Hospital Services

Questions (703)

Matt Shanahan

Question:

703. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health when the subcontracted modular cath lab service provided by a company (details supplied) for diagnostic angiograms will recommence activity at University Hospital Waterford in view of the fact it has been closed since early February 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5928/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Hospital Services

Questions (704)

Matt Shanahan

Question:

704. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health when the refurbishment works to the existing main cath lab at University Hospital Waterford will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5929/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Estates unit in the Health Service Executive has been tasked with the delivery of additional capacity (infrastructure and equipment) nationwide in the effort for the containment and prevention of the spread of the Coronavirus - COVID-19. This has resulted in delays to works and schedules.

Building works have already been completed in respect of the refurbishment of the existing Cath Lab at University Hospital Waterford, they are awaiting the installation and commissioning of equipment as part of the Equipment Replacement Programme. It is expected the equipment supplier will be on site in mid-June to complete these works and estimated the equipment will be commissioned by late July.

Dental Services

Questions (705)

Seán Fleming

Question:

705. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Health the locations urgent dental services can be availed of in counties Laois and Offaly in view of the fact that private dentists are not working; the facilities available for dental work in hospitals in the counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5945/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (706)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

706. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 tests carried out by county to date in tabular form. [5949/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the HSE has responsibility, the Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (707)

Michael McGrath

Question:

707. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health if a matter raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) in relation to the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business will receive a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5954/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business was published by the Government earlier this month to ease the COVID 19 restrictions and to reopen Ireland’s economy and society in a phased manner.

The roadmap advises that in re-starting economic activity not all the population should go back to the workplace at the same time, with an initial focus on less endangered groups and sectors that are essential to facilitate economic activity.  

To complement the Roadmap, a National Protocol to protect the health and safety of workers has been developed. The "Return to Work Safely Protocol - COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers" published earlier this month sets out information for vulnerable workers. 

The Protocol advises that if an at risk or vulnerable worker cannot work from home and must be in the workplace, employers must make sure that they are preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres. However, employers should enable vulnerable workers to work from home where possible.

Hospital Services

Questions (708)

Michael McGrath

Question:

708. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position in relation to private consultants being able to see their patients in private hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5955/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer all non-urgent elective scheduled care activity, including outpatient clinics. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for COVID-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the World Health Organisation, the measures set out in the Government’s Action Plan in Response to Covid-19 and the recommendation of NPHET. The NPHET has now recommended that steps be taken to resume non-urgent scheduled care in the context of the safe care guidelines set out by its Expert Advisory Group.

A major part of the Government's Action Plan was to substantially increase the capacity of healthcare facilities to cope with the anticipated additional demand. As part of the Action Plan to urgently ramp up capacity for acute care facilities, an arrangement was agreed with the private hospitals to use their facilities as part of the public system on a temporary basis, to provide essential services. Under the arrangement, all patients in the private hospitals are treated as public patients and their treatment is prioritised based on clinical need. A Heads of Terms of an Agreement between the HSE and the Private Hospitals was agreed at the end of March 2020 and all 18 of the acute private hospitals signed up to it. The arrangement is in place for 3 months up to the end of June, with an option to extend it. Under the Heads of Terms to the agreement, a decision to extend the arrangement must be notified to the private hospitals by the end of this month. The arrangement is currently under review and depending on the outcome, a decision will be made on whether or not to extend it.

Departmental Investigations

Questions (709)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

709. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health if he will order an independent investigation into the reason for the death of 23 residents since 1 April 2020 in a nursing home (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5956/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Since 2009 the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider.

This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.

HIQA, in discharging its duties, determines, through examination of all information available to it, including site inspections, whether a nursing homes meets the regulations in order to achieve and maintain its registration status.

Should a nursing home be deemed to be non-compliant with the Regulations and the National Quality Standards, it may either fail to achieve or lose its registration status. In addition, the Chief Inspector has wide discretion in deciding whether to impose conditions of Registration on nursing homes.   

During the response to COVID-19, Nursing homes continue to be regulated by HIQA, who under the Health Act 2007 have the legal authority to examine the operation of any facility under their remit.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (710, 812)

Brendan Smith

Question:

710. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health If consideration will be given to the request of a representative association in relation to the need to provide additional support for a sector (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5957/20]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

812. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health his plans to provide additional financial support for community pharmacies in view of difficulties facing this sector as outlined by a union (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7026/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 710 and 812 together.

My officials and I have met with the Irish Pharmacy Union twice since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and engagement is ongoing in relation to the State supports which may be of benefit to the pharmacy sector. 

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (711)

Frank Feighan

Question:

711. Deputy Frankie Feighan asked the Minister for Health if the delay in providing Covid-19 test results to frontline staff and residents of Cregg House, County Sligo will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5958/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the HSE has responsibility, the Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (712)

Bríd Smith

Question:

712. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health if positive cases of Covid-19 were identified in a facility (details supplied) among residents in the direct provision system by the HSE; and if so, the date on which these were confirmed or suspected as Covid-19 cases. [5966/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy’s question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for answer and direct reply to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (713)

Bríd Smith

Question:

713. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health the location and date of the first Covid-19 positive cases identified in residential nursing homes. [5967/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this PQ relates to a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (714)

Bríd Smith

Question:

714. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health the interventions made by the HSE and the HPSC in direct provision centres, specifically on-site visits or inspections of these sites by public health teams and staff. [5968/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy’s question relates to a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for answer and direct reply to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (715)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

715. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Health if he has considered allowing farmers markets to reopen with social distancing and other measures in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5981/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Following the announcement by the Taoiseach on Friday last that it was safe to proceed with the easing of the restrictions set out in phase one of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, farmers markets can reopen with effect from Monday 18 May.

Hospitals Data

Questions (716)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

716. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the research carried out by his Department in relation to the number of hospital appointments that have been missed as a result of hospital avoidance or cancellations in the health service since 1 March 2020; and if statistical information will be provided in this regard (details supplied). [6037/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer all non-urgent elective scheduled care activity, including outpatient clinics. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for COVID-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the World Health Organisation, the measures set out in the Government’s Action Plan in Response to Covid-19 and the recommendation of NPHET.

In line with the expert advice, delivery of essential non-Covid care has continued to date, although at significantly lower volumes than previously. In particular, the delivery of cancer care, urgent surgery and trauma services are areas in which care continues to be delivered, often in alternative locations and using innovative methods of care delivery. Where possible, hospitals are working to provide services in a different way, which includes virtual clinics for some outpatient department appointments. Cancer services are continuing with prioritisation of time-sensitive treatment, and the ongoing review of the location of the delivery of cancer services.

The NPHET has now recommended that steps be taken to resume non-urgent scheduled care in the context of the safe care guidelines set out by its Expert Advisory Group. Guidance on patient pathways to mitigate the risks associated with the delivery of non-covid care, for patients and healthcare workers, and support safe delivery of care has been developed under the auspices of the Expert Advisory Subgroup of NPHET (EAG) and approved in principle by NPHET. This guidance includes, for example, guidance on screening, swabbing and use of PPE.

In collaboration with my Department’s communications team, research to understand why some people are avoiding interacting with health services has been initiated. Findings from a survey and focus groups commissioned by the Department indicate that fear of infection is one of the primary factors influencing peoples' reluctance in attending for acute services.  This data has informed the development of an advertisement campaign reassuring the public that GP services and EDs are available and open for business, with changes made to accommodate patients safely in the context of Covid-19. The campaign commenced on Monday 11th May, through national and local radio and social media, supported by local spokespeople and will be revised or concluded in line with impact seen on the ground.

In terms of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on waiting lists, the HSE and my Department are actively working to build methodologies for gathering relevant data to try to facilitate not only a better understanding of the health system at this time, but to try to model growing service demands as the year progresses and as the health system continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Outpatient waiting list at the end of April shows an increase of 5,636 in comparison to the end of March. The figure for those waiting less than 3 months has fallen by 24,076 in the same period, a reflection of the decrease in referrals by GPs. Meanwhile, the number of patients awaiting an Inpatient or Day Case (IPDC) procedure increased by 8,595 at the end of April when compared to the end of March waiting list.  During the same period the number on the ‘To Come In’ (TCI) list (those with an appointment for a procedure in the next six weeks) has reduced by 5,427.  Accordingly, a large part of the increase in the IPDC waiting list relates to patients moving back to the Active waiting list from the TCI list.  While the IPDC waiting list figure at the end of April is indicative of fewer patients being treated, it is of note that there were also fewer patients seen in Outpatient clinics in the same period and as a consequence fewer patients were referred for procedures.

Addiction Treatment Services

Questions (717)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

717. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of phone calls made to the HSE drug and alcohol helpline between 1 February and 1 May 2020; the number made to the helpline between the same dates in 2018 and 2019, respectively; the number of the daily positive Covid-19 cases which are persons with hospital-acquired Covid-19; and the number of such persons that have lost their lives. [6038/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Questions (718)

Chris Andrews

Question:

718. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health if organ transplant patients are excluded from receiving medications under the long term illness scheme and the drugs payment scheme; and if so, if transplant patients that require life-saving drugs for the rest of their lives will be made eligible to receive their medication under these schemes. [6043/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Long Term Illness Scheme was established under Section 59(3) of the Health Act 1970 (as amended).

The conditions covered by the LTI are: acute leukaemia; mental handicap; cerebral palsy; mental illness (in a person under 16); cystic fibrosis; multiple sclerosis; diabetes insipidus; muscular dystrophies; diabetes mellitus; parkinsonism; epilepsy; phenylketonuria; haemophilia; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; and conditions arising from the use of Thalidomide. Under the scheme, patients receive drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their illness, free of charge.

There are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the scheme at this time. However, I wish to inform the Deputy that it is proposed that the LTI Scheme would be included as part of a review of the basis for existing hospital and medication charges, to be carried out under commitments given in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy.

For people who are not eligible for the LTI Scheme, there are other arrangements which protect them from excessive medicine costs.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €124 a month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals with ongoing expenditure on medicines. 

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the HSE can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. 

People who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of GP consultations.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (719)

Matt Carthy

Question:

719. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health the steps he has taken to ensure that reopening of all sectors happen in tandem on an all-Ireland basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6046/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

On the island of Ireland, coordination between the two jurisdictions can make a significant contribution to the management of COVID-19. Close cooperation and, where possible, alignment of public health advice and policy decisions can contribute to more effective management and containment of the virus. In recent weeks, each jurisdiction has published its plan for the unwinding of social distancing measures and it is most welcome that there is significant common ground between the two documents.

There is ongoing, close engagement with the Northern Ireland authorities in a variety of forums, at both political and official level, both on a North-South basis and as part of broader engagement with the United Kingdom.

The health administrations on both parts of the island have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding on Public Health Cooperation on COVID-19, which provides a framework for close consultation, coordination and cooperation. There are regular meetings on COVID-19 at political level, involving the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the First Minister and deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland. These meetings can also include the Health Ministers and Chief Medical Officers from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

This close coordination will continue, and intensify, over the coming weeks as we each move to reopen business and society.

Maternity Services

Questions (720)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

720. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Health the reason women in the Saolta Hospital Group are being allegedly discriminated against in relation to being allowed a partner attend their c-section birth; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that no partner is allowed into theatre to attend a c-section birth in University Hospital Galway whereas they are in University Hospital Castlebar; his views on whether the practice is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6100/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to you directly as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (721)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

721. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health if pharmacy students that are taking up full-time frontline roles within the health service during the Covid-19 pandemic will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6102/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Department is not aware of any HSE identified need in the area of pharmacy to employ individuals post placement to facilitate the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Screening Programmes

Questions (722)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

722. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 391 of 3 December 2019, the progress made in relation to securing a site (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6103/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I am advised that the HSE's National Screening Service were due to initiate discussions early this year with owners of potential sites for a mobile unit in Buncrana.

I have asked the HSE to provide a direct up date to you in this regard.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (723)

Frank Feighan

Question:

723. Deputy Frankie Feighan asked the Minister for Health if a quarantine will be placed on all visitors from outside Ireland during the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business following on from Covid-19; if so, if this will include the common travel area with the UK in view of the large number of cases there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6109/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

NPHET has considered issues in relation to overseas travel, informed by World Health Organisation and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control guidance, approaches and learning from other countries, and reports of importation of cases in a number of countries following relaxation of restrictions.

As the number of indigenous cases here declines and Ireland eases some restrictions, the relative importance of the risk of importation of cases from overseas increases. The impact of any imported cases on disease spread would be all the greater in the context of easing of domestic restrictions and the resultant increased movement and contact between people. In addition, a significant increase in the number of cases in Ireland as a result of importation could have an impact on public compliance with public health guidance and restrictions. Ultimately, the suppression of community transmission which has been achieved and which should allow for greater resumption of social and economic life in Ireland could be endangered.

To date, Ireland has introduced a range of travel related measures including issuing advice against non-essential international travel on 13th March.  As of 24th April, passengers arriving into Ireland from overseas are expected to complete the Public Health Passenger Locator Form and to self-isolate for 14 days. Self-isolation means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people and is a more stringent measure than the stay at home requirements that apply to the wider public.

Intensive work is underway by my Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and the Attorney General’s Office, to finalise regulations to come into effect in the coming days that will make it mandatory for passengers arriving to the State from overseas to present a completed Public Health Passenger Locator Form.

My Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments, is also developing proposals to strengthen the 14 days self-isolation arrangements for travellers from overseas. These proposals will include possible enforcement measures.  The issue of imposing mandatory quarantine for a 14 day period, to be considered as the situation evolves, was mentioned in the Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business.

It is intended that self-isolation arrangements will continue to apply to passengers arriving from overseas, irrespective of the country from which they are travelling. Passengers transiting to another jurisdiction and who will not be residing in the State, including transiting to Northern Ireland, will be exempt.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (724)

Mark Ward

Question:

724. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health when tattoo parlours will be allowed to reopen under Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6110/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

 1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria: 

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease, 

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens  and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.

Departmental Funding

Questions (725)

Mark Ward

Question:

725. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health the financial supports provided to an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6115/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In addition to the continuation of the existing HSE funding of €2.03m per year, the HSE and Pieta House have now formally agreed to additional funding of €114, 608 per month, equivalent to €343,824 per quarter once the current Government staffing cost schemes, of which Pieta House is availing, have ceased.

The HSE has committed to provide cash flow support on a monthly basis, with the position to be reviewed after each quarter. The funding is being provided to fund an additional 300 hours of high-risk clients and the quarterly review will ensure that any client who commences a programme of support can have reasonable assurance of its completion. The cash flow support is also contingent on continuation of the process of engagement with the HSE to work towards creating a more sustainable funding model for the organisation.

This arrangement will provide necessary support to Pieta as it, and the HSE, continue to work together.

Health Screening Programmes

Questions (726)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

726. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health the projected number of smear tests that have not been carried out due to Covid-19 restrictions; the date normal operating times are expected to commence; the expected date for full capacity to be restored for carrying out smear tests; the plans in place to work throughs backlogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6145/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Disability Support Services

Questions (727)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

727. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health his views on a project by a person (details supplied) in relation to outcomes in respect of the deaf community and a proposal on the measures to help create a more integrated society. [6152/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I want to acknowledge the great work undertaken for this project, and I note that it has also been forwarded to Ministerial colleagues, who have policy remit for Education and Employment supports.

As Minister for Disabilities I have always believed that Disability is not a health issue, nor is it an education issue, or employment issue. It is an equality issue. Government has had a whole of Government approach to disability for a number of years. The Department of Justice and Equality is the lead for policy coordination for disability and equality.

Our National Disability Inclusion Strategy captures a wide range of actions across Government Departments that will impact on the lives of people with disabilities and is to be viewed as a blueprint for an inclusive, accessible and equal country that incorporates issues that affect quality of life, health, education and transport;

Underpinning the Strategy is a vision of an Irish society in which people with disabilities across the lifecycle enjoy equal rights and opportunities to participate in social and cultural life, can work if they want to do so, have choice and control over how they live their lives, and can reach their full potential.

Earlier this year, I published a mid-term review of the Strategy. When the Strategy concludes in 2021, my aim is for Ireland to be a better place for people with disabilities to live in, a place where people with disabilities are involved and consulted with on matters and decisions that affect their lives. It should be a country where people with disabilities can enjoy full equality, participate fully in our society, and enjoy a quality of life on a par with the rest of the population.

The NDIS provides a framework in which we can work to achieve this aim.

The Strategy is available on the website of the Department of Justice and Equality.