Bullying in Educational Institutions

Questions (209)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

209. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of incidents, reports made or complaints received of academic bullying throughout all universities in each of the past eight years to date; the nature of such events whether professional, gender or race related; the actions taken arising from such complaints by each third-level institution involved; if the practice has ceased; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26262/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Statistics of this nature are not currently available to my Department. To address this data deficit going forward on 4 August 2020 I wrote to the presidents of all publicly funded higher education institutions (HEIs) on the implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions. requesting that all HEIs develop and publish, by February 2021, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment. These actions plans will involve the implementation of systems that record the number of incidents of bullying, intimidation or harassment including sexual harassment reported in each HEI. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has oversight of the Framework for Consent in HEIs, and these statistics will be reported annually to the HEA once the HEI action plans are in place.

I have also requested a survey to be undertaken on harassment, sexual harassment and bullying of both staff and students in the higher education institutions. The planning of this survey has commenced, and the HEA will be consulting with the HEIs and representative bodies, such as the Irish Universities Association and the Technological Higher Education Association in this regard.

Disability Services Provision

Questions (210)

Holly Cairns

Question:

210. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice her plans to address the poverty rates of persons with disabilities which is 10% higher here than the EU average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26220/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to the rigorous implementation of the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025: Ambition, Goals, Commitments, which was agreed by Government and published in January 2020.

The Roadmap contains a specific target for the reduction of the ‘At Risk of Poverty and Social Exclusion’ (AROPE) rate for people with a disability to 28.7% in 2025, with a further reduction to 22.7% by 2030. It also includes commitments relating to the restructuring and simplification of long term disability payments and the publication of a report with recommendations on the cost of disability. The Roadmap recognises that existing strategies, such as the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017 - 2021 (NDIS), include social inclusion as a core objective and does not seek to duplicate these strategies. It does however set a level of ambition to inform and be reflected in sectoral plans and strategies as they are renewed and updated over the coming years.

Additionally, one of the key actions contained in the Roadmap is the continued implementation by Government of the NDIS and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy 2015 - 2024 (CES) and their renewal.

The NDIS, which is coordinated by my Department, is the key framework for policy and action to address the needs of people with disabilities. The Strategy takes a whole of Government approach to improving the lives of people with disabilities and contains a suite of specific, targeted actions aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities both in a practical sense, and also in creating the best possible opportunities for people with disabilities in key areas including employment, education, and joined up public services. Implementation of the Strategy is monitored quarterly by a Steering Committee, which is chaired by my colleague Minister Rabbitte, Minister of State with responsibility for Disability at the Department of Health and the Department of Justice.

In tandem with the NDIS, the CES, which is also overseen by my Department, includes positive action measures to support the recruitment of people with disabilities in the public service and in the wider economy. It sets out a ten-year approach to ensuring that people with disabilities who are able to, and want to work are supported and enabled to do so.

These matters are part of the Equality brief which will be transferring to my colleague Minister O'Gorman in the coming weeks.

Naturalisation Certificates

Questions (211)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

211. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice if the case of a person (details supplied) will be addressed and clarified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26048/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy continues to be processed by my officials and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (212)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

212. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice the status of an application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26056/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy continues to be processed and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the Immigration Service of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Eligibility

Questions (213)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

213. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the progress to date in determination of eligibility for naturalisation and or stamp 4 in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26063/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

An application for residence in this State as a family member of an EU citizen was submitted by the person concerned on 12 September 2019 under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 and EU Directive 2004/38/EC.

This application is still under consideration. To be fair to all applicants, applications are dealt with in chronological order, and a decision will issue to the person concerned in due course. Although it is not possible at the present time to provide a definitive date by which a determination will be made in this case, there will be no avoidable delay in completing same. A letter was issued on 21 September 2020, to the person concerned granting them a temporary extension to their permission up to 11 April 2021.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Court Orders

Questions (214)

Patrick Costello

Question:

214. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Justice the number of attachment orders, community service orders, prison orders and recovery orders in each of the years 2016 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in relation to non-payment of court order fines. [26088/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have requested information from the Courts and the Probation Service on the matter requested by the Deputy.

This information is currently being compiled and verified and I will write directly to the Deputy when it is available.

Direct Provision System

Questions (215)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

215. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Justice the direct provision centres operating in County Meath; and the contact details for same. [26135/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

There are currently 43 international protection accommodation centres operating in 21 counties across the county. One centre is located in Co. Meath; the Mosney Accommodation Centre at Julianstown, Co. Meath. I have arranged to have the contact details of the centre forwarded to the Deputy directly.

Part of the Mosney Accommodation Centre also operates as an Emergency Reception and Accommodation Centre (EROC), to accommodate refugees arriving in Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

The International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) of my Department is also utilising three guest houses in Co. Meath for approximately 66 international protection applicants on a bed and full board basis until spaces become available in one of our accommodation centres. My Department does not disclose the locations of emergency accommodation premises in order to protect the identity of the residents. My Department currently utilises 34 temporary premises in total around the country.

Naturalisation Eligibility

Questions (216)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

216. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the position in relation to eligibility for residency status, stamp 4 or eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26255/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The person referred to by the Deputy is the subject of a Deportation Order signed on 25 August 2017, and, therefore, does not meet the requirements to qualify for a certificate of naturalisation.

Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned requesting that the Deportation Order made in respect of them be revoked, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). Following full consideration of these representations, the Deportation Order was affirmed and notified to the person concerned in writing on 8 May 2019, to their last known address. The Deportation Order remains valid and in place and its enforcement is a matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the Immigration Service of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Visa Applications

Questions (217)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

217. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the position regarding residency or an extension to the current visa in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26256/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

In April 2019, as an exceptional measure, the person referred to was granted a further period of permission (10 months), subject to certain conditions. They were advised of this by letter dated 2 April 2019, and informed that this permission could not be extended by local immigration. They were further advised to contact the Immigration Service of my Department a few weeks prior to the expiry of their permission and to furnish a number of documents with a request for further permission, namely;

- Copy of passport (all pages) and Proof of address (for example, tenancy agreement/rental book);

- Evidence of employment (for example, recent payslips and contract of employment) or self-sufficiency;

- Proof of finances (for example, bank statements for a period of not less than 3 months); and

- Evidence of medical insurance for the person concerned and their dependants and payment of same.

The Immigration Service has not received the requested documents and the individual concerned should write to the EU Treaty Rights Unit without delay. Any queries can also be made directly to EU Treaty Rights Unit at: eutreatyrights@justice.ie.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Deportation Orders

Questions (218)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

218. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reconsidered; the reason for revoking the set aside at this time, if the case can receive meritorious consideration given that they are in this jurisdiction for more than eleven years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26258/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The case of the person concerned was recently considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the result of which is that the individual is the subject of a Deportation Order, which was signed on 24 February 2020. Notification of the Order was issued by registered post to the individual and their Solicitor on 19 August 2020. The person concerned was requested to present to the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 19 September 2020, and failed to do so.

The effect of a Deportation Order is that the person named on the Order is legally obliged to leave the State and to remain outside of the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the Immigration Service of my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility, which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Asylum Applications

Questions (219)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

219. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the position regarding processing an application for asylum in the case of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26259/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

In order to maintain full confidentiality, it is not my Department's practice to comment on whether an application for asylum or subsidiary protection has been made in the State. An applicant for such international protection status, or their legal representative, should contact either the International Protection Office (IPO) or the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) directly, as appropriate.

However, I can inform the Deputy that an applicant for international protection is awarded international protection, whether refugee status or subsidiary protection status, upon a declaration of status being issued from my Department. This is done on foot of a grant recommendation from the International Protection Office (IPO) or a decision of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT) to set aside a refusal recommendation of the IPO.

My Department processes the recommendations received from the International Protection Office and the decisions of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal in chronological order based on the date the file is received in that Unit. Once the necessary due diligence has been carried out by the Ministerial Decisions Unit, a declaration of status will issue as soon as possible.

The International Protection Office may be contacted: by email to info@ipo.gov.ie; by telephone to the IPO Customer Service Centre at 01 6028008 or in writing to Customer Service Centre, International Protection Office, 79-83 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, D02 ND99.

The International Protection Appeals Tribunal may be contacted either: by email to info@protectionappeals.ie; by telephone at 01-4748400 (or Lo-Call 1890 201 458), or in writing to Corporate Services Division, The International Protection Appeals Tribunal, 6-7 Hanover Street East, Dublin D02 W320.

The Ministerial Decisions Unit operates an email service for responding to queries - mduinfo@justice.ieQueries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to my Department by e-mail using the Oireachtas mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the parliamentary questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response is, in the Deputy’s view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Hospital Procedures

Questions (220)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

220. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health when an important procedure will be carried out for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26005/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of this year. 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 National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

The resumption of services from June onwards has allowed for increased activity, with the HSE utilising innovative methods including telemedicine to facilitate patient appointments. Patient safety remains at the forefront of service resumption. To ensure services are re-introduced in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols which has resulted in reduced capacity and activity

The HSE continues to optimise productivity through alternative work practices such the use of alternative settings including private hospitals, community facilities and alternative outpatient settings.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has also recommenced arranging treatment in both private and public hospitals for clinically suitable patients who have been waiting for long periods on public hospital waiting lists.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy is a standardised approach used by the HSE to manage scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures. It sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists and was developed in 2014 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.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (221)

Michael McNamara

Question:

221. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health his plans to lessen the restrictions in maternity hospitals on persons who can be in the birthing room during labour in view of restrictions in other parts of society easing significantly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26009/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I acknowledge that the current restrictions in maternity hospitals are presenting difficulties and this is hugely regrettable. However, it is necessary to reduce footfall in order to protect women, babies, staff and our maternity service as a whole.

Maternity hospitals have performed well during the pandemic and have continued to keep women, babies and staff safe. The fact that there have been no Covid maternal deaths in this country,and that we have a had a low incidence in pregnant women, suggests that the current approach is working.

However, we must remain vigilant as services resume and higher numbers of people attend hospitals. Maternity hospitals rely on very specialised personnel; should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur in a maternity hospital, the ability to provide safe, quality care would be severely impacted. It should be remembered that maternity hospitals care for fragile infants at the extremes of prematurity.

All maternity hospitals are challenged by the pandemic, but those challenges vary considerably. Decisions on any restrictions are therefore made, implemented and reviewed at hospital level.

Decisions to restrict visitors in our maternity hospitals have not been taken lightly. Management and staff are acutely aware of the very important support provided by partners at the time of birth. I have been assured that maternity hospitals wish to facilitate this support as far as possible. In that context, I can assure the Deputy that any restrictions currently in place have been minimised as much as possible and will be subject to ongoing review.

I note that restrictions have eased somewhat in certain hospitals in recent weeks and I hope this will continue. However, the recent rise in the numbers of people infected with the virus, including healthcare workers, is very worrying and may impact on the pace of the easing of restrictions.

The National Women & Infants Health Programme is currently working on a document which will issue to all maternity services, seeking to ensure a consistent national approach to visitor restrictions in maternity hospitals, as far as is practicable and having due regard to local circumstances. I am advised that the paper will issue over the coming week.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (222)

Gino Kenny

Question:

222. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Health if some maternity hospitals have the facilities to carry out quick turnaround Covid-19 testing; if this facility can be extended to cover partners of pregnant persons in order that they can be present for scans and other maternity services and resume the much-needed support of their partners during hospital maternity visits and labour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26012/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (223)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

223. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to a HSE publication (details supplied); if it will be implemented and applied here; and if the excessive restrictions placed on women and partners in pregnancy will be changed. [26017/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service issue, I have asked the Health Service Executive to reply to the Deputy directly as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (224)

Patrick Costello

Question:

224. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Health the priority level provided to Covid-19 tests from teachers. [26019/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (225)

Patrick Costello

Question:

225. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 tests which have been carried out on teachers since the reopening of schools until 18 September 2020; and the number that resulted in a positive diagnosis. [26020/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Disability Services Provision

Questions (226)

Seán Crowe

Question:

226. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the case of children (details supplied); if his Department can investigate this case and others with a view to resolving this lack of supports and services in south western areas of Dublin; and the position regarding the matter of delays to interventions by children’s disability services and the resulting regression seen in many cases. [26022/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, recognises the need to improve services for both children and adults with disabilities through better implementation and by working together across Government in a better way.

The Government commits to prioritising early diagnosis and access to services for children and ensuring that the most effective interventions are provided for each child, to guarantee the best outcomes.

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (227, 266)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

227. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health if he will consider adjusting public health guidelines surrounding weddings by which 150 persons can attend a church ceremony yet only 50 can attend a reception afterwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26024/20]

View answer

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

266. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the new regulations in relation to christenings in Dublin; the number permitted to attend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26187/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 266 together.

As the Deputy is aware, on Tuesday 15 September 2020 the Government published it's medium term plan Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 which frames Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

The plan sets out five levels of response, each with a number of measures designed to help us all lower COVID-19 transmission, and setting out what is permitted at that moment in time. It aims to allow society and businesses to be able to operate as normally as possible, while continuing to suppress the virus. The plan is framed to account for periods which there is a low incidence of the disease, with isolated clusters and low community transmission, through to situations where there is a high or rapidly increasing incidence, widespread community transmission and the pandemic is escalating rapidly in Ireland and globally. It recognises the need for society and business to be allowed to continue as normally as possible and is designed so that either national or county level restrictions can be applied.

Each level outlines what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services. Any measure included at any level in this plan is underpinned by expert advice and recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.

As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. For this reason, we are all asked to be extra careful when socialising and working with others. For now, we must act like we have the virus to protect those around us from infection.

There are exemptions for weddings and funerals at all Levels. This is due to the particular significance these events have for individuals and society more broadly. Depending on the level of the Plan in place in a county at a given time, the numbers permitted to attend a wedding can be up to 100.

All counties except Dublin are currently at Level 2 of the Plan for living with COVID-19. Dublin is currently at Level 3 of the Plan for living with Covid-19. The public health measures at both levels will remain in operation until 9 October 2020, at which point the situation will be reviewed by the Government, based on the status of the virus and the pertinent public health advice. Further information on the public health measures in place under Level 2 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/18e18-level-2/. Information on the public health measures currently in place under Level 3 can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/cf1f3-special-measures-in-place-for-dublin/

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (228)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

228. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Health when the Covid-19 related restrictions that mean physiotherapists cannot have trainees in the room while they are seeing placement will be reviewed and change to allow for practical third level training to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26025/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (229)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

229. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Health his views on the recent recommendation by the WHO (details supplied) supporting women having a chosen companion during labour and childbirth; and if he will re-evaluate the restrictions on partners accompanying pregnant women at appointments, in pre-labour ward and at every opportunity in which it is safe to do so. [26030/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I acknowledge that the current restrictions in maternity hospitals are presenting difficulties and this is hugely regrettable. However, it is necessary to reduce footfall in order to protect women, babies, staff and our maternity service as a whole.

Maternity hospitals have performed well during the pandemic and have continued to keep women, babies and staff safe. The fact that there have been no Covid maternal deaths in this country,and that we have a had a low incidence in pregnant women, suggests that the current approach is working.

However, we must remain vigilant as services resume and higher numbers of people attend hospitals. Maternity hospitals rely on very specialised personnel; should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur in a maternity hospital, the ability to provide safe, quality care would be severely impacted. It should be remembered that maternity hospitals care for fragile infants at the extremes of prematurity.

All maternity hospitals are challenged by the pandemic, but those challenges vary considerably. Decisions on any restrictions are therefore made, implemented and reviewed at hospital level.

Decisions to restrict visitors in our maternity hospitals have not been taken lightly. Management and staff are acutely aware of the very important support provided by partners at the time of birth. I have been assured that maternity hospitals wish to facilitate this support as far as possible. In that context, I can assure the Deputy that any restrictions currently in place have been minimised as much as possible and will be subject to ongoing review.

I note that restrictions have eased somewhat in certain hospitals in recent weeks and I hope this will continue. However, the recent rise in the numbers of people infected with the virus, including healthcare workers, is very worrying and may impact on the pace of the easing of restrictions.

The National Women & Infants Health Programme is currently working on a document which will issue to all maternity services, seeking to ensure a consistent national approach to visitor restrictions in maternity hospitals, as far as is practicable and having due regard to local circumstances. I am advised that the paper will issue over the coming week.

Mental Health Services

Questions (230)

Michael McNamara

Question:

230. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health if he will consider the pre-budget submission from an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26032/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Protection of the vulnerable continues to be a Government priority, especially in these challenging times, and those with mental health issues are often among the most vulnerable in society.

Access to services is central to the Government’s commitments under Sláintecare and the new national mental health policy, Sharing the Vision, and the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future highlights these policies. The Government’s commitment to continued enhancement of mental health services is shown in ongoing increases in the mental health budget. Since 2012, €315 million has been added, bringing the mental health budget today to €1.026 billion, an increase of 44%.

Much has been achieved in mental health in recent years, but it is recognised that much remains to be done. Ireland is fortunate to have fundamentally robust legislation, policies and services that have been built up over time and which, overall, compare favourably internationally. More importantly, there are identified and widely agreed pathways to undertake further improvements in all these areas, including improved residential and community-based care for children and adults and psychiatry of later life.

Sharing the Vision promotes equitable access to quality, safe mental health care for all citizens. Service users and their families, carers and supporters will have timely access to evidence-informed mental health services. Tailored measures will be put in place to ensure that individuals with complex mental health difficulties can avail of services across the State without discrimination. This builds on the intent of A Vision for Change and Sláintecare and is expected to be implemented as part of a ten-year plan.

Sharing the Vision recognises and plans for the increasing need for mental health services and demand for more holistic person-centred responses. The ten-year plan addresses population needs through a focus on the requirements of individuals. It promises early intervention, with a focus on prevention and positive mental health promotion. This focus advocates a mental health system that works in partnership with service users and their families to deliver a range of integrated services and supports.

Establishment of the National Monitoring and Implementation Committee (NIMC), to oversee Sharing the Vision, is well advanced. The NIMC will drive reconfiguration, monitor progress against outcomes and deliver on commitments in the new policy.

This year has been exceptional. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant stress, anxiety, worry and fear for many people throughout the world, from the disease itself and from impacts such as increased social isolation, disruption to daily life and uncertainty about employment and financial security.

The HSE has continued to provide all community services, as far as possible, while following Covid-19 guidelines to ensure protection for patients and staff. Acute inpatient and community residential facilities have remained open and patients have been provided with services throughout the pandemic, although with reduced numbers in some settings.

Covid-19 has rapidly accelerated online delivery of mental health services. The Department of Health, with the HSE, has launched a number of initiatives to promote mental health and well-being, including the national Crisis Text-Line in June. An additional €2.2m has been provided for a mental health promotion and well-being campaign, through enhanced online supports and to support the HSE psycho-social strategy. This will enable implementation of integrated tele-health solutions and improve existing online interventions. Examples are the free counselling sessions offered by HSE partners MyMind and online peer support groups for front line workers from Turn2me.

A key priority for Minister Butler and the Department is to update the 2001 Mental Health Act. The Act sets out the care and treatment of people (including children) with mental illness, including involuntary detention procedures and patient safeguards. The updating process is in line with expert advice, international best practice and human rights. The Department is finalising draft heads of a bill to amend the Act and hopes to finalise a draft bill by the end of 2020.

Another priority is the new forensic mental health facility at Portrane. This significant and modern facility is expected to open early next year. The new 170-bed hospital complex will replace the Central Mental Hospital Dundrum (103 beds) as a modernised National Forensic Mental Health Service. It will include a 120-bed central mental hospital, a 10-bed forensic child and adolescent unit and a 30-bed intensive care rehabilitation unit.

Funding will be sought in this year’s Estimates campaign to implement the short-term objectives of Sharing the Vision. This will, of course, be influenced by the availability of resources. However, the current budget of over €1 billion enables the HSE to maintain and develop its wide range of mental health and suicide prevention services. These span all specialties and ages, from mental health promotion and early intervention to acute inpatient care and clinical programmes such as self-harm and eating disorders. Improving access and reducing waiting lists, where possible, are key Government objectives, despite acknowledged recruitment difficulties and the greatly changed Covid-19 operational environment.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 231.

Questions (231, 232, 233)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

231. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if there are research teams or research clinics set up to treat and research the conditions those recovering from Covid-19, post-covid19 infection are suffering, including but not solely chronic fatigue; if there is medical research ongoing, the detail of the different research and treatment facilities and teams; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26034/20]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

232. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the person or body responsible for the treatment and research into the ongoing health complications of patients who are post-Covid 19 infection; the types of conditions being examined for inclusion in post-Covid-19 treatments and research; the locations the research and treatment is being conducted from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26035/20]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

233. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if the HSE or another organisation is researching the conditions affecting patients post-Covid-19 infection; if they are being considered as post viral fatigue syndrome patients; if so, if they can be examined at a later date to ascertain if they are possibly suffering from ME as a result of Covid-19 infection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26036/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 231 to 233, inclusive, together.

My Department plays a lead role in public health and medical research in Ireland. The Department supports research in these areas through the Health Research Board (HRB), a statutory body under the aegis of the Department and a lead agency in Ireland supporting and funding health research. The HRB supports the conduct of clinical research and clinical trials (in addition to health services research, population health research, and managing several national health information systems) on behalf of the Department.

In terms of the long-term impact of COVID-19 we are still at an early stage post wave one infection, and there is a need for patients to be followed for a further period of time to understand conditions that are a long-term consequence of COVID-19 infection. There are several studies underway of note for which the Lead Investigators responsible, study details, and sites are provided.

Led by Professor Colm Bergin, a study at St. James Hospital is currently evaluating patients clinically post infection and in the context of an emerging disease undertaking research of outcomes in the patients reviewed to date, and including fatigue experienced and quality-of-life for a cohort of the patients seen to date.

The HRB currently funds a project on improving healthcare delivery for COVID-19 patients in Dublin’s north inner city: The North Dublin COVID-19 Cohort Study. The research is led by Dr John Lambert and Professor Walter Cullen of University College Dublin and the study site includes the Mater Hospital and surrounding GP practices. The North Dublin COVID-19 Cohort Study was established in April 2020 and researches the health of these patients and the long-term impact of COVID-19.

By analysing healthcare information about patients attending the Mater Hospital and general practices with COVID-19, and by involving consenting patients in follow-up studies, it will capture important insights into the health experience of people living in Dublin’s north inner city during the pandemic and will provide reports to the HSE and other health agencies. In this way, it will help to plan health services according to the needs of this at-risk population and reduce the negative effect of the pandemic on local communities. The study is not limited to specific patient groups or people with specific health conditions, or specific long-term health outcomes. This study may, therefore, in the long-term capture the conditions of interest to the Deputy.

Furthermore, on behalf of the Irish Government, the Department of Health is providing funding of up to €2.5 million to enable participation in the SOLIDARITY Trial. The SOLIDARITY Trial is an international clinical trial launched by the World Health Organisation and partners to compare various treatment options for COVID-19. The trial will enable the identification of treatments that will reduce the severity of the infection, decrease the need for intensive care and reduce the infection’s mortality rate.

The WHO SOLIDARITY Trial is one of only a few large, international, multicentre trials for COVID-19 treatments. Importantly, it has an adaptive design so WHO decide to cease treatment arms or to introduce new treatment arms if they feel that emerging evidence on safety and efficacy warrants this. Globally, the SOLIDARITY Trial has recruited over 5,000 patients to date, in over 400 hospitals and across 35 countries, with another 100 countries awaiting approval to participate in the trial. Eligibility to participate in the trial is not limited to specific patient groups or with specific conditions, instead all patients aged 18+ who are confirmed COVID-19 positive are eligible to be enrolled in the trial and this may therefore, overtime, include people with the health conditions of interest to the Deputy.

For the SOLIDARITY Trial in Ireland, there are 10 trial sites (6 main University-based Clinical Research Facilities and Centres and their affiliated hospitals: Beaumont Hospital; Cork University Hospital; Mater Misericordiae University Hospital; Mercy University Hospital; St James's Hospital; St Vincent's University Hospital; Tallaght University Hospital; University Hospital Galway; University Hospital Limerick; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital). Recruitment of patients to the trial is underway and will continue through to Spring 2021. Professor Joe Eustace of University College Cork is the lead investigator for the trial.

Finally, the REMAP CAP trial will shortly start enrolling patients in Irish intensive care units. Conducted at clinical research facilities and centres across Ireland and led by Professor Alistair Nichol of St. Vincent’s University Hospital and University College Dublin, the trial will test interventions for COVID-19 in critically ill patients in order to mitigate the long-term impact of COVID-19 for them and reduce mortality. The trial will capture outcomes and analyse data across an international network in a global effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in intensive care settings. Rapid data sharing will ensure findings relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak are shared quickly with others working in the area to inform decision making. As part of the trial, the Irish arm recently published results showing that the common steroid hydrocortisone, administered to critically unwell patients in intensive care units, reduced the mortality rate from 40% to 32%.

I hope this clarifies the matter.

Question No. 232 answered with Question No. 231.