Agrifood Sector Issues

Questions (197)

John Lyons

Question:

197. Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the plans or initiatives that are in operation or are planned to grow agri-business exports to the Chinese market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45173/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that exports of Irish agri-food and related exports to China have grown in value from €167m in 2010 to €323m in 2012, an increase of 93%, with dairy products increasing from €103m in 2010 to €182m in 2012, an increase of 77%. Pigmeat exports increased from €8m in 2010 to €44m in 2012, an increase of 450%, while our seafood exports have also grown from €5.7m in 2010 to €10m in 2012, a 75% increase. Exports of hides and skins are valued at €40m in 2012.

In the first eight months of 2013, when compared with the same period in 2012, there has again been a significant increase in exports to China, rising from €213 to €281m, an increase of 32% with dairy exports showing a substantial increase from €120m to €176m, an increase of 47% in this period.

During my Trade Mission to China in April 2012, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Agriculture and Fisheries cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was signed. This provides a framework for the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between Ireland and China in the area of agriculture and fisheries. It also provides for the sharing of expertise and the exchange of officials, designed to provide assurances to the Chinese authorities of the integrity of our food production systems, our high veterinary and food safety procedures and our technologically advanced agri and seafood sectors, thereby enhancing trade and facilitating increasing exports.

This MOU builds on an original MOU agreed in September 2006 and on the Action Plan on Mutual Cooperation between both Ministries which I signed on 28 May, 2011, and which provided for Chinese officials to undertake work placements in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and in the Marine Institute. Since the signing of the renewed MOU in April, 2012, there has been a significant increase in the number of political and trade related visits from China to Ireland. My Department hosted seven inward delegations from China in 2012, including three Vice-Ministerial visits, one inspection visit and visits by senior Chinese officials, including a joint study visit by EU and Chinese officials, as part of their cooperation agreement. Two further Chinese Vice-Ministers visited Ireland in May and June of this year.

Ireland has also secured full market access to China for salmon exports, which represents a sizeable opportunity for Irish salmon exporters, with demand for high-end seafood in China growing substantially each year. This followed intensive negotiations with the Chinese authorities by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in conjunction with the Irish Embassy in Beijing. Both the Marine Institute and Teagasc have also developed Memoranda of Understanding with their counterparts in China, focused on developing research between both our countries.

Because of the importance I attach to this market, I have approved the posting of an agriculture attaché from my Department to China in the New Year. The official will have specific responsibility for assisting in addressing any market access issues with China. I am particularly pleased to see the very significant increase in our exports to China and that the relationships which we have developed with China in the Agri food and related sectors have provided a very solid basis for growth in our exports to this key export destination.

Departmental Offices

Questions (198)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

198. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the opposition in County Roscommon to the proposed reduction in staff numbers and consequent reduction in service to the farming community at his Department office in Roscommon town; if his further attention has been drawn to the importance of this office to livestock exporters who, on a regular basis, need quick, direct access to his Department's personnel; if he is aware that the Roscommon office is strategically located to provide such urgent services to vast areas of counties Galway, Mayo, Longford and Sligo; if he will consider the original decision in favour of a regional type service based in Roscommon town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45303/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The position is that, following on from the successful restructuring of my Department's local office network, which reduced the number of local offices from 58 to 16, my Department has decided to centralise the administrative support currently provided in the local offices into two centres.

The decision to centralise the administrative support is based on a review by the Department of the business processes and procedures and, in particular, the administrative support requirements, in its remaining Local Offices. This review concluded that, arising from the substantial reduction in disease levels and the changes introduced earlier this year in relation to the implementation of controls in the context of the TB eradication programme, the number of administrative staffing required in the local offices would be significantly reduced and that further significant efficiencies in terms of the number of administrative staff required would accrue from the centralisation of administrative support in one or more centralised office(s). I have accepted this recommendation and I have decided that the centralised offices should be based in Cavan and Portlaoise. The choice of these two centres is based on the fact that, arising from the Government's decision to centralise human resources and payroll services, the staff required to provide the administrative support to the local offices will be available in these two centres as the centralised human resources and payroll services is rolled out across all Departments.

I would like to emphasise that the centralisation of the administrative functions of the local offices should not negatively impact upon local access and services for local customers and experience to-date indicates that there has been no negative impact on the services provided by these offices. In the event that the administrative support currently available in the Roscommon office is centralised, the Department vets, inspectors, technical officers and limited administrative support will remain in place in the Roscommon office and will continue to provide an effective service our clients across all of the schemes that are provided from that office. In view of this, I am satisfied that frontline services will be fully maintained and public access for all of the Departments stakeholders will continue to be available at the Roscommon office, including to livestock exporters.

Speech and Language Therapy

Questions (199)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

199. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health the speech and language therapy services provided at St. Patrick's rehabilitation and community care in Waterford city and the staffing complement to deliver same; the number of patients that attended in 2010, 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the number of unfilled posts at this time; his plan to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44899/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The particular issue raised by the Deputy is a service matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Procedures

Questions (200)

John McGuinness

Question:

200. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 186 of 25 September 2013, if he will state specifically when a cataract operation will be arranged in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will state clearly the process in this case and the timeframe involved; if he will insist that improved information be included in the answers relevant to the person on whose behalf the question is being asked. [44916/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy will be aware from my reply to him of 25th September last, the National Waiting List Management Policy, A standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, January 2013, has been 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. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

I understand that the HSE wrote to the Deputy on 10th October last in relation to this matter and advised him that the relevant Consultant clinically prioritises each patient requiring a procedure with each patient's name added to the list. Patients are then scheduled for their procedure in strict chronological order. It will be a matter for the hospital to advise the patient of the arrangements for her treatment and it would be in appropriate for me to intervene in a clinical matter.

I have however again asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy if further details can be made available.

Medical Card Appeals

Questions (201)

John McGuinness

Question:

201. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a medical card application now under appeal will be expedited and approved in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [44917/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has issued to Oireachtas members.

Dental Services Waiting Lists

Questions (202)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

202. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the measures being taken to deal with the backlog of patient appointments for orthodontic treatment at Millhouse, Ashtown Gate, Dublin; the timeframe involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44921/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE has commissioned an independent review of orthodontic services. The outcome of this review, which is near completion, will give guidance as to what changes will be desirable to provide the best possible model of care delivery, given the current resources available and future demand for services.

Dental Services Waiting Lists

Questions (203)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

203. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health when orthodontic treatment will continue following repeated cancellations at Millhouse, Ashtown Gate, Dublin, in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44922/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE provides orthodontic treatment to patients based on their level of clinical need. An individual's access to orthodontic treatment is determined against a set of clinical guidelines and priority is given to patients with greatest needs. The HSE has been asked to examine the specific query raised by the Deputy and to reply to him as soon as possible.