Disability Services Provision

Questions (621)

Michael Lowry

Question:

621. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health his plans to have an orderly resumption of all-day services for persons with disabilities in County Tipperary in view of the current Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2743/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

On 6 January 2021, the Health Service Executive (HSE) issued revised guidance measures for Disability Services in the context of current high levels of Covid 19 transmission rates in the community. The revised guidance reflects Government’s intention that disability services will remain open at each level of the Resilience and Recovery Framework, subject to evolving public health guidance.

Service providers have been asked not to take unilateral action in relation to the provision of services and to ensure that robust communications plan are put in place to ensure that each service user and their families have a clear understanding of services to be provided during this current phase.

The following guidance is under continuing review and will be guided by Public Health advice:

1. Residential & PA/home support: Residential and home support/ personal assistant services continue to be prioritised and delivered subject to a revised Risk Assessment, Public Health Guidance and direction.

2. Respite Services: People with complex medical/clinical needs are to remain at home and will receive home support where possible, subject to risk assessment and prioritisation criteria.

3. Children’s Services: Therapy services for children with disabilities have been identified as “Level 1” in the HSE business continuity plan. Services will continue to be provided either remotely or face to face as appropriate during the current COVID-19 restrictions. The provision of Assessments of Need under the Disability Act continues to be a priority and each CHO area will continue to evaluate their plans on an on-going basis.

4. Adult Day Services: Extra funding has been provided to build capacity in buildings and to provide extra staff. This will ensure that maximum services will continue at a scale so that they can be provided safely to those most in need. Day services continue to be prioritised and delivered subject to a revised Risk Assessment, Public Health Guidance and direction. People with complex medical/ clinical related needs are to remain at home and, where possible to receive the same number of hours support in the home as they had been in receipt of pre-Christmas in day service locations. Providers have been asked to reduce contacts via hubs/bubbles, with dedicated staff for dedicated service users, where possible. Where families are uncomfortable with allowing their family member to return to a day service location, a package of support within available resources will be agreed with the service user and family.

The full guidance is available on the HSE website at:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/partner-resources/guidance-measures-for-disability-services-with-current-high-levels-of-covid-19-community-transmission.pdf

Vaccination Programme

Questions (622)

Michael McNamara

Question:

622. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health when patients who are being cared for in their homes with the support of home help seven days per week will be scheduled for Covid-19 vaccination; if they will be prioritised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2750/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus. The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (623)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

623. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health if special measures are in place during the lockdown for children with special needs to be allowed to go further than the 5 km travel restriction to access safe public spaces such as beaches or parks in cases in which there are no safe walking or exercising spaces within their 5 km radiuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2752/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy is aware, Ireland is currently at Level 5 of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.

At Level 5, people are asked to stay at home as much as possible unless they have a "reasonable excuse" for leaving.

The regulations providing for these measures are set out in S.I. No. 701 of 2020. Regulation 4. of SI 701 sets out a non-exhaustive list of reasonable excuses for leaving one’s home. This non-exhaustive list includes at 4. (2) (k) to attend to vital family matters, including the provision of care to a vulnerable person.

I am grateful to the Deputy for bringing this important matter to my attention.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (624)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

624. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the number of persons recruited in County Donegal to work in Covid-19 testing centres; if there are any vacancies for such positions within the county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2756/21]

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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.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (625, 626)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

625. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if changes to circulars 064/2020 and 074/2020 relating to special sick pay leave for HSE health workers who tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 affect entitlement to sick pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2757/21]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

626. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if HSE health workers who tested positive for Covid-19 in 2020 are entitled to special sick pay for the entirety of their sick leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2758/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 625 and 626 together.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform prepared an FAQ document in relation to 'working arrangements and leave associated with COVID-19'. The content of this document applies to all those employed in the Civil and Public Services, including public health sector employees equally.

A copy of this document is available to view at this website, and section 3.1 sets out the position in relation to leave and pay for those who are absent from work due to Covid-19.

https://www.gov.ie/en/news/092fff-update-on-working-arrangements-and-leave-associated-with-covid-19-fo/

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (627, 662)

Mick Barry

Question:

627. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if persons who can certify that they have received the full Covid-19 vaccination will need to comply with the regulations relating to restricting their movements when entering the State from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2765/21]

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Cathal Crowe

Question:

662. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Health if access to services such as education, welfare and so on will be restricted for those who choose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2884/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 627 and 662 together.

It is important to differentiate between a vaccine certificate, the purpose of which is to identify and monitor people who have been vaccinated, with the notion of an immunity passport which might exempt people from public health measures on the basis that the person is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2.

Vaccine certificates are required in order to keep track of which vaccine (including which batch of a vaccine) has been given to a person and on which dates. This allows for follow up and monitoring of any adverse events. The HSE is planning for the production of Vaccine certificates at part of its implementation planning for a Covid 19 vaccination programme.

Immunity passports are problematic on a number of grounds. It is not yet clear if the proposed vaccines for Covid 19 actually stop people getting the virus. It is also not clear whether the thresholds for protective immunity are the same in all groups e.g. older persons or those who are immunosuppressed. Thus, it is premature to discuss immunity passports due to the many uncertainties that still exist regarding immunity against the novel corona virus. The WHO has cautioned Governments against introducing immunity passports at this time and has advised that the focus should be on vaccine certificates.

Covid-19 Tests

Question No. 629 answered with Question No. 448.

Questions (628)

Patrick Costello

Question:

628. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 729 of 6 October 2020, if he will confirm the PCT cycle thresholds in relation to the range of assays used by the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2766/21]

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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.

Question No. 629 answered with Question No. 448.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (630, 631)

Chris Andrews

Question:

630. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health the supports that will be put in place for student nurses who have had their placements cancelled due to Covid-19 but have been informed they cannot move on to the next year of their studies until they complete their placements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2771/21]

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Chris Andrews

Question:

631. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health if he will intervene in the case of student nurses who have paid for accommodation while they are on placements but have been informed that their placements have been cancelled due to Covid-19 and are unable to obtain a refund. [2772/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 630 and 631 together.

Due to the current surge of COVID-19, clinical placements for nursing and midwifery students have been suspended for a period of at least two weeks from 18 January 2021. I regret that this necessary decision to suspend placements will cause an unavoidable , temporary delay and inconvenience for many nursing and midwifery students. The impact of this decision varies across the different groups of students affected. The solutions therefore will vary according to, for example, the year and stage of training the students are at and the clinical placements they were undertaking.

My Department is now working together with the HSE, the Higher Education Institutes, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and Clinical Partners to ensure that students will not be disadvantaged in terms of completing their educational programmes on time. Furthermore, I want to ensure that the academic solutions offered to each group of students affected by the suspension of placements for the two week period, will contribute to the integrity of the educational programme and therefore will not require students to pay back the time lost in order to progress to the next stage.

Those students who may have incurred travel or accommodation expenses for this period will still be able to avail of the relevant allowances in the usual manner.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (632)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

632. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the amount of the temporary assistance payment scheme that has been drawn down to date; the geographical distribution of the funding; the number of nursing homes that have received funding; and the number of private versus public nursing homes that have received funds. [2773/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme (TAPS) for nursing homes was established in April 2020 to provide financial assistance to contribute towards the costs incurred by private nursing homes in acting to suppress and manage COVID-19. The Government made up to €92.5m available under TAPS in 2020. A further €42m has also been made available for 2021 under the extension of the Scheme until the end of June. As of 8 January 2021, the HSE reported to the Department that €62.1m had been paid out under TAPS.

As your specific questions relate to service matters, I have arranged for your correspondence to be referred to the HSE for consideration and direct reply to you.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (633)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

633. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 tests carried out in nursing homes in each month since March 2020. [2774/21]

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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.

State Properties

Questions (634)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

634. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health if there will be a financial return for his Department from the transfer of the lands at the former Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, to the Land Development Agency; if funds from this transfer will be ring-fenced for investment in mental health services as envisioned under A Vision for Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2775/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government's commitment to open the new HSE National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) facility at Portrane, to replace the Central Mental Hospital at Dundrum, is included in our Programme for Government.

Construction of the new facility, which is funded under the HSE Capital Programme, is nearly complete. The new service will come on-stream in 2021, following completion of the Equipping and Commissioning stages, and the transfer of the existing service at Dundrum.

Construction of the facility at Portrane is not dependent on the sale of the Dundrum site. This site is owned by the Commissioner for Public Works, rather than the HSE. A new Dundrum Central Development is to be located on the site of the existing Central Mental Hospital, following its relocation to Portrane. This will be progressed by the Land Development Agency, which co-ordinates land within State control for optimal uses, as appropriate, with a focus on providing housing. In this context, the Exchequer will benefit from the sale of the facility at Dundrum.

While A Vision for Change (AVFC), which was launched in 2006, reflected an aspiration to re-invest where possible in the mental health care programme from funding accrued from the sale of mental health lands, this was subsequently influenced by various factors. In May 2006, following publication of AVFC, there was a Government decision that proceeds from the sale of older mental health assets, such as the Dundrum site, will be reinvested in new developments within health. Funding for the new NFMHS capital project at Portrane was facilitated by the significant additional funding given to mental health over recent years.

Budget 2021 saw an additional €50 million allocated to Mental Health Services, bringing the total 2021 mental health budget to €1,076 billion, which is the biggest mental health budget on record. This represents an increase of over €365 million (51%) since 2012. The Government is committed to further development of all aspects of our mental health services, in line with our current policy Sharing the Vision - A Mental Health Policy for All.

Health Services Provision

Questions (635)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

635. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to instances in which staff in nursing homes are struggling to care for patients and are seeking assistance from members of the public or the HSE in feeding and providing drinks to patients. [2782/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The current rate of community transmission of COVID-19 is having a significant effect on nursing homes. As international evidence shows, the higher the rate of community transmission, the greater the risk to settings like nursing homes. Across the health and social care system the rate of COVID-19 transmission is having a significant impact on the availability of staff. The HSE continues to provide PPE and other necessary supports to nursing homes across the country to help prevent and control outbreaks of COVID-19. This includes staffing support, advice, and financial support through the Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme, which has provided over €60 million to nursing homes across the country to help improve their ability to respond to COVID-19. The current staffing situation is very challenging and the HSE, at local level, through the COVID-19 Response Teams, is making every effort to identify and provide staffing supports, including where appropriate through engagement with other State bodies.

Nursing homes must also continue to do their part by ensuring that they have robust contingency plans in place, including staffing plans; ensuring they follow all of the infection prevention and control advice and guidance; utilising the extensive training and other supports provided to them; and ensuring all staff are fully up-to-date on good infection prevention control practice.

I have referred your particular query to the HSE for direct reply.