Covid-19 Tests

Questions (899, 900, 901, 902, 904, 905, 906)

David Cullinane

Question:

899. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the engagement there has been and the number of producers with which there has been engagement on procuring rapid antigen tests for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38592/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

900. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health his plans for procuring rapid antigen tests for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38593/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

901. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if a workforce for deploying rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 has been trained; if so, when the training commenced; the number of persons that have been trained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38594/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

902. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health when rapid Covid-19 antigen tests will be deployed as part of the public testing system now that the European Commission has recommended their use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38595/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

904. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health when rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 will be deployed in the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38597/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

905. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 will be made available on a widespread basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38598/20]

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David Cullinane

Question:

906. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 will be made available in local community testing facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38599/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 899 to 902, inclusive, and 904 to 906, inclusive, together.

On 18 November 2020, the European Commission adopted a recommendation on the use of rapid antigen tests for the diagnosis of COVID-19. It sets out guidance where Member States might conduct rapid antigen tests in addition to RT-PCR tests in clearly defined settings where the deployment of antigen tests is appropriate, and with the aim to contain the spread of the coronavirus, to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections and to limit isolation and quarantine measures.

The Recommendation focuses on criteria to be used for the selection of rapid antigen tests, the settings during which rapid antigen tests are appropriate to be used, test operators, and validation and mutual recognition of rapid antigen tests and their results. The use of rapid antigen tests can be recommended to test individuals, regardless of symptoms, in settings where the proportion of test positivity is expected to be 10%, e.g. in the context of contact tracing and outbreak investigations.

HIQA recently completed a report into Rapid Antigen Detection Testing. The HIQA report found that antigen tests to date show reduced diagnostic accuracy compared with rRT-PCR. In addition, many of the early tests in the market offer poor diagnostic accuracy. Due to reduced sensitivity, the WHO suggests that these rapid tests should only be used when rRT-PCR is unavailable, or where prolonged turnaround times preclude clinical utility.

As a result of the HIQA report, the National Public Health Emergency Team asked the HSE to investigate the possible deployment of antigen tests in Ireland. The HSE has established an Antigen Project Validation Working Group whose aim is to validate the antigen tests in the market and evaluate the public health deployment options, including evaluation of the potential uses in various settings.

The objectives of the group include assessing the international evidence on the use of antigen testing, defining sensitivity and specificity levels for appropriate antigen testing, identify specific tests that will form part of the validation process, validation of antigen tests across a range of settings including symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, develop public health guidelines on the appropriate use of antigen testing, and consideration of the operational implications of deploying antigen testing in Ireland.

The HSE has recently issued a tender for procurement of antigen tests and Ireland is also participating in an arrangement for the supply of antigen tests through the Joint Procurement Agreements at EU level.

The RNA PCR test remains the gold standard test for diagnosing Covid-19 cases, consistent with international best practice and continues to be fundamental to identifying the source and containing the spread of the virus in Ireland.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Questions Nos. 904 to 906, inclusive, answered with Question No. 899.

Questions (903)

David Cullinane

Question:

903. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the engagement he, his Department or the HSE have had with the developer of an application (details supplied); if there are plans to endorse same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38596/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In terms of engagement with the developer of the Health Passport Ireland app, my office received correspondence from ROQU in July and October of this year, with introductions to, and updates on progress in relation to the app and its initial pilot. ROQU advised in this correspondence that they are engaged with industry stakeholders on a national level to review the potential of the technology and within the HSE through Prof. Martin Curley, Director of Digital Transformation and Innovation.

There are two aspects to the solution offered by ROQU. The core offering relates to rapid testing using antigen test kits. This is accompanied by the app which is used to advise users of the results of their tests. It is not clear to my officials whether the ROQU are the developer of the app or whether they subcontracted this to a technical partner. The efficacy of antigen testing is still under review by the Department so this aspect of the app has not been assessed from a Departmental perspective.

Questions Nos. 904 to 906, inclusive, answered with Question No. 899.

Departmental Properties

Question No. 908 withdrawn.

Questions (907)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Question:

907. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Health if a request by a group (details supplied) that a disused building be released to the community development company for lease or option to purchase will be given consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38602/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Health Service Executive is responsible for the management of the public healthcare property estate, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to you in relation to this matter.

Question No. 908 withdrawn.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (909)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

909. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if a hospital appointment will be expedited for a person (details supplied); the length of time the person has been waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38608/20]

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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.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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.

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.

Health Services Provision

Questions (910)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

910. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will be accommodated on the recommended diabetes pump in view of the fact the person has been informed that the criteria are met. [38609/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff

Questions (911)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

911. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health when the diabetes nurse in the Regional Hospital Mullingar, who left the position in September 2019 will be replaced. [38610/20]

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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.

Health Services Staff

Questions (912)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

912. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the number of diabetes nurses by county in tabular form. [38611/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Health Services Staff

Questions (913)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

913. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the number of diabetes nurses who have left their position in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, who have yet to be replaced. [38612/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Health Services Provision

Questions (914)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

914. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the diabetes services for younger persons available by county. [38613/20]

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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.

Mental Health Services

Questions (915)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

915. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Health the status of a service (details supplied) which opened in 2020; the status of the building; if staff have been recruited; if so, the number; the amount spent on the building before it was reopened earlier in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38628/20]

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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.