Dental Services

Questions (958, 959)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

958. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if surgical dental extractions are covered under the medical card scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7411/21]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

959. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health if financial support or reimbursement is available to medical card holders referred to private dental surgeons for surgical dental extractions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7412/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 958 and 959 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.

Surgical extractions are provided under the DTSS. The DTSS does not provide for payment for treatments by dentists who do not participate in the Scheme. Where a surgical extraction cannot be provided by a contracted dentist, the dentist may arrange a referral to an acute hospital.

Cross-Border Health Initiatives

Questions (960)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

960. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the process used to determine the competent state when processing cross-border directive reimbursement applications for applicants in receipt of both an Irish and UK state pension who are Irish citizens residing in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7413/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As the HSE is responsible for the operation of the Cross-Border Directive, including determining which Member State is 'competent' for a person, i.e. their Member State of affiliation,, I have referred this Parliamentary Question to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (961)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

961. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health when a full response in relation to an operation will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7414/21]

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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.

Patient Forums

Questions (962)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

962. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health the reason a body (details supplied) did not engage with the patient group since October 2020 in spite of a promise to keep this group with over 200 members updated in respect of the partisan application. [7418/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines under the community drug schemes, in accordance with the provisions of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for reply to the Deputy.

Oireachtas Joint Committee Recommendations

Questions (963)

Brendan Smith

Question:

963. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the 2018 Report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Foetal Anti-Convulsant Syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7419/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Valproate-containing medicines (also known as sodium valproate or valproic acid) are approved in Ireland under the brand name Epilim, for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Based on the totality of available scientific data on this drug, it is known that children exposed in utero are at a high risk of serious developmental disorders (in up to 30-40% of cases) and congenital malformations (in approximately 10% of cases).

To prevent exposure during pregnancy, there is a robust regulatory framework for the licensed use of Epilim in women of childbearing potential. This regulatory framework was strengthened following participation by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in two EU-wide reviews in 2014 and 2017.

After the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued new recommendations on the use of sodium valproate in early 2018, the HPRA collaborated with national stakeholders, including patient representatives and healthcare professionals, to implement the new valproate risk-minimisation measures in Ireland. These measures included changes to the product information for patients and healthcare professionals; a visual warning on the packaging of valproate medicines; updated educational materials to reflect the new measures and provide age-appropriate advice; and a patient alert card to be attached to the packaging so that pharmacists can go through it with the patient when valproate is dispensed.

To support the actions taken by the HPRA, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland directed pharmacists that they must inform women of child-bearing age of the potential risk of abnormal pregnancy outcomes when supplying any medicine containing valproate. This includes providing counselling and including a Package Leaflet and Alert Card with each supply of these medicines.

To address the more operational aspects of this issue, a HSE Valproate Response Project was established in May 2018 under the remit of the HSE Office of the Chief Clinical Officer. The Project Team was able to provide expert support to individuals and families with concerns about previous exposure to valproate and the possible impact on their children. The HSE team has also worked to improve the structures in place to support families affected by foetal valproate syndrome. A specialist dedicated genetics clinic has been established in Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin, to support diagnosis, and the HSE is working to improve access to genetic testing.

The HSE’s medium- to long-term response to the valproate issue is focused on the establishment of a Programme for Women’s Health in Epilepsy within one of the Regional Epilepsy Centres, which will coordinate this national response. This means that all women taking valproate will have yearly follow-up, sign a valproate agreement form, be kept up-to-date with developments and signposted to other services, including the diagnostic service for those potentially exposed during pregnancy.

I have recently committed to holding an inquiry into the historical licensing and use of sodium valproate in Ireland and have asked officials in my department to examine a number of different options for the structure of this inquiry.

Departmental Reports

Questions (964)

Mark Ward

Question:

964. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health the persons or bodies who are members of the implementation committee for the recommendations in Sharing the Vision; when they will commence; and if the committee is a separate entity to the monitoring committee. [7430/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The National Implementation and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) is collectively responsible for driving and overseeing the long-term implementation of the national mental health policy, Sharing the Vision. The NIMC is made up of the NIMC Steering Committee which will be supported by an NIMC Reference Group of Service Users and Families and NIMC Specialist Groups.

The NIMC Steering Committee will drive the implementation of Sharing the Vision and ensure appropriate monitoring and oversight processes are put in place. The work of the Steering Committee is very much at an early stage. To date, the Steering Committee has met twice, on 11 December 2020 and 15 January 2021, with meetings scheduled to take place monthly. The minutes of Steering Committee meetings are available on the Department of Health Website. In addition, membership of the Steering Group was announced as part of a press release and current membership is also detailed on the Department of Health website.

The HSE has primary responsibility for the implementation of the majority of the Sharing the Vision recommendations, and is currently establishing a HSE Implementation Group, which will report to the NIMC Steering Committee. As this process is ongoing, membership has yet to be finalised.

The process of establishing the HSE Implementation Group is progressing as quickly as possible, in the context of the significant pressures on the services due to the current surge of COVID 19.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (965)

Joe O'Brien

Question:

965. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Health if consideration has been given to amending the Covid-19 vaccine allocation strategy to include persons undergoing medical treatment for serious illness as a distinct category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7431/21]

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 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.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (966)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

966. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the steps he is taking to recover monies paid in respect of a contract with a company (details supplied;) and the timeline to which he is working to secure the refund of monies owed. [7432/21]

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.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (967)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

967. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health if he will report on the up to-date information on contracts with a company (details supplied); and the current status of contracts and negotiations with the company. [7433/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Departmental Contracts

Questions (968)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

968. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the problems associated with the ventilators procured from a company (details supplied). [7434/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Departmental Contracts

Questions (969)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

969. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the number of ventilators procured from a company (details supplied); the number delivered into Ireland; and the current location of the ventilators. [7435/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Assisted Human Reproduction

Questions (970)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

970. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of a group (details supplied) requesting the proposed assisted human reproduction Bill be amended to provide better protection to the rights of families; and if he will engage with representatives of the group regarding its proposed reforms for the upcoming iterations of the Bill. [7437/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Drafting of a bill on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, is ongoing by my officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.

This comprehensive and far-reaching piece of legislation encompasses the regulation, for the first time in this country, of a wide range of practices, including: gamete (sperm or egg) and embryo donation for AHR and research; surrogacy; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) of embryos; posthumous assisted reproduction; and embryo and stem cell research. The General Scheme also provides for the establishment of an independent regulatory authority for AHR.

The publication of the AHR Bill is a priority for my Department and the Government, and a commitment to enact this legislation is included in the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”.

My officials have engaged with representatives from the group referred to by the Deputy, we are aware of their concerns with the published General Scheme, and I can assure the Deputy that issues put forward by this group, as well as those raised by numerous other stakeholders, are being considered from a policy and legal perspective during the ongoing drafting of the Bill.

Overall, the provisions outlined within the General Scheme will ensure that AHR practices and related areas of research are conducted in a more consistent and standardised way and with the necessary oversight. The aim of the AHR legislation is to promote and ensure the health and safety of parents and others involved in the process while, most importantly, consideration of the welfare and best interests of children born as a result of AHR is the key principle underpinning all legislative measures in this area.

Disability Support Services

Questions (971)

Mark Ward

Question:

971. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health when and the location of the children’s disability teams that will be set up in CHO 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7446/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, recognises the need to improve services for both children and adults with disabilities through better implementation and by working together across Government in a better way.

The Government commits to prioritising early diagnosis and access to services for children and ensuring that the most effective interventions are provided for each child, to guarantee the best outcomes.

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

A Vision for Change

Questions (972)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

972. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health the reason the six annual reports from 2006 to 2011 of the two independent monitoring groups for A Vision for Change are not available on the HSE website; if these reports are currently available to the public; if they will be made available online given they are an important resource for the monitoring and implementation of mental health policy in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7447/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

With regard to the availability of A Vision for Change monitoring group reports on the HSE website, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible. I will also request that these reports are posted on both the Department of Health and HSE websites.

The six annual reports from 2007 to 2011 of the Independent Monitoring Group can be found at the below link, included for the Deputy's Convenience. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/cgi/search/archive/typex/?screen=Search&dataset=archive&_action_search=Search&titlex_merge=ALL&titlex=A+vision+for+change&subjectx_merge=ALL&subjectx=&q_merge=ALL&q=&satisfyall=ALL&order=-date%2Fbrowse_by%2Ftitle.

Nursing Staff

Questions (973)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

973. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the number of new nurses that have been recruited in each hospital in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form, [7448/21]

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.

HSE Agency Staff

Questions (974)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

974. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the number of agency nurses being used by the HSE in each hospital; the number used in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and the cost for each hospital per year. [7449/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (975)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

975. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will receive the Covid-19 vaccination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7450/21]

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 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 in 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.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (976)

Holly Cairns

Question:

976. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Health his engagement with a group (details supplied) regarding the CervicalCheck tribunal since 21 October 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7462/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Since 21 October 2020, I have had a significant level of engagement with the 221+ Patient Representative Group, working with the Group to progress issues they had raised in respect of the CervicalCheck Tribunal and CervicalCheck cases more generally. This engagement included a number of meetings as well as detailed constructive correspondence on the issues raised. Significant progress was made through this engagement; however, it was not possible to resolve all of the issues raised by the group in the way that they wanted them to be addressed.

I will continue to work with my Department to address the concerns the group have raised where possible and while there is no ongoing engagement with the group in respect of the Tribunal, engagement continues through other mechanisms such as the CervicalCheck Steering Committee.

I appointed the nominated members to the CervicalCheck Tribunal with effect from 1 December 2020 enabling the Tribunal to start its work. I am satisfied that the Tribunal remains the most appropriate venue to hear and determine CervicalCheck claims and it has been designed for that purpose. It is, of course, entirely up to eligible women as to whether or not they use it.