Departmental Staff Expenses

Questions (189)

Clare Daly

Question:

189. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the protocol on assistant principal officers and principal officers using their private cars and claiming unvouched expenses when official cars are available in her Department; if she has received any complaints regarding same; and the oversight that is in place to deal with same. [14838/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department does not retain or provide official cars for use by any officers. All travel claims are paid in line with the relevant travel & subsistence circulars as issued by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform since 2011 and previously by the Department of Finance. Expenditure in this regard is examined by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General as part of their annual audit of Departmental expenditure.

Tobacco Control Measures

Questions (190)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

190. Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health in reference to his intention to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, the studies from the Australian experience, following their introduction of this measure, he has considered; his estimate, broken down into its individual elements, of the cost of implementing this measure in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14229/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy will be aware, I received Government approval on 19th November 2013 to proceed with drafting the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013. Standardised packaging, also known as generic packaging, means that all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics – would be removed, except for the brand and variant names, which would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands on the market. All packs would be in a plain neutral colour, except for the mandatory health warnings and the tax stamp. The objective is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers and to make health warnings more prominent.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products. Given that it is such a recent innovation, it has not been possible at this early stage to conduct research that would fully evaluate the impact of this policy in practice. However, a limited amount of research is beginning to be published. One study, published in December 2013, concluded that smoking in outdoor areas declined by 23%, and personal pack display (where packs are clearly visible on tables) declined by 15% following the introduction of plain packaging and larger pictorial warnings on packs. Another Australian study found a 78% increase in the number of calls to the smoking cessation helpline, Quitline, associated with the introduction of plain packaging.

It is important to state that the introduction of standardised packaging forms the latest strand of a comprehensive range of tobacco control legislation already in place in Ireland aimed at decreasing tobacco consumption in this country. Ireland’s new policy document in this area, Tobacco Free Ireland, launched on 3rd October 2013, sets a target for Ireland to be tobacco free (i.e. with a prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025. Tobacco Free Ireland addresses a range of tobacco control issues and initiatives and contains over 60 recommendations, one of which is the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products.

Regarding the Deputy’s query about costs; there would be no specific cost to the Exchequer related to the introduction of this measure per se. However, since the intent of the measures outlined in Tobacco Free Ireland is to reduce tobacco use, it could, in the absence of future increases in Excise rates, lead to a reduction in Excise receipts from tobacco which in 2012 yielded €1.072 billion. Any impact on Excise receipts needs to be set against the economic costs of deaths and illness attributable to smoking. European research on the issue indicated that a very conservative estimate of this for 2009 is in the region of €664 million. This is composed of €498 million in health expenditure on smoking related areas, €15 million in productivity losses due to absenteeism and €151 million in productivity losses due to long term incapacity.

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Questions (191)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

191. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 525 of 11 March 2014, the number of children benefitting from special needs assistants support via the grant aid provision mentioned in that question, broken down by Health Service Executive area; and to whom an application for such grant aid should be addressed where a child lives in the HSE Dublin south east or north Wicklow area. [14243/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

My Department has asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy in relation to the number of children with a disability in receipt of assistant support from health providers to attend mainstream pre-schools and the local service issue that he has raised as these are operational matters for the Executive.

Home Care Packages

Questions (192)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

192. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if home support services previously approved will commence in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14249/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Primary Medical Certificates Application Numbers

Questions (193)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

193. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health the number of primary medical certificates that have been issued over the past 10 years on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14266/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Service Executive assesses applications under the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Tax Concession Scheme and issues primary medical certificates to those that meet the qualifying medical criteria.

Accordingly, the Department has requested the HSE to provide directly to the Deputy the information she has requested.

HSE Waiting Lists

Questions (194)

Denis Naughten

Question:

194. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the numbers on waiting lists in respect of assessment and treatment for speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy, with a breakdown by therapy, by duration on the waiting list, by area and by age category; if he will provide corresponding figures for WTE vacancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14272/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE’s National Service Plan 2013 provided for additional funding of €20m to strengthen primary care services (€18.525m for the recruitment of 264.5 primary care team posts and €1.475m to support Community Intervention Team development). A Resource Allocation Model was developed and the posts were allocated based on the analysis carried out by the HSE in identifying areas of deprivation and need. The allocation and distribution of the posts was based on bringing each Integrated Service Area, where staffing is below the national average, towards the national average. The additional primary care posts included 72 Public Health Nurses, 40.5 Registered General Nurses, 47.5 Physiotherapists, 52.5 Occupational Therapists and 52 Speech and Language Therapists.

As of 6th March 2014, 199.5 posts have been filled or start dates have been agreed. The HSE is striving to have the remainder of the posts filled as soon as possible in 2014.

As the specific information about waiting list numbers and WTE vacancies is not routinely provided to the Department by the HSE, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy on these matters.

Hospital Appointment Status

Questions (195)

John McGuinness

Question:

195. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if an early hospital appointment will be arranged in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14280/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In relation to the particular patient query, and the number of other issues raised by the Deputy, as these are service matters, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to him directly.