Vaccination Programme

Questions (768, 826)

Seán Canney

Question:

768. Deputy Seán Canney asked the Minister for Health when pharmacy staff will be vaccinated (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6597/21]

View answer

Michael Creed

Question:

826. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health when a cohort of workers (details provided) will receive the Covid-19 vaccination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6852/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 768 and 826 together.

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.

Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in direct patient contact roles will be vaccinated in Group 2. This includes HCWs working in public, private, and voluntary settings. Other HCWs, not in direct patient contact, will be vaccinated in Group 4.

The next group (Group 3) to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

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.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (769)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

769. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the substantial delays in the issuing of primary medical certificates during the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions; the steps he is taking to rectify the matter; if online consultations been examined for applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6600/21]

View answer

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 may 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, Deputy Paschal Donohoe. Following the approval of the Finance Act 2020 which provides for the medical criteria in primary legislation, the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, issued an instruction to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE to the effect that Primary Medical Certificate assessments can recommence with effect from 1st January, 2021.

Separately, the ability to hold assessments may be impacted by, among other things, the public health restrictions in place and the role of the HSE Medical Officers in the roll out of the COVID vaccination programme. I understand that the HSE is considering the matter of Primary Medical Certificate assessments in the context of their revision of the HSE recovery and restoration plans, taking into account the pressures and challenges to the health services presented by COVID.

As the issue raised by the Deputy relating to on-line consultations is a service matter, I have arranged to have the question referred to the HSE for consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (770)

Robert Troy

Question:

770. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if a person (details supplied) is on the waiting list for a cataract procedure in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin. [6601/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

The HSE is currently recommending that only critical time dependent elective procedures are undertaken at this time due to the on-going and significant increased demand for bed capacity related to Covid-19.

This decision was made arising from the rapid increase in Covid-19 admissions and to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work.

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.

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.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (771)

Robert Troy

Question:

771. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health when applications for the primary medical certificate will continue (details supplied). [6603/21]

View answer

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 may 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, Deputy Paschal Donohoe. Following the approval of the Finance Act 2020 which provides for the medical criteria in primary legislation, the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, issued an instruction to the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE to the effect that Primary Medical Certificate assessments can recommence with effect from 1st January, 2021.

Separately, the ability to hold assessments may be impacted by, among other things, the public health restrictions in place and the role of the HSE Medical Officers in the roll out of the COVID vaccination programme. I understand that the HSE is considering the matter of Primary Medical Certificate assessments in the context of their revision of the HSE recovery and restoration plans, taking into account the pressures and challenges to the health services presented by COVID.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (772)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

772. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the number of persons awaiting vascular surgery appointments; and the extent to which this number has fluctuated over the past four years to date. [6621/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

The HSE is currently recommending that only critical time dependent elective procedures are undertaken at this time due to the on-going and significant increased demand for bed capacity related to Covid-19.

This decision was made arising from the rapid increase in Covid-19 admissions and to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work.

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 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.

An additional €240 million has been provided in Budget 2021 for an Access to Care Fund, €210m of which has been allocated to the HSE and €30m to the NTPF for the provision of treatment as required in both private and public hospitals in order to address capacity issues in acute hospitals and waiting lists.

The information requested by the deputy is outlined in the attached document. The latest published National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures (Dec 2020) show that the vascular surgery outpatient waiting list has increased by 63% over the last 4 years (December 2017 – December 2020). The inpatient & daycase (IPDC) waiting list has shown a 59% decrease when a comparison is made with the same period (December 2017 – December 2020).

Vascular Surgery

Hospital Data

Questions (773)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

773. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the rota of consultant cover for the accident and emergency department at Naas General Hospital for each weekend from January to December 2020. [6622/21]

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 Data

Question No. 775 answered with Question No. 750.

Questions (774)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

774. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Health the number of whole-time equivalent cardiac consultants required to provide 24-7 cardiac cover at Naas General Hospital. [6623/21]

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.

Question No. 775 answered with Question No. 750.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (776)

Robert Troy

Question:

776. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if a passenger returning home to Ireland requires a Covid-19 test on a connecting flight from Portugal in view of the fact that he or she will need a Covid test leaving Brazil; and if he or she will need another test for a connecting flight in Portugal given that he or she will not be leaving the airport. [6635/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Since the 16th January it has been a requirement for passengers arriving to Ireland from overseas to present a COVID-19 passenger locator form and evidence of a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel upon arrival to Ireland.

The RT-PCR test result must be shown prior to boarding and once again to border officials upon entry. Travellers that do not present a test result to border officials upon entry are committing an offence and may be subject to prosecution.

SI No. 44/2021 provides that passengers who cannot provide evidence of a pre-departure test at the point of entry are required to take a PCR test within 36 hours of arrival. Failure to do so will be an additional offence.

If the journey began in South Africa or Brazil the passenger is required to quarantine for 14 days.

Cross-Border Health Initiatives

Questions (777)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

777. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if it will be ensured that a permanent scheme will be put in place to replace the cross-border directive scheme post Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6660/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Since 1 January 2021, the provisions of the EU Cross Border Directive (CBD) no longer apply to the UK. On the 28th December 2020 the Government approved the implementation of a new Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme. The new Scheme operational from 1 January 2021 will enable persons resident in the State to access and be reimbursed for private healthcare in Northern Ireland by the HSE, provided such healthcare is publicly available within Ireland. It is intended that the scheme will operate for 12 months on an administrative basis initially, with a view to developing a general scheme to provide a statutory basis for the scheme.

Furthermore, the HSE has also put in place transitional arrangements for certain patients who have a legitimate expectation of continuing to access care in the UK under the current provisions of the EU Cross-Border Directive Scheme including provision for reimbursement of healthcare costs by the HSE to persons who fall into certain categories, such as patients who can evidence that they have treatment booked prior to December 2020 for treatment in 2021. Patients are advised to contact the HSE CBD office directly with queries on individual applications and whether they are covered by the transitional arrangements or the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme.

Patients also continue to have access to health services under the EU CBD Scheme in all other remaining EU/EEA countries.

In the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic, persons seeking to utilise these schemes should review and adhere to the public health guidance and restrictions in place at any point in time.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (778)

Malcolm Noonan

Question:

778. Deputy Malcolm Noonan asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the expert advice from NIAC (details supplied) on which clinical decisions are based regarding the timeframe in which family carers will be vaccinated; if the advice will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6661/21]

View answer

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 the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for the Department of Health 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.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

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.

Family carers are a diverse group, therefore, each individual will be vaccinated in the group that is appropriate to them.

Nursing Staff

Questions (779)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

779. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the status of the allocation of a public health nurse in Killashandra, County Cavan; if a nurse will be put in place urgently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6662/21]

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.

Ophthalmology Services

Questions (780)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

780. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the status of ophthalmology clinics (details supplied); the days on which the services are operational; the locations of the clinics; if clarity will be provided for clinics in Cavan town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6663/21]

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.

Health Services Charges

Questions (781)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

781. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if he will review charges for service users (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6664/21]

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.

Health Services Provision

Questions (782)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

782. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Health the facilities and options available for persons with epilepsy in view of the lack of investment in neurology services and staff shortages in neurology centres nationwide. [6672/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Brainwave – the Irish Epilepsy Association

This project is a Sláintecare funded initiative. The purpose of the project is to develop a Pathway of Community Care Supports for people with Epilepsy in Ireland.

Context: The cumulative incidence of epilepsy is about 68/100,000 giving approx. 2,000 new diagnoses each year. Of the 40,000 PWE in Ireland, about 70% are well controlled on medication, with 12-15,000 people in regular contact with secondary/tertiary services. PWE often experience mental health problems & the condition has significant implications for social, vocational & occupational aspirations.

This innovative project demonstrates how a joint approach between staff based in hospital, primary care and the community can work together, to support people with Epilepsy with the management of their condition. The project has is delivering the service virtually due to COVID 19 and provides one-to one appointments, where necessary.

The project is delivering:

- Joint education programmes to 120 People with Epilepsy with follow up one-to-one appointments.

- Conducting research interviews with GPs and people with Epilepsy to gather their views on the concept and content of a patient held “checklist”.

- Training on engagement with Patients With Epilepsy for GPs, using the checklist.

To date, participants are reporting positive outcomes from the intervention:

Outcome: Of those whose evaluations have been analysed - 88% of participants reported an increase in their knowledge about their condition

Outcome: Of those whose evaluations have been analysed - 94% rated their confidence in dealing with their epilepsy as improved.

A second Sláintecare funded initiative is with St. James’s Hospital: Keeping people with severe epilepsy independent

This project is working with epilepsy patients, especially long term homeless people and those with an intellectual disability living in residential care. It will use remote and virtual care working with people with epilepsy in order to help prevent their admission to the hospital.

Hospital Staff

Questions (783)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

783. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Health the number of staff by job title working in the ophthalmology department of the Mater Hospital, Dublin; the number of vacancies by job title; the estimated cost of filling each of the vacancies in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6673/21]

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 (784)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

784. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Health if funding will be provided for the recruitment of additional full-time consultants in endocrinology and diabetes mellitus for Our Lady's Hospital, Navan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6674/21]

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 Staff

Questions (785)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

785. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Health the number of consultants by specialist posts that are currently vacant in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin in tabular form; the length of time each post has been vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6675/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy with the specific details sought.

Health Services Staff

Questions (786)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

786. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if he will review an article (details supplied); if a similar gesture for front-line workers will be announced here by way of time in lieu or bonuses; if his Department has discussed the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6693/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Both I and my Department recognise that our dedicated health care workers play a key role in our national effort against Covid-19. Their determination and commitment to assisting our sick and vulnerable to get the medical treatment they need, has and continues to be, very much appreciated.

Others across the public and private sectors also deserve to be commended for their efforts in combatting the pandemic.

It should be noted that the pursuit of cost increasing pay claims are specifically excluded under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement. This means that any additional time off, or bonus including additional pay are not permitted under the PSSA.