General Practitioner Services

Questions (707)

Carol Nolan

Question:

707. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the number of full-time equivalent general practitioners operating in County Laois in 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8109/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

GPs are private practitioners, most of whom hold a contract with the HSE for the provision of medical services. The number of doctors who provide general practitioner services to patients exclusively on a private basis is not collected by my Department or the HSE. As of the start of this month, 3,024 GPs hold a contract with the HSE for the provision of medical services. I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the number of HSE contracted GPs operating in County Laois for the dates concerned.

Primary Care Centres

Questions (708)

Carol Nolan

Question:

708. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the status of the commitment to deliver a primary care centre in Birr, County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8110/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the HSE has responsibility for the provision, along with the maintenance and operation of Primary Care Centres and other Primary Care facilities, the Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (709)

Carol Nolan

Question:

709. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health if a review has been carried out on the storage capacity of bulk medical liquid oxygen across all acute hospital sites; if there is sufficient oxygen storage capacity to meet the projected Covid-19 demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8111/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Deputy's questions relate to service delivery matters. Accordingly, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to her.

Hospital Facilities

Questions (710)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

710. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health if a company (details supplied) can be requested to approve high-tech surgical theatres as approved facilities for the purpose of carrying out skin treatments in view of the growing incidence of skin cancer and the need for immediate surgical treatment. [8123/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The matter raised by the Deputy is a commercial matter for Vhi. In my role as Minister for Health I have a governance and oversight role over the Vhi, which is defined by the Voluntary Health Insurance Acts 1957-2018 and the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies. I do not have a role in the commercial decision-making of any of the companies within the Vhi Group as this is the role of the statutory Vhi Board. I am therefore not in a position to request Vhi to provide cover for any particular procedure or service other than those outlined in minimum benefit regulations which provide for a broad level of cover which all health insurance products sold in the State must fulfil.

I am aware of the matter raised by the Deputy as it is the subject of correspondence which I have received, however as this is a commercial matter between a private provider and Vhi I cannot intervene as Minister for Health.

HSE Data

Questions (711)

David Cullinane

Question:

711. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 838 of 27 January, the number of applicants on each of the panels referenced; and the number on panels for hospitals and hospital groups. [8136/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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

HSE Data

Questions (712)

David Cullinane

Question:

712. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the number of vacant posts across the health service; the average length of time that posts are vacant across existing vacancies, by occupation category; the number of applicants for each occupation category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8137/21]

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 Data

Questions (713)

Richard O'Donoghue

Question:

713. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Health the number of neck surgeries carried out in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; the public hospitals that carry out these procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8143/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Health Services Provision

Questions (714)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

714. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the reason the business case for a second diabetes clinical nurse specialist, CNSp, post, which was approved locally, was rejected by the Ireland East Hospital Group for Mullingar Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8146/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (715)

David Cullinane

Question:

715. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if front-line prison officers will be included in the priority list for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine; the overall strategy for the roll-out of vaccines across prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8147/21]

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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.

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.

Health Services Staff

Questions (716)

Sorca Clarke

Question:

716. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Health the urgent steps he is taking to address the vacancy levels as of the 1st of February of over 75 whole-time equivalent staff at Regional Hospital Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8148/21]

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.

National Children's Hospital

Questions (717)

Carol Nolan

Question:

717. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the details of the legal costs incurred by the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board in challenging claims brought against it by contractors associated with the national children’s hospital from 2017 to date; the anticipated legal costs until 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8150/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) has the statutory responsibility and resources to plan, design, build, furnish and equip the new children's hospital.

In line with the recommendations of the PwC report on the national children's hospital in April 2019, the NPHDB has strengthened its project controls, including in respect of claims management. This is in addition to the agreed Dispute Management Process in place between the NPHDB and the Main Contractor.

The Contractor continues to make claims, which it is entitled to do, but where it is considered that such claims are being made on matters within the contractual obligations of the contractor, the NPHDB is using all levers available to it to manage and defend against any such claims so as to protect the public purse.

The legal costs incurred to date are outlined below.

Year - Legal Fees

2017 - €409,121

2018 - €128,142

2019 - €691,712

2020 - €466,747

There were also legal expenses incurred relating to the dispute of the validity of the Phase B above ground works instruction. As the matter is now before the High Court, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage, even as regards the legal fees.

The Contractor continues to make claims and future costs to robustly defend such claims are yet to be determined.

National Children's Hospital

Questions (718)

Carol Nolan

Question:

718. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the details of the costs associated with implementing the recommendations contained within the new children's hospital independent review of the escalation in costs prepared by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8153/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In January 2019, PwC was commissioned by the HSE, on behalf of the Government, to conduct a review of the cost escalation associated with the children's hospital project. The report made 11 recommendations. The Government accepted the recommendations of the PwC report.

Substantial progress has been made in putting into effect measures that will address the recommendations of the report. Some of the recommendations are fully implemented and a substantial number of the actions to implement the remaining recommendations are complete, with some ongoing.

The HSE, National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) and Children's Health Ireland have indicated that there will be additional costs to their organisations arising from the implementation of the PwC recommendations, and the Department of Health is working with stakeholders to ensure that any such implementation costs are met from existing resources within each organisation to the greatest extent possible.

At this time, there has been no additional funding approved to meet any additional costs of implementation.

Disability Services Provision

Questions (719)

Duncan Smith

Question:

719. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Health if the development of the housing co-ordinator role within the HSE has developed pathways to housing for those with mental health disabilities; if he expects these housing co-ordinators to continue their work after the current proposed end date of 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8155/21]

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 Data

Questions (720)

David Cullinane

Question:

720. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the number of business cases submitted for each acute hospital for additional capacity or beds which have not been funded or approved; the stage at which these applications are at; the proposed capacity these would add to the health system if approved in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8163/21]

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 directly to the Deputy on this matter.

HSE Funding

Questions (721)

David Cullinane

Question:

721. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if his Department or the HSE has received applications in the 13 months from January 2020 to January 2021 for rapid modular units or new physical space projects; the number submitted and approved, respectively, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8164/21]

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 directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Hospital Funding

Questions (722)

David Cullinane

Question:

722. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the number of applications made for capital funding by hospitals and hospital groups in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8165/21]

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 directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Mental Health Policy

Questions (723)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

723. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the way in which his Department plans to address the emergence of new mental health difficulties among the population in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. [8175/21]

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.

Health Services Staff

Questions (724)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

724. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health the details of the health budget provision for 2021 to employ 16,000 additional healthcare staff; the details of the positions to be filled and the proposed recruitment process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8176/21]

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 (725)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

725. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Health if the HSE is not using the temporary accommodation system to accommodate HSE workers countrywide who are Covid-19 positive (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8177/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (726)

Joan Collins

Question:

726. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 896 of 3 February, if he has been vaccinated against Covid-19; and if members of the Cabinet have been vaccinated (details supplied). [8178/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Only individuals in groups 1 to 3 of the provisional vaccine allocation groups are being vaccinated. This includes the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles, and those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of those aged 85 and older will start in the week beginning the 15th of February.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (727)

Joan Collins

Question:

727. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 897 of 3 February, if a person (details supplied) and other persons in his Department have been vaccinated. [8179/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Only individuals in groups 1 to 3 of the provisional vaccine allocation groups are being vaccinated. This includes the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles, and those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of those aged 85 and older will start in the week beginning the 15th of February.

General Practitioner Services

Questions (728)

Mark Ward

Question:

728. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health when free general practitioner care will be extended to all children under 12 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8181/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to increasing access to GP care without charges for children, an important healthcare measure that will remove a potentially prohibitive cost barrier to accessing GP care and will help to improve children’s health as they develop. At present all children under six years of age are eligible for a GP visit card and therefore GP care without charges.

The Health (General Practitioner Service and Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Act 2020 provides, amongst other things, for the phased expansion of GP care without fees to all children aged 12 years and under. The initial stage of this phased expansion will be the provision of GP care without fees to all children aged between 6 and 8.

The appropriate date for commencing the expansion remains under consideration in light of COVID-19 and the additional pressures the expansion might place on general practice in that context and in anticipation of the usual increase in demand for healthcare services over the winter period. This date will be determined following consultation with the IMO. It is important to ensure that any additional pressures placed on general practice will not limit its capacity to meet the needs of all patients in the community.

Home Care Packages

Questions (729)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

729. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if a homecare package will be reinstated in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8182/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Cancer Services

Questions (730)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

730. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 275, 276, 283 and 284 of 16 December 2020, if the situation (details supplied) will be clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8191/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I wish to reaffirm the response given in December 2020 to the previous Parliamentary Questions on this referred to by the Deputy.

As set out on the previous reply, I wish to reaffirm that the HSE confirmed that CervicalCheck is not in opposition to the actions of the Supreme Court or of the Government.

As explained in the previous reply, the HSE, National Screening Service (NSS) and CervicalCheck programme have been recently communicating about the contents and recommendations of Expert Reference Groups’ (ERG) reports, which were published by the HSE in October 2020, which set out the future framework for clinical audit of interval cancers in our cancer screening programmes (CervicalCheck, BreastCheck and BowelScreen). The commissioning of these reports by the HSE arose from recommendations in the Scally Scoping Inquiry Report.

Implementation of the recommendations of the ERG reports is now underway, with implementation groups already established by the HSE, which include patient representatives, as well as clinicians and other screening services staff.

Important actions across all programmes will be to adapt and enhance the information provided to participants so they can better understand the benefits and limitations of their screening test, and so make informed decisions as partners in their own healthcare. Some of the challenges in achieving better public understanding of screening stem from the fact that cancer screening programmes are population health measures, designed to improve outcomes on a population-wide basis, and not designed to be diagnostic on an individual level.

As highlighted in the ERG reports, interval cancers, ie any cancer that is diagnosed after a previous normal screening test is carried out and before another screening test is carried out, are an unfortunate but inevitable fact given that no screening test is 100% accurate, and false negatives do occur. While screening offers the benefit of detecting many cancers at an earlier stage, this is sadly not always the case.

A cancer diagnosis is a very stressful and often devastating event for anyone, and where such a cancer is diagnosed in a person who has participated in a screening programme, it is also important that the manner of the disclosure and discussion of a patient’s screening history does not add further undue stress. The ERG reports set out a number of guiding principles for clinical audit which will underpin the development of the future framework for clinical audit and review. This includes the principle that communications with patients diagnosed with cancers must be respectful and open. In terms of the design of patient-requested case reviews as part of the implementation of the ERG reports, these will be developed in a consultative and collaborative manner with patient representatives.

In relation to CervicalCheck, the introduction last year of the HPV screening test is a significant milestone for our cervical cancer screening programme, as this test is more sensitive and typically detects 18 out of 20 abnormalities, compared to the 15 out of 20 the smear test typically detects. Going forward, this will mean in overall terms, even with the most effective and sensitive screening programme, that approximately 2 in every 1000 screened will still not be detected and interval cancers will still occur. This is undoubtedly, and sadly, unfortunate, and devastating for the individuals concerned.

This is also why it is so important that the public understands that screening is a population health measure for people who are presumed healthy and do not have symptoms. An important message for the public, including anyone who may be between screening tests or waiting for a rescheduled appointment, is to be aware of, and act upon, any symptoms associated with the conditions they are screened for. Anyone with concerns about symptoms should always contact their GP who will arrange appropriate follow-up care.

It is also important to re-iterate that all of the recent major reviews and reports state that our national cancer screening programmes, including CervicalCheck, meet international standards, are valuable in improving the health of our population, and that the public can have confidence in them.

In terms of a population perspective, when we consider that over 6,000 women are detected and referred for early treatment each year, cervical screening continues to have significant value for population health.

As Minister for Health, my priority is to continue the work to restore the CervicalCheck screening programme as a leading international cancer screening programme, to improve public trust and confidence in screening, and further the global aim to eradicate cervical cancer.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (731)

Joan Collins

Question:

731. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 895 of 3 February, if the CEO of the HSE has been vaccinated against Covid-19; if other members of HSE management have been vaccinated, in particular those who form part of the HSE's senior leadership team and those who are members of the HSE board; and if staff members at the HSE headquarters at Dr. Stevens' Hospital building have been vaccinated (details supplied). [8194/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Only individuals in groups 1 to 3 of the provisional vaccine allocations groups are being vaccinated. This includes the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles, and those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of those aged 85 and older will start in the week beginning the 15th of February.