Hospital Staff

Questions (651)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

651. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the number of staff that will be assigned to the 48-bed acute medical unit that will be constructed at Mallow General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2834/21]

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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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (652)

Neale Richmond

Question:

652. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health when a retirement home for retired clergy (details supplied) can expect to receive the Covid-19 vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2840/21]

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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.

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Question No. 655 answered with Question No. 448.

Questions (653, 654)

Emer Higgins

Question:

653. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health if his Department requested the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to fast-track its recommendations on vitamin D supplementation in older adults due to emerging evidence linking low vitamin D levels with increased Covid-19 infection and severity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2842/21]

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Emer Higgins

Question:

654. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health if his Department asked as to whether vitamin D supplementation in adults rather than just older adults is being considered as advisable in the context of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2843/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 653 and 654 together.

The Department of Health requested the Scientific Committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) “to fast track the current work on Vitamin D and older people to provide an evidence -base to the Department of Health to underpin public health policy for vitamin D supplementation in older people, 65 plus years” by letter dated 4th June 2020. The letter does not make any reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department has not made any subsequent request to the FSAI for advice in relation to Vitamin D supplementation for other sectors of the population, whether in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise.

Question No. 655 answered with Question No. 448.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (656)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

656. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the discussions that have been held with Northern Ireland in relation to the possibility of a joint zero-Covid-19 strategy between the two jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2852/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

There has been, and continues to be, significant engagement and cooperation between the Ministers for Health, the Chief Medical Officers, and the Departments of Health in Ireland and Northern Ireland throughout this pandemic. Recently the Chief Medical Officers in Northern Ireland and Ireland collaborated on a joint statement voicing their concerns about the high levels of COVID-19 and urging everyone to stay home.

Both administrations are seeking to adopt similar approaches, where it is appropriate to do so and on the advice of respective Chief Medical Officers. This approach is underpinned a Memorandum of Understanding agreed by the Chief Medical Officers of the Department of Health and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland in April 2020 to strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In November, this overarching agreement was supplemented with a further Memorandum of Understanding in relation to a framework for mutual support for the provision of critical care.

Meetings of the North South Ministerial Council are also an important pillar in our regular engagements with Northern Ireland counterparts on COVID-19.

I am committed to continue this close and productive cooperation with Northern Ireland to foster commonality in approaches, where possible, in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Procurement Contracts

Questions (657)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

657. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the due diligence or background checks that were carried out prior to placing a €14 million order for ventilators with a company (details supplied); the person or body that approved the deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2855/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the procurement of medical equipment is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE), I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Healthcare Infrastructure Provision

Questions (658)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

658. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the current position in regard to the provision of the necessary funding for the next phase of the Naas General Hospital development plan; when the project was submitted for his approval; his expectations in respect of a response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2868/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (659)

Michael Lowry

Question:

659. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Health the position of a primary medical certificate application for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when an assessment on this application will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2878/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme comes under the remit of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners. The extent of the involvement of Health Service Executive (HSE) personnel in the Scheme relates to making a professional clinical determination as to whether an individual applicant meets the specified medical criteria for a Primary Medical Certificate, which is a requirement for the Scheme. This determination is undertaken by Senior Medical Officers for the relevant HSE Community Health Organisation on behalf of the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

The Deputy will be aware that following a Supreme Court decision of June 2020, the assessment process for Primary Medical Certificates was suspended at the request of the Minister for Finance. In order to allow for the Primary Medical Certificate assessments to recommence, the Minister for Finance brought forward amendments to the Finance Bill to provide for the existing medical criteria in primary legislation.

Following a request from Minister Donohoe, my colleague the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly T.D. issued an instruction to the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive (HSE) on 22nd December, 2020, to the effect that Primary Medical Certificate assessments can recommence with effect from 1st January, 2021.

As the question raised by the Deputy relates to a service matter, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the HSE for investigation and direct reply to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (660)

James Lawless

Question:

660. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Health if arrangements will be made to ship and distribute a vaccine (details supplied) around the country in advance of approval in order that it is ready to go once the dosage is confirmed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2879/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The EMA has received an application for conditional marketing authorisation (CMA) for a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The assessment of the vaccine will proceed under an accelerated timeline. An opinion on the marketing authorisation could be issued by 29 January provided, subject to the data submitted being deemed sufficiently robust to demonstrate the on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

I am keen to secure the earliest available supply of this vaccine for use as soon as possible, subject to authorisation requirements and contractual obligations.

Vaccination Programme

Question No. 662 answered with Question No. 627.

Questions (661)

James Lawless

Question:

661. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Health if arrangements are in place to extract the maximum safe dosages from each vial of a vaccine (details supplied), given that it now appears five rather than four doses can be obtained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2880/21]

View answer

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.

Question No. 662 answered with Question No. 627.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (663)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

663. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health if transmissibility has been factored into modelling the progression of Covid-19 during and after vaccination has been carried out in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2906/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to plan appropriately, a sub-group of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was established to provide advice and expertise in the area of epidemiological modelling. The objective of the group is to expand the statistical and mathematical modelling capacity available to NPHET, critically reviewing the emerging research, analysing and interpreting the national epidemiological data on the outbreak, using and adapting standard mathematical models of infectious disease, and parameterising and calibrating these to the national demographics and outbreak data. IEMAG are currently exploring how the impact of vaccinations will influence the parameters, including transmissibility, used in their models. The work is ongoing and based on emerging evidence in this area.

The group is chaired by Professor Philip Nolan and delivers an integrated and comprehensive programme of data analysis and modelling work. Membership comprises academics with expertise in epidemiology, public health, statistics, mathematics, computer science, and geospatial science, researchers from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), and expert colleagues from Health Service Executive (HSE), Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) and others.

Technical notes on the approaches used by IEMAG are published on the Department of Health website (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/dc5711-irish-epidemiology-modelling-advisory-group-to-nphet-technical-notes/ ).

Food Safety Standards

Question No. 665 answered with Question No. 490.

Questions (664)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

664. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health to outline the analysis his Department has carried out to date with regard to the health effects that consumption of sugar and high-caffeine drinks have on children in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2910/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax commenced in May 2018. As part of the preparation for the introduction of the tax, a Department of Health Working Paper from October 2016 outlined the Health Rationale, Options and Recommendations in relation to the proposed tax. This Working Paper found that a strong medical consensus supported the association between obesity and the consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks. The paper reviewed the existing evidence in relation to “free sugars” and obesity and found that liquid carbohydrate, rather than in the solid form, contributes disproportionately to weight gain, and that the association between sugar-sweetened drink consumption and weight gain has been found to be stronger than for any other food or beverage. The paper also highlighted that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in early-life (from conception to five years of age) was a factor associated with later overweight and obesity. The Working Paper also examined the increasing levels of consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks among children in Ireland, as evidenced by studies such as the Health Behaviours in School aged Children (HBSC) and National Children’s Food Survey reports. Additionally, the paper examined tooth decay and noted that there is consistent evidence that tooth decay is lower when sugar intake is low.

In addition, safefood has carried out a number of studies on Energy Drinks. Its 2016 report “Energy Drinks in Ireland – A Review” referred to conclusions by the European Food Safety Authority that for children and adolescents, the information available is insufficient for calculating a safe level of caffeine intake. The report also noted that caffeine consumption in children and adolescents has been reported to have a negative effect on neurological and cardiovascular systems and to create a physical dependence. A 2019 UK study found that children who consume caffeinated energy drinks on a weekly basis are more likely to experience low psychological, physical and educational wellbeing than those who consume them less frequently. In 2019 safefood carried out a further study “A Survey of Energy Drinks on the Island of Ireland” in the context of the introduction of the Sugar-Sweetened Drinks Tax.

Safefood also continues to keep under review the available data on the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and on their health effects. In 2020 safefood produced an evidence document reviewing the evidence from 2018 to 2020. This noted reduced levels of consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, as evinced by the 2018 HBSC study published in 2020 and the National Children’s Food Survey II published in 2019. The document also referenced a number of recent international studies reiterating the negative health impacts of high levels of consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Question No. 665 answered with Question No. 490.