Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors Recruitment

Questions (607)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

607. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which an adequate supply of junior hospital doctors is available throughout the health service in 2014, whether sourced internally or overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15430/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In July last year, I set up a working group chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, to carry out a strategic review of the medical training and career structure of NCHDs. I received the interim report of the Group in December which dealt primarily with training issues. The Group is now focusing on career structures and pathways following training and is due to report by the end of March on these issues. The final report of the Group is to be submitted to me by end June 2014. I am confident that this strategic review will, in future years, support the retention of sufficient numbers of doctors trained in Ireland within the system.

It should be noted that there are some specialties, at consultant and NCHD level in which there are international shortages and which have been traditionally difficult to fill. Filling these posts represents a significant challenge given that there is a competitive market. There are also some hospitals to which it has historically been difficult to attract applicants, in particular smaller hospitals that have onerous rosters. The planned establishment of hospital groups should help to address this issue, as this will allow doctors to be appointed as group resources - instead of to just one hospital. Where posts are vacant and suitable candidates cannot be sourced, locums are retained or alternative arrangements are made to ensure service delivery.

Nursing Staff Provision

Questions (608)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

608. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which the number of nurses engaged through the public health service has fluctuated in each of the past four years to date; if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of nursing levels at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15431/14]

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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.

Health Insurance Prices

Questions (609)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

609. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if any particular study has been done into the increases in private health insurance in the past number of years in view of the fact that increased competition in the area was supposed to benefit the consumer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15432/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I have consistently emphasised the need for much greater cost control in the private health insurance industry so that premiums are affordable for as many people as possible. My Department and the Health Insurance Authority monitor the factors that contribute to costs on an ongoing basis.

The health insurance market is challenged by factors such as an ageing population, a reduction in numbers holding private health insurance and constant pressures on claims costs. However, I am determined to address these issues and to promote a sustainable private health insurance market as we move to UHI.

I appointed an independent chair to work with health insurers, the HIA and my own Department, to identify effective strategies for costs management. Mr. Pat McLoughlin's first report, published at the end of December, made a number of important recommendations now being pursued by insurers, the HSE and my Department. These recommendations include measures to control costs, greatly improve clinical audit, streamline claims processing and address fraud, waste and abuse in the industry.

As recommended by Mr. McLoughlin, I am also looking favourably at the scope for introducing Lifetime Community Rating and at other measures to encourage younger people to buy health insurance. Work on Phase II of Mr. McLoughlin's report, which will deal further with the factors driving costs in health insurance, is progressing well and will be completed as soon as possible.

The Government remains committed to keeping down the cost of private health insurance in the transition to Universal Health Insurance.

Medical Card Reviews

Questions (610)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

610. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the steps he continues to take to ensure that medical cards are not arbitrarily withdrawn from persons with severe terminal illnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15433/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the provisions of the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for health services in Ireland is based primarily on residency and means. The Act provides that persons who are unable, without undue hardship, to arrange GP services for themselves and family qualify for a medical card. The HSE can only award medical cards in accordance with the Act and, therefore, it must assess applicants on the overall financial situation of the applicant and his or her dependants. The HSE gives effect to this legislation through its Medical Card National Assessment Guidelines.

However, once an application for a medical card incorporates certification from a medical consultant or a general practitioner that the applicant has a medical condition which is categorised as terminal, and the applicant is nearing the end stage of life, the applicant will be granted eligibility to a medical card, without being subjected to a means assessment. Medical cards issued, in such circumstances, will have a default eligibility period of 6 months, from the month of issue. Mindful that no definitive prognosis can be provided on the life expectancy of a terminally ill person, the HSE takes a sensitive approach on the review of medical card eligibility, beyond the initial six month period. A Medical Card Review notification is not issued and eligibility is extended to take account of the cardholder's on-going circumstances.

With the exception of terminally ill patients in palliative care, the HSE issues all emergency cards on the basis that the patient is eligible for a medical card on the basis of means or undue hardship, and that the applicant will follow up with a full application within a number of weeks of receiving the emergency card. As a result, emergency medical cards are issued to a named individual, with a limited eligibility period of six months and the HSE reserves the right to review eligibility at any point in time to confirm that a person continues to meet the qualifying criteria required to continue holding eligibility.

Narcolepsy Issues

Questions (611)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

611. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the total number of identified sufferers of narcolepsy; the extent to which supportive arrangements are in place or remain to be put in place in respect of such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15434/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has received 62 cases with clinical information confirming a diagnosis of narcolepsy in relation to individuals following pandemic influenza vaccination.

As the second part of the Deputy's question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for a direct reply.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (612)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

612. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the extent to which hospital waiting lists have been reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15435/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy.

EU Directives

Question No. 614 answered with Question No. 553.

Questions (613)

Seán Kyne

Question:

613. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Health the progress in ensuring compliance with the EU working time directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15436/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The provisions of the European Working Time Directive encompass a number of measures to protect workers welfare and safety, including a maximum 48 hour working week - averaged over a reference period, daily and weekly rest periods and the granting of compensatory rest where the working day exceeds 13 hours. Considerable progress has been made over the last 12 months on progressing compliance with the provisions of the Working Time Directive in respect of NCHDs. Data from the HSE shows that average working hours for NCHDs in 2009 was 60 hours a week, 54 hours per week in 2012 and 51.4 hours in the third quarter of 2013.

The HSE is focused on advancing implementation of the Directive. Intensive negotiations conducted at the Labour Relations Commission in September and October resulted in agreement on a joint approach, involving hospital management, the IMO and NCHDs to achieve EWTD compliance. The agreement focused in particular on steps to be taken in the period up to the NCHD rotation on 13 January 2014 to eliminate shifts in excess of 24 hours. At a meeting between the HSE and the IMO on 6 February progress made by acute hospitals on achieving compliance with the agreed maximum 24 hour shift target was assessed. That assessment showed that the majority of hospitals have made significant progress.

NCHD recruitment and retention is required in order to facilitate the achievement of EWTD compliance. Achievement of full compliance will also requires reorganisation of the delivery of certain services within Hospital Groups. The number of NCHDs in the public health system has increased by over 200 in recent years and now exceeds 4,900. However, there are international shortages of NCHDs in certain categories and specialties. There are also some hospitals to which it has been difficult to attract NCHDS for a range of reasons including training opportunities and rural location.

I set up the MacCraith Group to undertake a Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career structure last summer. The Group will make recommendations aimed at improving the retention of medical graduates in the public health system, planning for future service needs and achieving the maximum benefit from investment in medical education and training. The Group provided an Interim Report in December 2013 focusing on training and is now examining career structures and pathways following training with a view to submitting a report by the end of this week. It will provide the final report by the end of June 2014.

Question No. 614 answered with Question No. 553.

Dental Services Waiting Lists

Questions (615)

Seán Kyne

Question:

615. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the waiting lists for dental treatment for children in County Galway; and the steps available to a parent whose child needs urgent dental treatment but the cost of which is prohibitive for the family. [15441/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE is responsible for providing dental care to schoolchildren. The matter has therefore been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances Applications

Questions (616)

Brendan Smith

Question:

616. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health when an application will be approved for an essential aid for a person (details supplied) in County Cavan in view of the long delay in processing and finalising this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15442/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The provision of wheelchairs is a matter for the Health Service Executive. The Department has asked the Health Service Executive to inform the Deputy directly of the current position in relation to the case referred to.

Roads Maintenance

Questions (617)

James Bannon

Question:

617. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to implement legislation concerning the hazard posed by dangerous trees along the edges of public roadways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15211/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of national roads is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Section 70 of the Roads Act 1993 sets out the responsibility of landowners and occupiers to take all reasonable steps to ensure that trees, hedges and other vegetation growing on their land are not, or could not become, a danger to people using a public road and or interfere with the safe use of a public road or the maintenance of a public road. 

This section also allows the relevant road authority (i.e. the relevant local authority or the National Roads Authority) to step in where a landowner fails or is unable to take action to remedy a hazard. I have no plans to amend this legislation.  

Under Section 19 (2) of the Roads Act 1993 the NRA may directly undertake certain roads functions where it considers that it would be more convenient, expeditious, effective or economical to do so. In this regard the NRA has arranged in recent times for multi-annual maintenance contracts to be put in place for certain motorways and dual carriageways. Separate to this, certain sections of motorway are also maintained by toll companies under PPP contracts.

Roads Maintenance Funding

Questions (618)

Michael McCarthy

Question:

618. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of funding that has been provided to Cork County Council to address the damage caused to the road network; if he will provide the extra moneys to deliver vital infrastructural projects such as key road upgrades especially in relation to vital tourist routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14719/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Arising from the Government decision of 11 February 2014, a total of €16.8m was approved for repair and rehabilitation works associated with the clean-up and repair of roads damaged in the 13 December-6 January 2014 period across the country. 

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government contacted each local authority confirming the total sum of additional funds available for a programme of repair works. It also requested that local authorities prepare and submit a programme of works to the appropriate Department for the projects identified, showing the indicative timescales and drawdown profiles, etc.   

My Department has engaged directly with each local authority (including Cork County Council) to seek a description and financial breakdown of the damage caused to regional and local roads and an indicative timeframe for repairs.  Cork County Council has submitted costs of €1,073,500 for repair of roads and my Department will now allocate the approved funding.

National Car Test

Questions (619)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

619. Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason an appointment for a national car test cannot be obtained until June 2014 at Little Island NCT centre, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14726/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) the Road Safety Authority has responsibility for delivering the National Car Test. Therefore I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the Road Safety Authority for direct reply. 

 I ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

Airport Security

Questions (620)

Clare Daly

Question:

620. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason the immigration service is required to obtain police reports from Britain and France before a person could start to work airside at Dublin Airport as a result of having previously worked in those countries; and his views on whether this is excessively expensive and cumbersome. [14778/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Security is a vital element in ensuring public confidence in aviation. At Irish and other EU airports requirements are governed by EU legislation, specifically Council Regulation (EC) 300/2008 and Commission Regulation (EU) 185/2010. These regulations set out common basic standards in the field of civil aviation security and have been incorporated into Ireland's National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP). All Irish airports are required to comply with the provisions of the NCASP and all relevant EU and international regulations.  

There is an explicit requirement under Commission Regulation (EU) 185/2010 that anyone requiring unescorted access to the security restricted area of an airport i.e. airside,  must have successfully completed a background check before an airport identification card (AIC) allowing such access can be  issued to them.  At Dublin Airport this process is managed by the Dublin Airport Authority. The Regulation requires that the background check must include a check of criminal records in all states of residence in the preceding five years and this is conducted by the Garda Vetting Office.

Public Transport Initiatives

Questions (621)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

621. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to extend the DART line to Donabate, County Dublin; if any costings have been done towards this goal; the long-term plans for extending the DART to Balbriggan, north County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14789/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The extension of the DART to Balbriggan forms part of the overall DART Underground project which was postponed in 2011.   Due to financial constraints, the Government's current capital plan to 2016 did not provide for the DART Underground which was planned as a PPP but with a very significant level of Exchequer support.

DART Underground remains a  key element of the overall public transport integration strategy and  would deliver benefits for each of the four rail corridors radiating from the city centre.

Like other major projects which were deferred, DART Underground was due to be reviewed in preparation for the next capital plan post 2016. However, this review has been brought forward as a consequence of a recent High Court Judgement on the DART Underground Railway Order which ruled that the period for serving Notices to Treat for the purpose of compulsory purchase of property under the Order should be 18 months rather than the seven years set out in the Railway Order. This  means that a decision on whether  to proceed with DART Underground under the current Railway Order must be made by September 2015.

 As a consequence I have asked the National Transport Authority (NTA) to update the business case for the project and to review funding options. I expect to have a report from the NTA by late summer and will consider the options for the project over the following months having regard to the outcome of the review, its affordability, other competing priorities and the Government position on funding for infrastructure  post 2016. 

 I am also referring the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply as I understand that as part of its overall research and planning for public transport in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) it has reviewed the option of electrification from Malahide to Balbriggan as a stand-alone project. The Deputy should advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sports Capital Programme Applications

Questions (622)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

622. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding a grant in respect of a club (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14795/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I can confirm that an application has been submitted by the club referred to by the Deputy under the 2014 Sports Capital Programme and the Deputy's support for the project is noted.