correspondence (details supplied) sent to them on 10 February 2010 and 16 February 2010; if this service is still in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10636/10]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of my Department that the electronic service to which the Deputy refers continues in operation for the receipt of representations and enquiries including those referred to by the Deputy. However, due to industrial action it is not possible for the present to respond to these requests. This disruption is very much regretted.

As you will be aware the electronic system was put in place for the handling of such representations and this has operated very effectively since its inception. It is intended to respond to outstanding requests via the electronic system as quickly as possible following resolution of the dispute.

Passport Forgeries.

Finian McGrath

Question:

188 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a matter (details supplied). [10646/10]

I assume the Deputy is referring to reports relating to the use of forged Irish passports. An Garda Síochána are co-operating with the Department of Foreign Affairs in addressing this matter.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Brian Hayes

Question:

189 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the probation service is housing released prisoners in an area (details supplied) in Dublin 7; the number of prisoners who have been allowed to reside there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10677/10]

I can inform the Deputy that the Probation Service provides funding to approximately 50 voluntary bodies to assist with the management of offenders in the community. These funded projects provide a range of services to offenders in local communities, including training and education, offender management programmes, residential accommodation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment programmes. The New Directions is one such project and in 2009 received funding from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform through the Probation Service for the provision of accommodation.

The New Directions project provides an accommodation response to support a newly developed joint management approach to high risk sex offenders between An Garda Síochána and the Probation Service. The aim is to secure accommodation for a small cohort of high risk/high profile ex-offenders leaving custody. The New Directions project has supported 6 individuals, one of whom was placed at a location in Dublin 7. This property is not being used for further cases.

As the Deputy will appreciate it is not appropriate to comment on any individual location where property might be sourced from the private rented sector.

Citizenship Applications.

John O'Mahony

Question:

190 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will have a decision made in respect of their applications for citizenship. [10679/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Garda Deployment.

Michael Ring

Question:

191 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a garda who has been transferred to a station in a different county will be replaced in the area (details supplied) which they vacated in County Mayo. [10687/10]

Responsibility for the allocation of all personnel within the Force rests with the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team. In this regard, the Deputy should be aware that over 200 students are due to be attested as Gardai during 2010. Resource levels are constantly monitored, in conjunction with crime trends and other demands made on An Garda Síochána and the situation is kept under continuing review.

Crime Levels.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

192 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun murders recorded, detected, subject to proceedings and resulting in convictions in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10694/10]

I am not in a position to respond to the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the relevant information is available.

Citizenship Applications.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

193 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) will be issued with a certificate for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10743/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Departmental Investigations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

194 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage of an investigation (details supplied); and the reason for the delay in progressing the investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10749/10]

I am not in a position to respond to the Deputy at this time, but will do so as soon as the relevant information is available.

Prison Staff.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

195 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if recruitment is ongoing for prison officers; and when the next round will be advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10752/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the matter of residency and citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when Stamp 4 will be updated in line with employment requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10892/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10893/10]

I regret to advise the Deputy that it is not possible to provide a response to his Question at this time. The information sought by the Deputy will be provided at a later date.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10894/10]

Following consideration of his case under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was granted Leave to Remain in the State for an initial one year period, on 14 November 2006, and this was renewed on two subsequent occasions, most recently on 24 March 2009, with the consequence that his current Leave to Remain is valid to 23 March 2012.

The position in the State of the person concerned is not such as would confer any entitlement under family reunification provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

199 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10905/10]

I regret that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily to hand. I will write to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

200 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support Argentina on the Malvinas oil dispute at the United Nations. [10645/10]

The issue to which the Deputy refers concerns a long-term dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom regarding the question of sovereignty over the territories of the Falkland (Malvinas), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, to which both countries lay claim.

Since 1965, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted ten Resolutions on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The most recent Resolution was adopted in 1988, in which the General Assembly requested the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to initiate negotiations with a view to finding the means to resolve peacefully and definitively the problems between both countries, including all aspects of the future of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

The question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) also has been the subject of successive Resolutions adopted by the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, most recently on 19 June 2009. In this Resolution, the Special Committee on Decolonization called for a peaceful negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute and expressed regret that implementation of Resolutions adopted by the Committee in the past had not started in spite of widespread international support for negotiations between the two Governments. In addition, the Committee requested that the two Governments consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation through the resumption of negotiations in order to find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute as soon as possible.

Ireland is fully supportive of the Resolutions adopted under the aegis of the United Nations. I would encourage both countries to resume their negotiations in the interest of pursuing a peaceful solution to this dispute, as provided for in the relevant Resolutions.

Departmental Property.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on a matter (details supplied). [10851/10]

The Ambassador's Residence in Ottawa was acquired by the State in 1960. Only modest investments were made in its upkeep over the years and it had long been in need of substantial refurbishment. In 2006, my Department was advised that total renovation was required to address a wide range of serious structural and maintenance issues. Some of these problems were aggravated by the long term cumulative impact of the severe local climate.

A number of extensions to the property were found to be structurally flawed and had to be demolished and replaced. Large quantities of asbestos were discovered in the building and all services including electrical, heating and air conditioning had to be renewed or upgraded to conform to contemporary local legal codes.

The alternatives, including relocation, were examined. However, the necessary renovations mitigated against the sale of the property. It was concluded that refurbishment and retention was the most cost effective option.

The decision was taken to renovate and upgrade the property so it could serve as a multi-purpose "Ireland House" type amenity to enhance the Embassy's capacity to promote all aspects of Ireland especially trade and culture and provide conference and presentation facilities for use by State Agencies, Irish companies and artists. The majority of the space is used for representational and support services. The Ambassador's personal living quarters occupy only a relatively limited area.

The renovated premises represent a valuable asset for the State and a resource in the consolidation and enhancement of our important relationship with Canada with whom we have many shared foreign policy values. It is the world's seventh largest economy and a member of the G8. Ireland is currently the fifth largest recipient of Canadian outward investment and Canada is a growing market for Irish companies. Our merchandise exports there increased by 12% in 2009 despite the economic downturn. Some 4 million Canadians (12% of the population) claim Irish descent.

Tourism Promotion.

Enda Kenny

Question:

202 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received correspondence relating to a tourism proposal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10627/10]

In accordance with the provisions of section 8(1) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act, 2003, it is a day-to-day matter for Fáilte Ireland to encourage, promote and support either inside or outside the State (a) the development of Tourism traffic within and to the State and (b) the development and marketing of tourist facilities and services within the State.

I have received communication from the promoters and have recently informed them of my role and that the administration of grant funding and decisions in this regard are solely a matter for Fáilte Ireland.

In relation to their application to Fáilte Ireland for support under the Innovation Fund, I understand that Fáilte Ireland have informed the promoters verbally and by e-mail that the project did not meet the criteria for funding but that other logistical support would be considered.

Drugs Task Forces.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

203 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the cost to date of the dial to stop drug dealing anonymous phone line; the number of calls made to it in the different regions in which it has been established; if his attention has been drawn to the success of the information provided in leading to charges or convictions in relation to the sale or possession of drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10634/10]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Dial-to-Stop Drug Dealing Campaign ran across 15 Local and Regional Drugs Task Force areas in 2008 and 2009. At the end of 2009, nearly 5,770 calls had been made to the confidential phone number, generating almost 1,600 reports to the Gardaí. The calls are spread right across the country including areas which have not directly run a campaign. This highlights the fact that the confidential number used in the campaign is open to all to use, regardless of the area one comes from.

Due to the success of the campaign, I have made funding available in 2010 to keep the phone line open and, already this year, there have been a further 321 calls. The full cost to date is €457,271.

An Garda Síochána has confirmed that the information gathered has proved useful to their enquiries and that there has been a number of seizures and arrests on foot of information received, including the seizures of substantial quantities of cannabis and heroin.

Departmental Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

204 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the fact that the national advisory committee on drugs has no researcher as a result of the moratorium on recruitment in view of the fact that it is a body that was expressly established to advise Government on the basis of research; the steps he will take to ensure the employment of research staff by the NACD and the timeframe for same. [10647/10]

I am endeavouring to ensure that the researcher post in the National Advisory Committee on Drugs will be filled as soon as possible and my officials are pursuing the matter with the Department of Finance with a view to resolving the issue.

Community Development.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

205 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussions he has had about a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the serious concerns of the local community in respect of the loss of the centre in a disadvantaged RAPID area; if his further attention has been drawn to appreciate that the board now faces serious issues in respect of the closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10681/10]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

206 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussions he has had with a partnership (details supplied) in respect of a resource centre; the way the services provided by the centre to Tallaght west, Dublin 24, will now be delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10682/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 206 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 221 of 10 February 2010. I have had no discussions with the local development company in question, although I have met with the community development project (CDP) referred to by the Deputy.

As I have previously stated, my primary concern is to make every effort to ensure that the front-line services provided by, or supported through, my Department — especially those providing tangible benefits for the most disadvantaged communities — are protected. Under the new Local and Community Development Programme, local development companies will be able to identify and respond to the needs of communities and I have asked that particular attention be given to RAPID areas and to those areas where a CDP is no longer operating.

My Department has indicated that, if the CDP referred to decides to cease operations and to wind-up, my Department will, without prejudice, seek to assist the directors in discharging their statutory responsibilities, subject to the financial and regulatory limitations applicable to my Department.

With regard to business continuity issues for CDP activities in the Dublin 24 area, it would be a matter for the boards of management of the local groups in question to discuss this in the first instance. My Department will, subject to resources, endeavour to be as supportive as possible in relation to any decisions made between the CDP board and the board of the local development company regarding the maintenance of key front-line services and supports in the area.

Social Welfare Code.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

207 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the outstanding issues on the rights of former workers of a company (details supplied) to retain their social welfare benefits while using EU globalisation fund for education, training and returning to work have been clarified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10844/10]

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund exists to support workers who lose their jobs as a result of changing global trade patterns or the global economic and financial crisis so that they can be prepared to find another job as quickly as possible.

An application was made by Ireland, and recently approved by EU, in the context of the Dell redundancies in Raheen, Co. Limerick. It is estimated that up to 2,900 workers are involved when qualifying downstream companies affected by this closure are included and a combined total of €2.8 million is available, between EU and Government funding, to provide complementary retraining, upskilling, entrepreneurial support s and educational opportunities for the relevant workers. The allocated funding will be available for spending until September 2011.

Under the terms associated with the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), it is not envisaged in general that any monies from the fund will be paid directly to former Dell workers. Therefore, the social welfare entitlements of the former workers will not be affected as no money will be directly received. Instead funding is being channelled through the relevant State agencies and educational institutions to deliver the required supports to eligible redundant workers.

Workers who were made statutorily redundant from Dell may retain their jobseeker's payments while attending education or training courses under the terms of the Back to Education schemes operated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. BTEA participants attending an approved full-time course can keep their jobseeker's payments for the duration of that course (which may be a number of years). Those who participate in an approved part-time course can receive welfare support for as long as they would ordinarily be entitled to a jobseeker's payment (9-12 months in the case of those on Jobseeker's Benefit, or longer for those who qualify for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance). These provisions equally apply to workers studying HETAC or FETAC accredited third level courses at private colleges.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is the responsible authority for making EGF applications and drawing down EU funding. That department is also working with FÁS to make a range of programmes available to the former Dell employees. The package of programmes is currently being finalised. Department of Social and Family Affairs officials are involved at central and local level these matters.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

208 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the issue of workers who have been encouraged or pressurised into becoming self-employed contractors in order that their employers can avoid paying PRSI and other benefits or for other reasons; if she will carry out an investigation into this matter; the actions she has taken to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10626/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Niall Collins

Question:

209 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10631/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

210 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department will acknowledge receipt of an application for household benefits package in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if this application will be processed. [10639/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

211 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will issue on an application in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10642/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Leo Varadkar

Question:

212 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons with PRSI class S contributions who have applied for or inquired about seeking jobseeker’s allowance in 2007, 2008 and 2009; the number who did not qualify due to the means test; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10649/10]

The department does not maintain statistics on persons who make general enquiries as to possible entitlements to its schemes. While it would be possible to extract some information in relation to customers who applied for jobseeker's allowance but failed to satisfy the means test, it would not be possible to say with certainty how many of these were self-employed persons.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

213 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is currently no job facilitator working in the Navan Road social welfare office due to the staff recruitment embargo and the refusal of staff to act up during their work to rule campaign; the action she will take to ensure that all jobseeker’s serviced by this office have access to the services of a jobs facilitator. [10664/10]

A replacement facilitator took up duty in Navan Road Social Welfare Office on 22 February 2010 to replace the previous facilitator who retired on 30 November 2009. During the period 1 December 2009 to 5 February 2010 the post in Navan Road was covered by the team of facilitators from the Dublin North region who continued to provide a service to jobseekers at that office.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

214 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will reply to a matter (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10672/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

215 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 84 and 91 on 23 February 2010 regarding the resuming residence guideline, the way a person who left Ireland prior to the introduction of the habitual residence condition in 2004 can prove they were habitually resident; the means by which a deciding officer distinguishes between resuming previous residence and starting a new period of residence. [10675/10]

Social welfare legislation specifically directs the deciding officer, in determining a question of habitual residence, to "take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, including, in particular, the following:

(a) the length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

(b) the length and purpose of any absence from the State;

(c) the nature and pattern of the person's employment;

(d) the person's main centre of interest, and

(e) the future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances."

These five specified factors have been derived from European Court of Justice case law which examined the concept of habitual residence in the context of social welfare benefits. The Department's guidelines discuss each of these factors, suggest lines of enquiry relevant to each and also point out that "No single factor is conclusive. The evidential weight to be attributed to each factor will depend on the circumstances of each case. It is necessary to weigh up all the information and balance the evidence for and against an applicant satisfying the habitual residence condition".

The guidelines do not attempt to be prescriptive as to how each individual factor affects the overall conclusion because the circumstances that apply to different cases will be very varied. Similarly the list of questions or elements provided in the guidelines to be considered in relation to the various factors are intended to be assistive and not exhaustive.

In the case of a person returning to Ireland after a period of residence abroad, the guidelines do not require the deciding officer to determine whether the person was habitually resident in Ireland or not before going abroad. As my previous answer indicated, the fact or duration of previous residence does not of itself determine whether a person's return is temporary or whether their intention is now to establish habitual residence in Ireland.

The information sought from an applicant who has returned to the State will include such elements as: how long they were previously resident here, why they left, how long they lived in various countries abroad and why they lived there, why they have returned, and whether they own property in Ireland or abroad. It is generally found that this information is sufficient to enable the deciding officer to determine whether their present circumstances in Ireland indicate a temporary visit or habitual residence.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary O'Rourke

Question:

216 Deputy Mary O’Rourke asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath who was refused for domiciliary allowance. [10680/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information requested by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

217 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 is not entitled to a full widow’s pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10686/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Tax and Social Welfare Codes.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

218 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will expedite the health levy refund due to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14 who was advised to call back in a few months despite their dependence on illness benefit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10688/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a response will issue to a letter to her Department regarding jobseeker’s allowance refusal on the grounds of habitual residence for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10689/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

220 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10695/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Richard Bruton

Question:

221 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of years of credit as a homemaker that have been acknowledged in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; if this establishes an entitlement to the payment of a 98% retirement pension and contributory old-age pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10696/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

222 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of the review of a decision to refuse jobseeker’s allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10732/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

223 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an appeal will be opened in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10736/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

224 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10737/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

225 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10745/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) is not receiving the free schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10746/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

227 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10747/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

228 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10748/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

229 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the systems in place within her Department to gather information in relation to pension entitlements from the UK pension authorities; the average length of time that is taken to secure information in relation to British Contributions in the case of a person (details supplied) claiming entitlements here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10753/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

230 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding a retirement pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10754/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when unemployment assistance or job seekers appeal will be heard in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10896/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard Allen

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on the application for illness benefit or disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10904/10]

Due to staff action currently being taken, I regret that I am unable to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Social Welfare Code.

Noel Ahern

Question:

233 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason behind the decision to treat women on deserted wives benefit up to 1992 differently to those on the benefit after 1992; if she will explain the logic behind the change; the numbers of women still claiming pre-92 benefit; the benefit they receive; when benefit ceases; if the decision was ever legally tested by persons who have been reduced or cut off lone parents in recent years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10906/10]

The Deserted Wife's Benefit is a payment issued to a woman who has been deserted by her husband. Entitlement to the payment is based on the social insurance contributions paid by the woman or by her husband. The scheme was closed off to new applications with effect from 2 January, 1997, when the One-Parent Family Payment was introduced. Thereafter, both lone parents and deserted wives with qualified children came to be supported under the One-Parent Family Payment, with the resultant increases in income limits being focused on this scheme.

No income disregard applies to persons in receipt of the Deserted Wife's Benefit who registered their claim on or before 30 August, 1992. The Social Welfare Act, 1992, introduced an income disregard for entitlement to the payment for new applicants from 31 August, 1992. The principal reason for introducing this income disregard was that resources would be more effectively targeted towards those deserted wives who required an additional supplement to their income up until the time when they would be able to support themselves. This is consistent with other social insurance payments that seek to support claimants during short-term periods of unemployment and/or illness. With the exception of those recipients of the Deserted Wife's Benefit who first claimed the payment prior to 31 August, 1992, the only social insurance payments that are long-term in nature are to those people who are unable to return to work either through retirement or through prolonged disability or illness.

The income disregard is the main component of the employment support policy both for those in receipt of the Deserted Wife's Benefit and for those in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment.

The current income disregard for the Deserted Wife's Benefit is €20,000. This limit was brought into effect from 3 May, 2007, and represents a substantial increase on the previous income disregard whereby claimants who were earning more than €12,697 per annum received a reduced payment and claimants who were earning more than €17,776 lost their entitlement to the payment altogether. The current arrangement effectively allows recipients of the Deserted Wife's Benefit to earn up to €384 per week and still retain full entitlement to a maximum benefit of €201.50 if aged under 66 years and of €230.30 if aged 66 years or over.

Recipients of the Deserted Wife's Benefit whose annual income exceeds €20,000 are also entitled to a half-rate transitional payment for a period of six months and may be eligible for further financial support through the Family Income Supplement scheme thereafter.

As of 31 December, 2009, a total of 8,737 people were in receipt of the Deserted Wife's Benefit — approximately 67%, or two-thirds, of whom applied to the scheme prior to the introduction of the income disregard on 31 August, 1992. A person who qualified for Deserted Wife's Benefit prior to 31 August, 1992, can retain entitlement to the payment so long as she continues to satisfy the following conditions:

have at least one qualified child residing with her if she is under 40 years of age, or

be over 40 years of age if she has no qualified child;

be inadequately maintained by her husband;

continue to make appropriate efforts to obtain financial maintenance from her husband;

not be co-habiting with any person as husband and wife, and

not have resumed living with her husband.

No legal cases have been taken in respect of the Deserted Wife's Benefit scheme. However, an issue in relation to the scheme is currently being considered by the Equality Tribunal.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

234 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will approve treatment plant documents for Kenmare, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10618/10]

The Kenmare Water Supply Scheme was included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 at a cost of over €8m.

The distribution network contract for the scheme is substantially complete. Kerry County Council has submitted Tender Documents for the water treatment plant Design/Build/Operate (DBO) contract to my Department for approval. However, before my Department can complete its examination of these documents further information is awaited from the Council.

Water services authorities were asked in July 2009 to submit an assessment of needs for water and sewerage services to my Department by 23 October 2009. In preparing these assessments, water services authorities were required to take into consideration key environmental and economic criteria in prioritizing contracts and schemes to be progressed in their areas. My Department is currently finalising its consideration of these assessments, which form a key input to the development of the 2010 to 2012 Water Services Investment Programme that I expect to publish in the coming weeks.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

235 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will approve the tender report for the treatment plants required at an area (details supplied) in County Kerry; the contribution he will be seeking from Kerry County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10619/10]

The Waterville Water Supply and Sewerage Schemes were included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009.

The water main and sewer networks contract is substantially completed. Kerry County Council has submitted a tender recommendation to my Department to procure the water and wastewater treatment plants under a single Design Build Operate (DBO) contract and this is currently under examination. A decision will be conveyed to the Council as soon as possible in light of the finalisation of the Water Services Investment Programme for the period 2010 to 2012 which I expect to publish in the coming weeks.

Local Authority Schemes.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

236 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will restore the playground grant scheme in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10620/10]

There are no proposals for a new playground grant scheme in 2010.

Water Quality.

Mary Upton

Question:

237 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if funding will be made available to local Government authorities in order that upgrading of the water supplies to domestic users can be guaranteed and the problems caused by the recent weather conditions will be prevented from recurring in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10633/10]

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 565 and 566 of 2 February 2010.

Substantial funding of €508m is being provided by the Exchequer for water services infrastructure in 2010. Against the current economic backdrop, this level of investment, which will mean that average spending on water services over the period 2009 and 2010 will be up 3% on the 2008 outturn, continues to reflect the priority assigned by Government to providing critical water services infrastructure.

My Department is currently finalising a review of water services investment, arising from which I expect to publish the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012 shortly. The severe weather last January pointed up the need to sustain our efforts in the provision of water services infrastructure and, in particular, the replacement and rehabilitation of older mains. A greater focus on such works will be a key priority of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2012.

Local Authority Housing.

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if an Irish citizen living abroad who wants to come home to live here can make an application for housing here even though they are currently residing in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10673/10]

A person residing in the United Kingdom who wishes to return to Ireland is not precluded from applying for social housing support in Ireland. The acceptance or non-acceptance of housing applicants from outside the functional area of a local authority is a matter solely for the authority concerned. Section 9(5) of the Housing Act 1988 provides that ‘a housing authority may, to such extent (if any) as the authority consider appropriate, include in an assessment . . . need arising from the requirements of persons who are residing outside the functional area of the authority'.

Animal Welfare.

Michael Ring

Question:

239 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of dogs put down in 2009 on a monthly and on county basis in tabular form. [10731/10]

My Department is currently compiling statistics for 2009 in relation to dog control. Information on the number of dogs put down in 2009 by county will be conveyed to the Deputy when the statistics are available. These are not compiled on a monthly basis.

Housing Policy.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

240 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the housing strategy will be published in order that the provisions for mental health remain intact; if comprehensive guidelines will be included relating to persons with mental health issues; if he will clarify the agency responsible for providing housing supports for persons with mental problems; and the way support will be delivered. [10741/10]

The Government's Housing Policy Statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, reflects the commitment inTowards 2016 to develop a national housing strategy for people with a disability which will have particular regard to the housing needs of people with a mental health disability. The strategy is being developed in conjunction with a National Advisory Group, chaired by my Department and involving the Department of Health and Children, the HSE, social partners and other relevant stakeholders, including the National Disability Authority. Work on the strategy is at an advanced stage and it is expected that the work of the National Advisory Group will be completed by April 2010.

Decisions in relation to the contents of the strategy and its publication will be matters for the Government. It is not possible, therefore, to provide further information on specific aspects at this time.

Communications Masts.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

241 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the planning requirements for communication masts and antennae in residential areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10852/10]

In general, planning permission must be obtained for the erection of an antenna support structure or mast. Under Article 6 and Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, certain classes of development carried out by a statutory undertaker authorised to provide a telecommunications service are, subject to specified conditions, exempted development for the purposes of the Planning Acts. These include —

the attachment of additional antennae to an existing antenna support structure;

the erection of an antenna support structure in place of an existing antenna support structure, and

the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, such as lamp posts, flag poles, CCTV poles, electricity pylons and certain public or commercial buildings (other than educational facilities, child care facilities or hospitals).

The above exemptions are conditional on, among other things, the field strength of the non-ionising radiation emissions from the site not exceeding the limits specified by the Commission for Communications Regulation. In addition, in the case of the exemption for the attachment of antennae to certain existing structures, there is a requirement on the statutory undertaker to notify the planning authority, in writing, of the proposed location of any such structure at least 4 weeks before the attachment of the antennae.

My Department published Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Telecommunications Antennae and Support Structures in 1996. The guidelines are intended to facilitate planning authorities, An Bord Pleanála, the licensed providers of mobile telecommunications services and the public by providing guidance on dealing with these developments within the planning system.

The guidelines set out a locational hierarchy in relation to the siting of radio masts and advise that free-standing masts should only be located within, or in the immediate surrounds of, smaller towns or villages as a last resort. If such a location should become necessary, masts and antennae should be designed and adapted for the specific location. In the vicinity of larger towns and in city suburbs, operators should endeavour to locate in industrial estates or in industrially zoned land. The guidelines further advise that, only as a last resort, and if all the alternatives are unavailable or unsuitable, should free-standing masts be located in a residential area or beside schools. Under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities are required to have regard to any Ministerial guidelines, in the performance of their functions. The Guidelines are available on my Department's website atwww.environ.ie.

Waste Management.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

242 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make special provision to Cork County Council to enable them to provide a civic amenity site in the Fermoy/Mitchelstown area of north Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10899/10]

My Department provides grant assistance towards the development by local authorities of new recycling facilities such as civic amenity sites. Such assistance is provided, generally at the rate of 75% of approved costs, under the terms of the Waste Recycling Capital Grant Scheme.

The details of this scheme are outlined in Circular WPR 15/08, which issued to all local authorities in July 2008. My Department will consider any grant application which Cork County Council may wish to submit under the terms of the Scheme.

Postal Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

243 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether legislation is required for the introduction of postcodes as highlighted in the National Postcodes Project report; if he has been in contact with the Data Protection Commissioner on the possible requirement for legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10676/10]

Any legislation required for the introduction of postcodes will be brought forward in the context of postal legislation or other relevant legislation generally. I have not had contact with the Data Protection Commissioner since the decision by Government approving the postcode implementation process but contact will be made as necessary in the context of advancing consideration of legislation.

Community Support Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

244 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline all the projects that benefited under the salmon hardships fund community support scheme in each of the Gaeltacht; the amount allocated in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10869/10]

As outlined in previous replies, the Community Support Scheme was administered through 14 LEADER companies including Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann in respect of island communities (including Irish speaking islands) and Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta, in respect of the Gaeltacht areas. Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teo also implemented the scheme on behalf of Comhar Iorrais (Leader) Teo.

Comhar na nOileáin Teoranta allocated €189,405 and Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teo allocated €842,800 to projects in accordance with the published programme complement, which identified the criteria for determining eligibility of projects and applicants.

The Department does not hold the level of information sought by the Deputy but information on individual projects can be obtained directly from the relevant Leader Company.

Grant Payments.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

245 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their installation aid grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10615/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am unable to provide a reply to this question.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

246 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their REP scheme four payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10616/10]

Due to Industrial Action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Joe McHugh

Question:

247 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reasons he is superimposing a second layer of traceability on sheep farming; if he will address concerns that the technology for the new system will not be effective; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10638/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to EU requirements for the mandatory introduction of Electronic Identification (EID) in sheep.

I have secured major concessions in relation to EID in discussions with the European Commission. These concessions include a slaughter derogation, which means that all lambs intended for slaughter, and less than 12 months are now permanently exempted from EID. This will result in EID being largely confined to replacement breeding stocks that are born after 31 December 2009. This means the vast majority of Irish sheep will be excluded from EID requirements, which will minimise costs for producers. In fact, EID will apply to no more than 18% of the national flock (450,000 — 550,000). Some 70% of flocks are 100 sheep or less and in these cases less than 20 animals will be affected.

The Deputy should note that farmers will not be required to purchase readers since, as is the case at present, an ear tag will continue to have a number on it that is readable to the human eye so there will be minimal change to current practice.

Our existing system has up until now provided adequate assurances in terms of animal identification and traceability. Indeed, it is partly with that in mind that I have decided to minimise the impact on farmers by confining electronic tagging to mainly breeding sheep. I am also striving however to minimise the change to the existing National Sheep Identification System (NSIS). My Department has circulated a technical document outlining the proposed changes to the NSIS to farm organisations and other stakeholders for comments. My officials are consulting them with a view to ensuring that whatever revisions are made to the existing NSIS best suit Irish conditions and minimise the burden on farmers within the parameters of the new legislation.

Decentralisation Programme.

Sean Sherlock

Question:

248 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding plans to decentralise offices under his Department’s remit to Fermoy, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10733/10]

As part of the reorganisation of my Department's national network of local offices it is intended that the Mallow and South Mall offices in Cork City will be closed. The work from these offices will transfer to a new office to be located in North County Cork area once a suitable location has been identified. The Office of Public Works together with my Department is examining various options. No date has yet been scheduled for this transfer to take place.

Milk Quota.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

249 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) will be considered for milk quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10744/10]

Due to industrial action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason for refusal to join REP scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10849/10]

Due to Industrial Action by staff in my Department, I am not in a position to provide a reply to this question.

Farmers’ Markets.

Michael Creed

Question:

251 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the consequences for farmers’ markets established under the Casual Trading Act 1995, in view of the impact which the services directive and specifically Article 12 therein will have on the Casual Trading Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10902/10]

Policy matters relating to the Casual Trading Act 1995 and the Services Directive are a matter for my cabinet colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Replies to Questions Nos. 252 to 264, inclusive, not received from the Department.