Dental Services

Questions (666)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

666. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health if a resolution has been sought regarding the sourcing and dissemination of personal protective equipment for dental practitioners to enable them to take on and retain patients with medical cards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2913/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I support the provision of PPE to dentists who are contracted under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme to provide services to medical card holders.

I have asked my officials to engage with their counterparts in the HSE on this matter.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Questions (667)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

667. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health the efforts made by his Department to date to tackle outstanding issues concerning CAMHS, including addressing waiting lists, a lack of investment and recruitment issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2914/21]

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (668)

David Cullinane

Question:

668. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if Ireland has purchased additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that other countries did not want, as has been done by Germany, France and Denmark; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2921/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Ireland is participating in a Procurement Exercise being operated by the European Commission on behalf of Member States to procure suitable, safe and effective vaccines, in sufficient quantities, to combat COVID-19. Six APAs have been negotiated by the Commission under this process to date.

Government approval has been obtained to opt-into a sixth, but this is conditional on certain trial progression criteria being met.

Ireland opt-in to pro rata allocation of BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. Ireland also secured additional doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine via options and top up contracts, which will bring the current total of BioNTech/Pfizer doses secured to 5.49 million doses. Ireland has also signalled interest in obtaining 5,000 additional doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Ireland has signalled its solidarity with the EU approach and has, through its participation, gained access to a broad range of vaccines that it might not otherwise have access to, and at the cost agreed collectively by the EU.

Health Services Staff

Questions (669)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

669. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the number of graduate nurses and midwives in 2019 and 2020 who have been provided full-time permanent contracts. [2930/21]

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.

Hospital Staff

Questions (670)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

670. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the number of job vacancies at Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar by department, job title and the length of time each position has been vacant. [2931/21]

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.

Hospital Car Parks

Question No. 672 answered with Question No. 448.

Questions (671)

Gary Gannon

Question:

671. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Health the status of plans to introduce a cap on the maximum daily charge for car parking at hospitals for both patients and visitors that is included in the programme for Government. [2934/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government makes a commitment to introduce a cap on the maximum daily charge for patients and visitors at all public hospitals where possible, and to introduce flexible passes in all public hospitals for patients and their families.

My Department and the HSE are currently engaging on this issue.

Question No. 672 answered with Question No. 448.

National Public Health Emergency Team

Questions (673)

Gary Gannon

Question:

673. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Health if he will establish the National Public Health Emergency Team Covid-19 subgroup for vulnerable persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2939/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Central to the evolution of NPHET processes is the recognition that health and social care services, and indeed the wider cross-government COVID-19 response, have to become embedded and ‘mainstreamed’ in the usual operational response of organisations, as society adapts to the reality of living for the foreseeable future in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2020, as part of a process examining the work of all the subgroups of the NPHET, it was deemed that the Subgroup on Vulnerable Persons had met its Terms of Reference regarding preparedness plans being in place across government for vulnerable groups, and accordingly, it was stood down. The associated ongoing work was realigned into the appropriate policy and operational functions of the Department of Health or other relevant Departments, organisations, or bodies.

Recognising that vulnerable groups can be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and as set out in Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19, the Department of the Taoiseach has convened a Senior Official Group and sub-groups as needed, to drive implementation of the Plan. This includes a Sub-group on higher risk groups to monitor the spectrum of issues that need to be addressed in relation to groups at higher risk of COVID-19. These groups support the COVID-19 Oversight Group and the Cabinet Committee on the Government Response to COVID-19. The Subgroup on higher risk groups meets on a regular basis.

As part of the work of the Sub-group, relevant Departments have reviewed the oversight, management and reporting structures, guidance, mitigation plans, and communications structures in place for the various higher-risk groups.

The Departments represented on the Sub-group are responsible for the on-going monitoring of the epidemiological data and of any outbreaks in higher risk groups within their remit based on the Weekly Report prepared by the HPSC on Outbreaks/Clusters and sectoral information systems/knowledge. Upon the Sub-group’s establishment, Departments were also requested to ensure that they have early warning systems in place for their relevant sectors and groups to deal with emerging issues. Sectoral-specific actions are led by the relevant Departments. There is ongoing bilateral contact between the Department of the Taoiseach and Sub-group members to monitor the situation. The COVID-19 Oversight group is kept informed where additional cross-government measures are required.

In line with the above mechanism, the Department of Health monitors the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups on an ongoing basis based on reports provided by the HSE so as to identify, at an early stage, any issues or risks arising in relation to the COVID-19 impact on these groups. Regular bilateral engagement between the Department of Health and the Department of the Taoiseach through the cross-government mechanism for higher risk groups ensures the communication of relevant information in respect of outbreak control for nursing homes, the disability and mental health sectors, and in respect of drug and alcohol services. In respect of mental health, a specific tripartite oversight group, comprising representatives from Department of Health, HSE, and the Mental Health Commission, is in place to monitor this sector. This group works together to identify potential solutions to any issues or risks arising and make follow up reports as appropriate. A number of other Government departments also report on higher risk groups, e.g. Traveller, Roma and homeless persons. This whole-of-Government approach ensures that emerging issues can be identified and acted upon.

The Department, the HSE, the HIQA, and the Mental Health Commission will continue interagency and interdepartmental collaboration, working together to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable groups and mitigate against associated risks.

I trust that the above information addresses the Deputy's question satisfactorily.

Suicide Prevention

Questions (674)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

674. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Health if consideration will be given to providing emergency funding to NGOs providing support to persons at risk of suicide, given reports of an increase in suicide rates during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2941/21]

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.

Suicide Prevention

Questions (675)

Cormac Devlin

Question:

675. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Health if consideration will be given to providing emergency funding to NGOs that provide outreach and mental health services to young persons, given reports of an increase in suicide rates among young persons during the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2946/21]

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.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (676)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

676. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the person or body responsible for payment for works carried out under the hen harrier scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2194/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Hen Harrier Programme is operationally independent of my Department and is run by the Hen Harrier Project team. €25 million has been allocated by my Department to this project under the RDP.

At present, there are 1,594 participants under contract. Participants can contact the Hen Harrier project team directly for information regarding their payments. Their website, containing all contact details is: http://www.henharrierproject.ie/.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (677)

Seán Canney

Question:

677. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when farmers in tranche 7 of the hen harrier scheme will receive payment; if payments have been released for tranche seven; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2205/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Hen Harrier Programme is operationally independent of my Department and is run by the Hen Harrier Project team.

Participants can contact the Hen Harrier project team directly for information regarding their payments. Their website, containing all contact details is: http://www.henharrierproject.ie/.

Agriculture Schemes

Questions (678)

Seán Canney

Question:

678. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans regarding the 5% reduction in stock for the beef exceptional aid measure, BEAM, scheme in view of the fact that many farmers were unable to sell stock due to Covid-19 restrictions, including travel restrictions, and lockdowns and many farmers were unable to sell stock online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2212/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland, subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132. BEAM was funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support. It was provided to support Irish beef farmers who saw beef prices fall in light of the Covid-19 market disturbance.

One of the conditions under which the €50 million was granted by the EU was that there had to be an element of reduction or re-structuring built in to the scheme. Accordingly, in applying for BEAM, participants agreed to reduce the production of bovine livestock manure nitrogen on their holding by 5% for the period 1st July 2020 to 30th June 2021 as compared with the period 1st July 2018 to 30th June 2019.

Obligations under the measure were developed based on analysis of the herd profile and nitrates profile of the national herd. It was designed, in consultation with farmer representative organisations, to make the measure as easy to participate in as possible, whilst maintaining the requirement under the implementing regulation for temporary market adjustments.

Since 2019, 33,445 farmers have received some €77.72M as part of the scheme.

Departmental Websites

Questions (679)

Seán Canney

Question:

679. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to upgrade the new departmental website, given that farmers and planners are finding it extremely difficult to navigate and find nitrates recording forms, for example; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2213/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

On foot of a Government decision, the websites of all Government Departments are being moved to the gov.ie portal. The websites of 14 Departments are already hosted on this platform and the websites of the remaining Departments will be moved in the coming months.

The core principle of gov.ie is that information that the user needs is provided, in a way that is easily accessible. The objective is that users can be provided with all information relating to a particular topic without the need to search through the websites of different Departments. This model has been developed based around how the majority of customers seek on-line information. Specifically, rather than visit a front page and look for suitable links, users now typically enter their search into Google and are brought directly to the information they seek. The redesign emphasises the use of plain English for ease of accessibility. Brief summaries of schemes and services are available so that users can easily identify if the service is relevant to them and don’t have to trawl through a substantial amount of material to determine this.

Gov.ie has a particular format that all Departments must follow. This has involved a major redesign of our website to enable improved accessibility by all customers and to cater for different literacy levels, visual impairments and other accessibility issues. It is accepted that, for some users who are very familiar with the old website, it may take a while to get used to the improvements.

My Department emailed all approved Farm Advisory System (FAS) advisors on 27th November 2020 notifying them of the move to the new website and advising them specifically of the location of all schemes and Department online services. In relation to Nitrates, the Department emailed all FAS advisors, also on 27th November, providing the direct link to nitrates information. That information, including links to the forms, was also published in the press release of 4 December 2020.

It should be noted that forms in relation to 2021 schemes have not been published yet.

Animal Feedstuffs

Questions (680)

Matt Carthy

Question:

680. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a shortage of soya products is impacting on animal feed supplies; the measures adopted by his Department to support farmers affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2310/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

While there are currently no indications of significant challenges in the overall availability of animal feeds at present, there has been a temporary reduction in the level of imports of soya products in recent weeks mainly due to a temporary disruption in supplies from Argentina which is the main exporter of soya. Access to sources of protein, including Soya for inclusion in concentrate feeds, is important for the Irish feed industry.

In this respect, I understand that importers of feed materials are currently sourcing alternative short-term supplies of soya and other protein products. In the meantime, feed mills are also using alternative ingredients to ensure their products provide the required protein content.

Exports of soya have now resumed and supplies are expected to return to normal levels over the next month or so.