Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (920)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

920. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health if matters raised in correspondence by a person (details supplied) will be examined. [7256/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy is aware, Ireland is now at level 5 of the Government's medium-term Plan Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19, which sets out Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19.

The Plan aims to allow society and businesses to operate as normally as possible, while protecting our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

At Level 5, 6 guests may attend the wedding and wedding ceremony irrespective of venue. This does not include the persons getting married or persons attending in a professional capacity. The various limits at all levels in the Government's Plan are all designed to reduce the number of households mixing with each other and cut down the virus’s chances of spreading into more homes. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.

As I'm sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. In certain settings, such as weddings, higher noise levels due to music, can force people into close proximity, requiring them to raise their voices or shout to communicate thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus to others. Under the current public health measures in place for Covid-19 live music is not permitted at weddings.

It is not possible to say what public health measures will be in place in the future. The public health advice relating to Covid-19 is kept under continuing review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), by my Department and by the Government. The measures in place and the public health advice have been adapted to the changing circumstances and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Details of the public health measures currently in place for weddings can be found at:- https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/#weddings

You may also wish to note that Fáilte Ireland has provided guidelines for the hospitality industry which includes guidance on weddings and is available at: - https://failtecdn.azureedge.net/failteireland/Guidelines-for-Re-opening-Hotels-and-Guesthouses.pdf

Vaccination Programme

Questions (921)

Martin Browne

Question:

921. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Health when pharmacists and pharmacy workers will receive the Covid-19 vaccine. [7260/21]

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 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.

The next group to be vaccinated (group 3) 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.

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 HSE has published a document on the sequencing of COVID-19 vaccination of frontline healthcare workers, which provides more detail. It is available at the following link:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/covid-19-vaccine-materials/sequencing-of-covid-19-vaccination-of-frontline-healthcare-workers.pdf

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 (922)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

922. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for Health if the 5 km limit for persons leaving home other than for essential purposes during the current lockdown permits driving within the 5 km radius; if not, if persons are restricted to walking within 5 km; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7264/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As you will be aware, Ireland is at level 5 of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. This 5-level framework sets out what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services, at that moment in time.

The measures in place for each level reflect the prevailing disease situation and recognise that we can and must prioritise some activities over others.

Under the current public health measures at level 5, you should stay at home except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes and are permitted to take exercise within 5km of home. Further information on travel restrictions within Ireland is available here:- https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/#travel-restrictions

You may wish to note that S.I. No. 29 of 2021 introduced further restriction on travel within Ireland. It is now an offence to leave your home to travel to a port or airport to leave the State without a reasonable excuse and an increased fine of €500 will apply for this offence. In addition, and from 1 February, a person whose place of residence is outside the State may not travel in the State without reasonable excuse, which does not include a reasonable excuse of exercising within 5km of your place of residence for people whose place of residence is outside the State. This is a penal provision and a fixed penalty notice €100 applies.

It is important to emphasise, that any essential travel should be undertaken with due regard to public health safety measures.

Statutory Instruments related to the Covid-19 pandemic are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (923)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

923. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 859 of 3 February 2021, if he will report on the areas of the question on the pandemic intersectoral and international policy unit in his Department which were not answered the first time, namely the aims and actions of the unit; the cost of the unit; if minutes are available to Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7273/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

In response to COVID-19 the pandemic intersectoral and international policy unit was established with the aim of representing the Department of Health in cross government and international discussions including in relation to international travel measures.

As part of this effort the unit actions involve Passenger Locator Form regulations, operations, and data sharing, in addition to coordination support for international engagement including the EU Health Security Committee and the EU Integrated Political Crisis Response Arrangements. The unit has and will continue to take action in response to intersectoral and other ad-hoc issues as needed.

Due to the agile and responsive nature of the unit, team meetings are on an as needed basis, involving part or all the team as required. As these are internal meetings, which deal with the daily activities and actions of the unit, they are not formally minuted.

There is currently one Principal Officer, three Assistant Principal Officers, two Higher Executive Officers, one Administrative Officer and one Executive Officer on the unit.

Salary scales outline in the table below:

Grade

Salary Scale

Principal Officer

89,072 - 109,547

Assistant Principal Officer

69,012 - 85,415

Higher Executive Officer

49,845 - 62,776

Administrative Officer

33,053 - 62,776

Executive Officer

30,884 - 51,851

Hospital Funding

Questions (924)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

924. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health the status of developments of the capital spend and date schedule outlined for the community nursing units of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Stranorlar, Ramelton Community Hospital and Lifford Community Hospital in County Donegal; the status of the capital plan for these units; if his Department amended the plan to include for the additional capital required to complete these much needed projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7278/21]

View answer

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (925)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

925. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if he is considering acquiring Russian and Chinese manufactured vaccines to aid in bridging the gap with the vaccine supply; if the matter has been discussed with NPHET; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7301/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Ireland supports the EU Procurement Process, the purpose of which is to secure safe and efficacious vaccines for EU citizens.

The delivery of vaccines under APAs that the Commission has negotiated on behalf of Member States are predicated upon a CMA being obtained from the Commission (on the basis of a positive recommendation being awarded by the EMA).

The awarding of a CMA provides a high level of assurance that a vaccine has undergone rigorous testing and has met the requirements of the independent regulatory process as regards demonstrating its safety and efficacy.

The award of the CMA as a precondition for the delivery of vaccines also ensures that all Member States that have opted into APAs negotiated by the Commission receive vaccines at the same time (i.e. ensuring fair access to vaccines).

While it is a matter for the individual Member State as regards whether it wishes to authorise a vaccine for emergency usage, doing so incurs significant risk on the Member State concerned and could contribute to vaccine hesitancy more generally.

Health Services Reports

Questions (926)

David Cullinane

Question:

926. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health when the critical care capacity and workforce census 2020, which was due at the end of January 2021, will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7306/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The report the Deputy refers to is prepared on an annual basis by the Critical Care Programme of the HSE. I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly in relation to their plans for the publication of the 2020 iteration.

HSE National Service Plan

Question No. 928 answered with Question No. 692.

Questions (927)

David Cullinane

Question:

927. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health when the HSE national service plan 2021 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7307/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The 2021 National Service Plan was initially formally submitted by the HSE on the 24th November, 2020 for my approval.

I initially responded to the HSE on 15th December, 2020 with the requirement to include the COVID vaccination strategy which had been launched since the receipt of the Plan. Following further detailed consideration of the Plan, I formally responded to the HSE on December 31st with a number of high-level requirements that were to be included in a revised Plan.

On January 15th, the HSE formally submitted the revised 2021 National Service Plan for my approval.

Presently, I am giving consideration to the revised National Service Plan and intend to revert to the HSE shortly.

Once the Plan is approved, it must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas within 21 days of its approval. The HSE will ensure the Service Plan is published at the earliest possible time after the Plan has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Question No. 928 answered with Question No. 692.

HSE Waiting Lists

Questions (929)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

929. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) is waiting so long for an operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7316/21]

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (930)

Matt Carthy

Question:

930. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health when it is planned that dentists and their staff operating in the HSE dental treatment services scheme will be vaccinated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7320/21]

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 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.

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 in this month.

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 HSE has published a document on the sequencing of COVID-19 vaccination of frontline healthcare workers, which provides more detail. It is available at the following link:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/covid-19-vaccine-materials/sequencing-of-covid-19-vaccination-of-frontline-healthcare-workers.pdf

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 Supports

Questions (931)

Matt Carthy

Question:

931. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health the PPE supports made available to dentists since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7321/21]

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.

Dental Services

Questions (932, 933)

Matt Carthy

Question:

932. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health his plans to reform the dental treatment services scheme in response to the increased operating costs of operating private dental practices as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7322/21]

View answer

Matt Carthy

Question:

933. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health his plans to reform the dental treatment services scheme in response to the withdrawal of a number of dentists since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7323/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 932 and 933 together.

The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides dental care free of charge to medical card holders aged 16 and over. These services are provided by independent dental practitioners who have a contract with the HSE. Where a dentist withdraws from the Scheme, a patient may choose to have treatment undertaken by another dentist who participates in the Scheme. The HSE will assist medical card holders in accessing such treatment if required.

Smile agus Sláinte, the National Oral Health Policy, published in April 2019, sets out the new model of care delivery for dental services. It includes proposals for the introduction of packages of oral healthcare for adult medical card holders at different intervals during their life course. The packages will focus on prevention and will include examinations, advice, and preventive therapies. The timeframe for the delivery of the Policy is until 2026 and the roll-out of these packages of care will take place incrementally. A review of the provision of dental services for those eligible for public services is required in the context of the implementation of the Policy and the issue of fees paid to dentists will be considered in that context.

I am aware of the difficulties currently being experienced by dentists in providing care to their patients. My Department has been engaging with dentists throughout the pandemic and is preparing for further engagement on additional measures that might assist the public in accessing oral healthcare during these difficult times.

Health Promotion

Questions (934)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

934. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if he will initiate a public awareness campaign on the benefits of vitamin D supplements in boosting the immune system against Covid-19 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7318/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Deputy is advised that the existing guidance on vitamin D was updated in November 2020 and advises that adults aged 65 and older to take a 15 microgram (600 IU) daily supplement for bone and muscle health.

An evidence synthesis paper on vitamin D and COVID-19 prepared for the NPHET was discussed at its meeting of January 28. The NPHET agreed that efforts should be made to increase awareness of existing guidance; and that adults spending increased time indoors or are housebound or in long-term residential care or have dark skin pigmentation are also recommended to take a daily vitamin D supplement.

These recommendations for the use of vitamin D are being incorporated into wider messaging, and additionally are being communicated across the health service, including nursing homes and social care settings as necessary.

There is currently no plan for a campaign providing vitamin D supplements to certain groups. The NPHET agreed that at present there is insufficient high-quality evidence with respect to vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, and noted that ongoing developments, particularly Randomised Control Trials, in this area be monitored by the NPHET with guidance reviewed accordingly.

Hospital Facilities

Questions (935)

Martin Browne

Question:

935. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Health if he will meet with concerned persons in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary regarding the decision to repurpose St. Brigid’s Hospital; and the cost analysis that led to the decision to repurpose the hospital rather than invest in bringing it up to the standard it is claimed it did not meet. [7328/21]

View answer

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.

Tribunals of Inquiry

Questions (936)

Alan Kelly

Question:

936. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Health the number of applications that have been accepted by the CervicalCheck tribunal as of 3 February 2021. [7329/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Following a pause in the steps towards full establishment of the CervicalCheck Tribunal, to allow for discussions with the 221+ Patient Representative Group about the Tribunal and CervicalCheck Cases generally, the establishment of the Tribunal was finalised with the appointment of the nominated members with effect from 1 December 2020.

I recently sought an update from the CervicalCheck Tribunal in respect of the work undertaken since its establishment. On 5 February 2021, the Tribunal Chairperson submitted a report to me setting out that a number of inquiries have been made with the Tribunal by potential claimants and legal representatives. The queries received pertained to transferring cases, time limits for the filing of claims and queries concerning online forms for the processing of claims. No claims have yet been lodged, and I understand that queries continue to be received by the Tribunal.

The Tribunal has been in a position to carry out its work since the appointment of the Members at the beginning of December, however the period for which it has been active included the Christmas break which will have impacted the level of activity during the period.

The Tribunal remains the most appropriate venue to hear and determine CervicalCheck claims. It has been specifically designed for that purpose. It is, of course, entirely up to eligible women as to whether or not they use it.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (937, 938, 939, 940, 941)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

937. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered to residents of long-term residential care facilities in County Tipperary up to 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7348/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

938. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered to front-line staff of long-term residential care facilities in County Tipperary up to 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7349/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

939. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered to persons other than front-line staff or residents of long-term residential care facilities in County Tipperary up to 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7350/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

940. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered to front-line staff in hospitals in County Tipperary up to 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7351/21]

View answer

Jackie Cahill

Question:

941. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health the number of Covid-19 vaccines administered to persons other than front-line staff in hospitals in County Tipperary up to 1 February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7352/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 937 to 941, inclusive, together.

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