Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Vol. 969 No. 5

Topical Issue Debate

Location of Victims' Remains

I thank the Tánaiste for attending. I hope he will join me in expressing alarm and exasperation at the revelations contained in recent correspondence from the state pathologist in the North of Ireland to the lawyers representing the family of Aidan McAnespie, who was shot dead by a British soldier on 21 February 1988 as he was making his way to his local GAA club grounds at Aughnacloy on the Tyrone-Monaghan border. The letter from Dr. J.R. Lyness advises that while the state pathologist's office has retained seven paraffin tissue blocks containing wax-embedded tissue from some of the major organs of Aidan's body, the section of the ribcage that contained the exit bullet wound had been disposed of. Dr. Lyness states that this disposal was carried out in the years following the post mortem examination but that the state pathologist's office does not hold any records on the disposal of retained tissue from that time. The ribcage section was removed from Aidan's chest cage, adjacent to the breastbone. This ribcage section measured 5 in. by 3 in. and was removed, I understand, at the time of the autopsy carried out by the then deputy state pathologist in the North, Dr. Carson. When Professor Harbison carried out the second autopsy on Aidan's exhumed remains in this jurisdiction, he discovered that this critical section of Aidan's ribcage had been removed.

There have been many calls and alleged calls, historically and more recently, to have Aidan's full remains restored to his family, but to no avail. Professor Harbison was unable to make a definitive judgment on the trajectory of the bullet that took Aidan's life. Will the Tánaiste undertake to raise this matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, in correspondence and directly when next they meet? Will he request that she establish when Aidan McAnespie's removed ribcage section was disposed of? That no records were allegedly kept is bizarre in itself and is not credible. Will the Tánaiste request that the Secretary of State establish who carried out the disposal and under whose direction it was done? Will he request that she establish in what way the disposal was carried out? Will he request that she establish if the disposed of remains can be retrieved? Will he ask that she secure copies of all relevant documentation, including photographic records of said ribcage section and any other relevant material that the state pathologist's office in Belfast holds?

The shooting of Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy near a checkpoint just over 30 years ago, in February 1988, was a tragedy for his family and friends. I extend my sympathy to them. I met the family in March to hear their views and concerns and I subsequently directed my officials to raise the matter with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.

Given the great public disquiet on both sides of the Border following the shooting, the Government requested that an inquiry be carried out. The then deputy garda commissioner, Mr. Eugene Crowley, was appointed to conduct the inquiry. Deputy Commissioner Crowley's report was submitted to the then Minister for Justice on 8 April 1988. A summary of the report's conclusions and a copy of the report relating to the post mortem carried out by Professor Harbison were provided previously to the McAnespie family. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, has provided further copies of these documents to the family’s representatives and is currently examining what options might be available to further assist the family. I have told the family that the Government will stay in contact with them as this progresses.

I am aware of the media coverage of the report to which the Deputy refers. This is undoubtedly another extremely difficult time for the family, who have been campaigning for the return of Mr. McAnespie's remains in full. I am sure all Deputies can agree with me that this painful Information must be made all the more distressing by the long time the family have had to wait for it.

Dealing with the legacy of the Troubles is complex and a challenging task for everyone. The Government remains fully committed to the framework of measures in the Stormont House Agreement as a means to seek to address the needs of the many victims and survivors and their families and to allow society to move forward from the legacy of the Troubles.

Victims and survivors have had to wait for far too long already for a suitable and effective system in Northern Ireland for dealing with legacy issues relating to the Troubles. In this context, I welcomed the launch earlier this month of the UK's public consultation on its draft legislation to implement the legacy aspects of the Stormont House Agreement.

These institutions will provide a comprehensive way of addressing the painful legacy of the past in Northern Ireland, in order that victims and survivors can have their legitimate needs and expectations met.

I have also emphasised in discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the political parties, the need to ensure that legacy inquests are properly resourced and I continue to raise this issue with the Secretary of State. I have urged all with responsibilities in relation to legacy inquests to move forward as quickly as possible to implement the helpful proposals of the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

On the Deputy's direct questions, we will try to establish the facts surrounding some of the issues the Deputy has outlined. I will ensure the issue is raised with the appropriate authorities in Northern Ireland.

We must establish the when, the who and the where, that is, when this was done, who carried it out and under whose direction and where, and in what way, was Aidan's rib cage section disposed of? Is it retrievable or is it irretrievably destroyed? That is unclear from the letter from Dr. Lyness, which, more than 30 years after Aidan's murder at Aughnacloy at the Tyrone-Monaghan border has come as an absolute shock to his family, who have always hoped that that release would inform one of the key and critical issues relating to Aidan's murder.

I have itemised several things that I have asked the Minister to pursue with the Secretary of State in respect of the state pathologist's office in the North of Ireland and I also ask the Minister to ask her to include any other possible holders of relevant documentation. I believe there is a bounden responsibility on the Secretary of State to ensure the McAnespie family is fully and absolutely co-operated with, and informed.

The McAnespie family, as well as anyone whom I have heard speak on this latest disturbing information on the murder of Aidan McAnespie, believe that the rib cage section being referred to was removed to cover up the fact that Aidan was hit by a single bullet fired from above and not by a ricochet off the roadway behind him. That view is now confirmed in the minds of many by the revelation that the critical evidence that could attest to the trajectory of the bullet is no longer available to us.

Finally, in deference to all that the McAnespie family has sought, I ask the Minister to please intervene with his Cabinet colleagues and request the Minister for Justice and Equality to give effect to the very reasonable request of the entire Committee on Justice and Equality, the McAnespie family and many others, that he contact all those who gave evidence to the then deputy commissioner, Eugene Crowley, in order that they would waive their understanding of confidentiality and allow the report to issue.

On the last point, the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, has agreed to look at this issue and is doing so. I am not sure if it is as straightforward as the Deputy has outlined in terms of simply asking people for their permission to waive confidentiality. The Minister is taking legal advice on it. When an investigation happens on the basis of guarantees around confidentiality, it has a standing that makes dealing with this issue difficult. I have explained that to the McAnespie family and I think they understand where we are coming from. We want to try to be helpful but we do not want to try to build pressure on people who gave evidence on the basis of confidentiality, even all these years later. I will wait to hear what the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, thinks may or may not be possible and we have undertaken to communicate with the family on this.

It is important to note that I cannot compel the state pathologist in Northern Ireland to provide information one way or the other but I can certainly raise concerns with the Secretary of State. I understand why the Deputy is asking the questions that he has asked. We are currently in a process in Northern Ireland where we are trying to move ahead with a comprehensive, structured response to dealing with legacy issues. There are many families in Northern Ireland from both communities that are trying to deal with very painful memories of murders and atrocities there and I hope that the McAnespie family can, in time, also establish the full truth about what happened to their son.

School Transport

I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue, which has been raised in the House many times in recent years. It relates to the inconsistency whereby school bus drivers who reach the age of 70 years are no longer able to transport children to and from schools, although these same bus drivers may transport children from the same school on a school tour to the furthest distance possible, for instance, driving school children on a school tour from Carlow to Donegal and back on the same day. There is no logical reason why the same bus driver may not transport children to and from schools on a route that they probably know better than anyone.

It is a contradiction that the school bus driver who knows the area is not in a position to do that. It is ageist that the day he or she turns 70 years, the driver must immediately forfeit that route due to his or her age. Currently, we are encouraging able-bodied people to work longer. We have an ageing population and we will have to work longer. There is a contradiction where someone who is capable, knows the area and the students best and most likely is in a position to look after those children better than anyone else may not do so.

I accept and appreciate that getting children to and from school is a very important chore and that when people are older, there is a requirement for periodic medical certification to ensure they are capable. It is discrimination, however, against people who have reached 70 years. The Minister of State has given the same response to several Deputies. I ask him to consider a situation whereby when a driver reaches 70 years, he or she must undergo a medical test on an annual basis, in order that such drivers will be certified capable of driving the children they know best on the school bus on the routes they know best. It is not too much to ask where we have people who are able. The local school bus route, particularly in rural Ireland, suits a person who is retired who knows the area. Annual testing and certification would allow such people to continue doing the jobs they are capable of doing. This is discrimination which needs to be addressed. Enabling older people to get out in the community is good for their health and mental well-being, particularly when they are arguably better than anyone else to look after children on those routes.

Will the Minister of State review the situation in order that the exclusion of those aged 70 years and over is not set in stone and that there is flexibility for a driver to be able to continue to drive a school bus in a safe manner, once he or she has passed a medical test?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I will begin by giving an outline of the extent of the school transport service.

School transport is a significant service. At present, more than 116,000 children, including more than 12,000 children with special educational needs, are being transported by approximately 4,500 vehicles each day to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country, covering over 100 million km annually at a total cost of almost €190 million in 2017.

As the Deputy is aware, Bus Éireann operates the school transport scheme on behalf of the Department. It has advised that the minimum age for school bus drivers is 23 years and that candidates must have at least two years' driving experience. In response to the expressed wishes of many school bus drivers - including those employed by Bus Éireann and drivers for private school bus contractors - who wanted to remain in their positions upon reaching retirement age at 66 years, and following the advice of the medical department of Bus Éireann, the company decided to alter the compulsory retirement age for school bus drivers who provide services under the school transport scheme in order to enable experienced personnel to remain in their positions for a maximum of four more years if desired. School bus drivers who opt to remain on after reaching 66 years of age may do so up to the age of 70, if they are satisfied to do so, subject to an annual medical review and once they continue to hold the requisite driving licence. That is the position as it stands. Bus Éireann has further advised that the opinion of its chief medical officer is that, given the demanding and safety-critical nature of school bus driving, 70 is an appropriate age at which to retire from such employment.

I accept and understand that because they are living longer, people want to work longer. That is the case in many types of employment. However, we have a huge responsibility when dealing with the general public, particularly children. As far as I know, at present it is not within my remit to make alterations in this regard. The compulsory retirement age is based on the opinion of the chief medical officer. This scheme is directed by Bus Éireann under the auspices of my Department. As the Deputy has suggested, there may be other drivers - and I am not saying there are not, there probably are - who are driving cars. There may also be other bus drivers driving private school transport. Such drivers do not operate under this scheme, however. I receive advice and, as Minister of State with responsibility for the 116,000 children who are transported all around the country every year, I am sometimes obliged to take the advice of the chief medical officer. Right now, that is the advice he has given me. I have no problem going back to the chief medical officer and asking him again to give me the substantial medical reasons as to why he reached that decision and to tell me when he reached that decision. I may be wrong, but I believe it was in 2001.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I very much appreciate that the school bus service is a very important and integral part of rural Ireland. We know that there have been issues around it in recent years and I thank the Minister of State for his engagement in that regard and for bringing the issues to a reasonable conclusion. With regard to the substantive issue, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, I appreciate how demanding and responsible the job is. Over a number of years, we have seen some fatalities with regard to school buses. It is important that my child, the Minister of State's child or anybody else's child gets to his or her destination safe and sound and gets home in the evening in the very same way once the school day is over.

The substantive issue with regard to the point I made is that we have an aging population. There are now people who are capable of working longer and who want to do so. They should be given the opportunity to work longer and should not be discriminated against. I met a couple of bus drivers in my area in Carlow in recent weeks. One individual had been driving buses all his life. Previously, he had been a lorry driver for Cómhlucht Siúicre Éireann. He is very used to driving around the country. He has been discriminated against. He drives for a local bus company and has taken kids on their school tour from a rural part of Carlow to Cork for the day. That is approximately 240 miles to 250 miles. At the same time, he is not allowed to bring the school kids on the school route, which would only be about 15 miles or 20 miles, on a daily basis. I would appreciate it if, as he suggested, the Minister of State went back to the chief medical officer and asked him the criteria and rationale behind what he has suggested. If there was some flexibility in that regard, it would be very useful for everybody.

I thank the Deputy again. Obviously, I recognise that he is concerned with the safety and health of the 116,000 children, including 12,000 with special needs, who are transported around the country every year, sometimes in poor conditions. I accept that. When somebody is driving and has responsibility for the general public - particularly for schoolchildren and so on - the Department, Bus Éireann and I, as Minister of State, have a critical responsibility to review all medical evidence available and to be careful in every decision we make. There are criteria laid down for all drivers. I will not go through them today because they are not relevant to this particular question. However, the medical officer said that, given the demanding and safety-critical nature of the job, he deemed 70 an appropriate age. However, as I have told the Deputy, I will go back to the medical officer and ask him the criteria which were laid down and when the decision was made. I have no problem doing that. Now that I think of it, I was correct. That decision was made in 2001. Perhaps it needs to be looked at. I cannot say that in my capacity as Minister of State, however. I am obliged to take on board what the chief medical officer appointed by Bus Éireann says as it is in control of the service. I will certainly revert to the Deputy when I have spoken to the chief medical officer.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to raise this very important issue as a Topical Issue matter. I raised it already this morning during questions on promised legislation. I did not realise at that time that my Topical Issue matter had been selected. The basic issue relates to an individual in my constituency who is in receipt of €229 in family income supplement, which is a substantial enough payment in its own right. It recognises the particular circumstances of my constituent. He has a wife. He is working, she is a full-time homemaker and they have seven children. In recognition of the need to meet their weekly outgoings, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection deems it necessary to pay them the family income supplement, which is very welcome. It is a very good and fair scheme and is reflective of the need in which families find themselves and of the support they need. Long may it continue.

The eldest child of that same family is sitting his leaving certificate this year and will be going to third level next year. He applied for a third-level grant and failed to get it on the basis that the family's income exceeds the threshold. This is an anomaly and it must be corrected. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection deems it necessary to pay this family income support in order to meet its basic requirements. This is a family that will pay its mortgage, its household tax, its property tax and VAT on everything it buys. These people are contributing to society in every way. They are now trying to educate their family. They have started with their eldest son but cannot get a grant for higher education. This is an anomaly which must be corrected.

I am not asking the Minister of State to come back with a review and an overhaul of the system. We can talk about such things at all times. Education grants are always to be reviewed. However, in these particular circumstances - and I would imagine that there are not too many people in this situation as we speak - if a family is in receipt of the family income supplement, there should be an automatic entitlement to a Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, grant. I ask the Minister of State to rectify this matter by ministerial order or any other method that might be required. I ask that she does not put the family or the student under any further stress. To use a common term, this is a no-brainer. It is something which should be dealt with and needs to be dealt with. I know the Minister of State to be a person of practicality and fairness.

I ask her to use that practicality and fairness and simply intervene to resolve this issue immediately.

I thank Deputy Brassil for raising this important issue. I acknowledge he raised it earlier today with my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Richard Bruton, on the Order of Business. As the Deputy knows, under the terms of the student grant scheme, assistance is awarded to students who meet the conditions on funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means. The assessment of means under the student grant scheme is based on gross income from all sources. Therefore, all income is assessed from the same starting point, eliminating any distortion that might arise from different spending decisions. The means test arrangements of the student grant scheme are applied nationally. In the case of both employed and self-employed applicants, gross income is assessed with certain specified social welfare and health service payments excluded.

The income limits for grant eligibility are increased relative to the number of students in a family applying for a grant. Also, in recognition of the additional cost to parents where more than one person is attending college, an increment for each additional relevant person can be applied to the income thresholds at the rates outlined in the student grant scheme documentation. The maximum increment that can be applied for each additional family member attending college at the same time is €4,830. In this way, the student grant scheme is responsive to the individual circumstances of particular families.

The eligibility of an applicant or the level of the grant awarded may be reassessed by Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, in the event of a change of circumstances in the academic year. The applicant should, in the first instance, contact SUSI and notify it of the change in circumstances.

The Deputy will be aware that the family income supplement provides an income support for employees on low earnings with families. The family income supplement was recently renamed and it is now known as the working family payment, WFP. Under the student grant scheme, the WFP is treated as an income disregard in the means assessment process. It is also included as an eligible payment for the special rate of maintenance grant.

In recognition of the fact that the working family payment is paid to a family as opposed to an individual, a change was made to the 2016 SUSI grant scheme to recognise the presence of a payment even in cases where it is paid to a person whose income is not assessed as part of the means assessment process.

I do not really want to talk about the family in question but the highest income limit for a family of the size the Deputy is talking about is €59,595. I have been advised that the income of the family in question is above this threshold. Therefore, the applicant will not qualify for grant support.

I am very disappointed with the response. I will continue to pursue this matter. The working family payment is basically a recognition by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that, education aside, the family needs extra money in order to meet minimum living standards. As a State, we are saying the family in question does not qualify for support to educate its child. It simply does not stack up.

I am aware of the application process and guidelines. We can have another debate on the very low grant rates and the fact that, for any working family, trying to get support to educate its children is next to impossible but what is occurring beggars belief considering that the State itself recognises it has to intervene and pay a working family payment to a family so it will reach a basic standard of living. The last line of the Minister of State's reply is that the applicant will not qualify for grant support. I must, therefore, go back to the working family and tell the husband and wife, who have seven children, that the State will help them to reach the minimum standard of living but will not help them to educate their child. What does that say about us as a nation? If we cannot educate and support our young people, where are we going as a nation? I will not let this issue go because it needs to be resolved. If there are other families caught up in the same circumstances, their cases need to be sorted out and they need to be supported. The Minister of State's reply is just not good enough.

We are aware of the issues and difficulties faced by the family. There has been contact. The Minister told the Deputy this morning that the SUSI grant scheme is currently being reviewed. As of now, the highest income limit for a family of the size in question is €59,595. If a family's income exceeds this threshold – these are the rules I have — the applicant will not qualify for the grant support. The scheme is being reviewed, however.

Hospital Services

I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this issue. I appreciate it very much.

A top consultant turned whistleblower at University Hospital Kerry has told the newspaper Kerry's Eye that the lives of public patients are now at serious risk because of vital scans being delayed. Consultant radiologist Dr. Martin Schranz has said public patients with potentially life-threatening illnesses are facing serious health risks because of delays in assigning them a patient number that will allow them to have a scan at the hospital. He said that when a patient is referred to the hospital for a scan, he or she has to be assigned a number by the clerical staff in the hospital before he or she can be scanned. He said he knows of five patients whose treatments have been delayed in the past five years.

The latest case was in the past five months and involved a cancer patient who was awaiting a scan so he could be operated on in Cork. By the time he had the scan, which was weeks later because he was waiting for the number, he formed a complication, which may or may not have existed beforehand. That is where the delay has occurred. Dr. Schranz said a GP can ring and say he is worried about a patient and that he has only one option, that is, to send the patient to the emergency department. The consultant says he cannot scan the patient because he does not have a number. It could take a couple of weeks or up to three months. He said one never knows when one can get that number. If the patients pay, they get the number the same day but those who cannot afford it do not get the scan. One does not know who is serious and who is not.

The consultant claims GPs are worried enough to ring him but that his back is against the wall. What can he say to the patient? Does he say he cannot scan the patient unless he or she pays, or does he apologise and say he or she must go to the emergency department and wait six or seven hours just to get the scan? Dr. Schranz says this has been going on since the manual system at the hospital was digitised four years ago. It can take months to get a number, if one gets a number at all, but the average waiting time is about four weeks.

It is a simple matter but it means patients who could have cancer, appendicitis or another urgent or semi-urgent condition are not scanned for weeks or months. Dr. Schranz filled up incident forms that the hospital should take seriously and investigate but he has heard nothing back. He says the delays are seriously impeding him from doing his job. That is not right for patients and it is not right for general practitioners, GPs, who are very frustrated. Dr. Schranz said that a colleague of his in the emergency department cannot understand why their department is being bogged down with these patients. Most of these matters turn out to be normal but potentially they could result in life or death situations.

I will put three questions first to the Minister of State. First, has he or the Department ever been made aware of the issues raised by Dr. Schranz at University Hospital Kerry, UHK? If so, when were they made aware and what action was taken? Second, does the Minister of State accept the claims made by Dr. Schranz and the concerns raised about the delays regarding scans at University Hospital Kerry? Third, is he aware that UHK, through its public relations, PR, consultants, Heneghan PR, categorically stated in writing that the hospital does not accept what Dr. Martin Schranz is stating and has no knowledge of the incidents he alleges? I have a number of other questions that I will ask after the Minister of State has replied.

I thank Deputy Michael Healy-Rae for raising the issue of timely access to services at University Hospital Kerry and for giving me an opportunity to update the House on the position. I am taking the matter on behalf of the Minister for Health, who apologises that he could not be here.

The Minister acknowledges that, in general, waiting times are often unacceptably long and he is conscious of the burden that places on patients and their families. However, it is important to note that in regard to the prioritisation used when scheduling patients for appointments, the Health Service Executive, HSE, has adopted a national waiting list management policy, which sets out the processes hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists. This policy was developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care.

I understand Deputy Healy-Rae has specific concerns about delays in the radiology department in University Hospital Kerry. It is important to note that all staff in our hospitals are aware of the strict protocols relating to patient safety incidents. All safety incidents, both clinical and non-clinical, must be notified through the process outlined in the HSE’s safety incident management policy. I would like to assure the Deputy that the Minister for Health has been advised by the HSE that the hospital has not received any safety incident forms relating to ultrasound scan delays in University Hospital Kerry.

The Minister has been further advised that management in UHK has been working with radiologists in the hospital to develop a pathway to assign patients for scans in a manner that is consistent with HSE protocols relating to fair and equitable access to treatment for public and private patients based on patient acuity. A transparent, fair and equitable pathway has also been developed for GP referrals for ultrasound scans which are non-urgent and routine, and for urgent cases which are dealt with through the emergency department or acute medical assessment unit, AMU, if required.

The Deputy may also wish to note that, following a recommendation in Sláintecare, the Minister has established an independent review group, chaired by Dr. Donal de Buitléir, to examine the impact of separating private practice from the public hospital system. The group has been asked to conclude its work and report to the Minister in September 2018.

In regard to the radiology department in University Hospital Kerry, I wish to conclude by reassuring the Deputy that the HSE has confirmed that the management at the hospital has not received any safety incident forms relating to ultrasound scan delays and that it is satisfied that patients are assigned for scans in a manner consistent with HSE protocols on fair and equitable access to treatment.

Can the Minister of State explain why the hospital or the HSE have denied all knowledge of the issues raised by Dr. Schranz when correspondence seen by Kerry's Eye newspaper clearly shows that the hospital management was made aware of them in writing on numerous occasions as far back as August 2015? Can he assure hundreds of public patients, including cancer patients, that the scan delays issue raised by Dr. Schranz has not resulted in missed diagnosis or delayed treatment that has adversely affected an existing diagnosis? Can he assure patients that their health and welfare is not compromised because of the issues raised by Dr. Schranz? Can he confirm that, regarding the radiology department at UHK, private patients are being block-booked for scans assigned to protect public patient slots? Is this the first time the Minister has become aware of the issues raised by Dr. Schranz? What does he propose to do about it?

Having said all that, it is only right to acknowledge the work that has been carried out by management on the public-private issue I have raised in recent months about which I have concerns. My overall concern is to ensure that the HSE does not allow University Hospital Kerry to be downgraded by stealth, in other words, by not allocating adequate resources to the hospital. I do not want to see our hospital in Tralee, in County Kerry, downgraded and left to be nothing more than a glorified community hospital. The people of Kerry deserve better. We deserve to have a properly run and adequately resourced hospital. We have great people working in the hospital, including management, doctors and nurses who are diligent in their duty. I want them to be given adequate resources to run an excellent hospital.

I acknowledge Deputy Michael Healy-Rae's support for the staff and the management at University Hospital Kerry. I will bring the concerns he raised to the Minister, Deputy Harris, as well as the particular points he raised in respect of Dr. Schranz.

In regard to investment in the health services, they will not be downgraded by stealth; there is no question of that. We have invested a great deal of money in the health services. We will deal with these issues as part of the reform agenda because we accept that we need to reform and invest in health services.

On the particular questions asked, it is important that we accept the following three points, which are very important. First, the UHK operations manager has engaged directly with the consultant radiologist about his concerns. Second, UHK has advised that it has developed a clear pathway for GP referrals for ultrasound scans which is transparent, fair, equitable and consistent with HSE protocols relating to fair and equitable access for public and private patients. Third, the UHK management has advised that the hospital has not received any safety incident forms regarding the ultrasound scan delays in the hospital. It also advises that none of its other radiologists have raised any concerns in that regard. That is important.

I will bring the other issues raised by Deputy Michael Healy-Rae to the Minister, Deputy Simon Harris. We will follow up on them and revert to the Deputy with a more detailed response.