Hospital Staff

Questions (807)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

807. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the number of outpatient consultant appointments by hospital group which were postponed in January 2021 due to the Covid-19 outbreak; the number that have been rescheduled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8458/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I fully acknowledge the distress and inconvenience for patients and their families when elective procedures are cancelled. While every effort is made to avoid cancellation or postponement of planned procedures, the HSE has advised that planned procedures and operations can be postponed or cancelled for a variety of reasons including capacity issues due to increased scheduled and unscheduled care demand.

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.

In relation to the specific query raised regarding the postponement and rescheduling of outpatient appointments, as this is a service issue, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (808)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

808. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health if he will investigate the reason and the way in which a nursing home (details supplied) placed two staff members who tested positive for Covid-19 in a local hotel instead of ensuring that they went to the dedicated accommodation provided by the HSE under the healthcare workers temporary accommodation scheme; the action the HSE is taking as a result; the public health follow-up that was carried out to ensure that other hotel residents and workers who may have been exposed to Covid-19 were contacted and tested in relation to the increased risk of contracting Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8459/21]

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 (809)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

809. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health if a HSE worker will lose some of their employment sick day entitlement for the period of restricted movement in cases in which they are informed by the HSE to restrict their movements and remain home from work as a result of being identified as a close contact with a work colleague who had Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8460/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform prepared an FAQ document in relation to 'working arrangements and leave associated with COVID-19'. The contents of this document apply to all those employed in the Civil and Public Services, including all public health sector employees.

A copy of this document is available to view at this website, and section 3.1 sets out the position in relation to leave and pay for those who are absent from work due to Covid-19.

The quick guide on Page 36 may be of particular interest.

https://www.gov.ie/en/news/092fff-update-on-working-arrangements-and-leave-associated-with-covid-19-fo/

Vaccination Programme

Questions (810)

Cian O'Callaghan

Question:

810. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health if community halls and other suitable larger venues will be used for Covid-19 vaccination to ensure better compliance with social distancing and ventilation requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8461/21]

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (811)

Joe Flaherty

Question:

811. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Health when carers will receive the Covid-19 vaccine (details supplied). [8465/21]

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.

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

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (812)

Joe Flaherty

Question:

812. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Health if there is a provision for general practitioners to prioritise Covid-19 vaccination for patients who are high risk but not over 85 years of age (details supplied). [8466/21]

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.

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (813)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

813. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health the number of healthcare workers who tested positive for Covid-19 and were subsequently placed in accommodation provided by that healthcare facility and not placed into dedicated accommodation provided by the HSE under the healthcare workers temporary accommodation scheme; the subsequent actions carried out by public health bodies to ensure that any worker or resident in such accommodation was tested for a possible exposure to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8468/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Vaccination Programme

Questions (814)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

814. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Health if prisoners are included in group 8 residents of long-term care facilities aged 18-64 years of the provisional vaccine allocation groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8472/21]

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.

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (815)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

815. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Health if older prisoners and those with medical conditions will receive vaccinations on the same schedule as older persons in the community based on the principle of equity of care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8473/21]

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.

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Questions (816)

David Cullinane

Question:

816. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the recommended replacement period of a mirena coil; if it can work effectively beyond this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8474/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

My Department has consulted on this matter with the Health Products Regulatory Authority, who have responsibility for the regulation of medicinal products and medical devices in Ireland.

Mirena intrauterine delivery system is authorised in Ireland for medical indications including contraception. The product should only be inserted by physicians or health care professionals who are experienced with the technique and/or have undergone training. The system should be removed after 5 years. If the user wishes to continue using the same method, a new system can be inserted at the same time.

The authorised product information containing information on the safe and appropriate use of this medicine is published on the HPRA website. For ease of reference please see link to this information https://www.hpra.ie/homepage/medicines/medicines-information/find-a-medicine/results/item?pano=PA1410/008/001&t=Mirena%2052%20mg%20Intrauterine%20Delivery%20System

Health Services

Questions (817, 845)

David Cullinane

Question:

817. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if contraceptive services are considered an essential service; if not, the reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8475/21]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

845. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health if beauty clinics offering botox and other injectable treatments are deemed essential under level 5 restrictions; if travel to a botox clinic is considered an essential journey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8548/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 817 and 845 together.

As you aware, Ireland is at level 5 of the Government's medium-term Strategy 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 public health measures recognise the need to reduce congregation and interactions between people to reduce the transmission of Covid-19. The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the plan is based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. 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. The measures in place for each level reflect the prevailing disease situation and recognise that we can and must prioritise some activities over others.

At level 5, all non-essential retail, and all non-essential services must remain closed. Information in relation to the current public health measures in relation to essential retail/essential services at level 5 is available at:- https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/

The list of Human Health and Social Work Activities considered essential at Level 5 can be viewed at:- https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c9158-essential-services/#human-health-and-social-work-activities

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

The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (NO. 10) Regulations 2020 Regulation (S.I. 701 of 2020), sets out the essential businesses or services under the current public health measures and the exemptions to domestic travel restrictions. 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/

Vaccination Programme

Questions (818)

John Lahart

Question:

818. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health if he will consider a degree of flexibility for those with particular health vulnerabilities who may not meet the chronological criteria set out in the Covid-19 vaccination plan given an abundance of supply comes on stream in quarter two (details supplied). [8478/21]

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.

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.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Questions (819)

David Cullinane

Question:

819. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the operational status of STI screening, vaccination and PrEP services; when these services will fully resume; if they will be deemed essential; his plans for expanding these services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8479/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The development and implementation of a national programme of Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) was a landmark development in realising the strategic vision of the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015 - 2020, which was to improve sexual health and well-being and reduce negative sexual health outcomes by ensuring that everyone living in Ireland has access to high quality sexual health information, education and services throughout their lives.

Wave 3 of the pandemic has further increased the strain on the health service. The unprecedented surge in Covid-19 infection rates has implications for staffing of all health services in terms of necessary redeployment of staff to urgent pandemic related duties including testing, vaccination, contact tracing and patient treatment.

Virtual clinics are held where possible, with attendance in person limited to appointment only. Service restrictions are predominantly due to social distancing requirements; waiting rooms can now only hold a fraction of patients compared to before the pandemic.

Phone lines, the GMHS website and other resources such as man2man.ie and sexual wellbeing.ie are regularly updated to reflect current service delivery and to signpost users to the HSE list of approved PrEP services.

Although services have been subject to some Covid-19 related restrictions, the national PrEP programme has continued to expand and over 2,000 individuals, mostly gay men, are currently registered on the national PrEP programme.

Routine STI testing, including HIV testing, is available for free through all 23 public STI services in Ireland. HIV testing is also provided to specific populations, such as those who inject drugs, homeless people, migrants and prisoners, and is included as part of the national antenatal screening programme for all pregnant women in Ireland. The latest report (2018) indicates an uptake of almost 100%.

HIV testing is available in all hospitals and conducted where this is clinically indicated. Many emergency departments (EDs) offer HIV and hepatitis screening as part of an ED viral screening programme for anyone having bloods taken when they attend the ED.

The HSE is currently piloting a free home STI/HIV testing service, supported by the Sláintecare Integration Fund, in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. The first phase of tests were made available early January and additional tests will be made available over the coming months. Tests are being made available in a phased manner to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local clinics for service users who may need follow-up treatment or support.

All health services, including STI/HIV services are continuing to face service restrictions due to the current impact of Covid-19 on the hospital system and social distancing requirements. Public STI clinics are prioritising those with symptoms or requiring treatment, and this includes anyone who may be referred for confirmation HIV testing.

Student health services provide STI/HIV testing and STI treatment for their students at a subsidised rate, though some are currently providing testing for free to students, due to the service restrictions elsewhere. Home HIV and STI testing kits are also available to purchase in pharmacies.

In terms of the future direction of services, it is intended to review and refresh the National Sexual Health Strategy in 2021, taking into account the views of stakeholders. Funding remains in place for all current services, including the national PrEP programme; it is hoped that these vital services can return to being delivered to their full potential, and indeed, developed further, once it is possible to reduce the multiple pandemic related constraints on the health service as a whole.

As the topics raised are service matters, for additional operational updates, including the current status of HPV vaccinations, I have also asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Health Services Provision

Questions (820)

David Cullinane

Question:

820. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the operational status of the gay men’s health service; when these services will fully resume; his plans for expanding these services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8480/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented interruption to normal healthcare activity, with all services affected. The closure of the GMHS in 2020 related primarily to the necessary redeployment of increasing numbers of personnel to diverse COVID-19 related duties. Since the closure, significant efforts have been made to maintain service provision.

All health services are again facing restrictions, as the health system needs to prioritise treating those with COVID-19 and rolling out the vaccination programme. Notwithstanding these pressures, CHO6 are continuing to work to reopen the GMHS on a phased basis. The recruitment of permanent staff is progressing, with administration staff in post and IT expansion underway.

Existing PrEP users are now being facilitated in GMHS. The Clinic Consultant and other doctors are providing virtual consultations, and PrEP service users attend GMHS for STI screening and blood testing, with support from agency nurses. Those with diagnosed STIs will be treated in GMHS also.

Officials from my Department are in regular contact with the HSE to monitor progress on the phased reopening of the service.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Questions (821)

David Cullinane

Question:

821. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health the current resources allocated to STI home testing kits; his plans to increase same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8481/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE is currently piloting a free home STI/HIV testing service, supported by the Sláintecare Integration Fund, in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. The first phase of tests were made available early January and additional tests will be made available over the coming months. Tests are being made available in a phased manner to ensure there is sufficient capacity in local clinics for service users who may need follow-up treatment or support. Home HIV and STI testing kits are also available to purchase in pharmacies.

In terms of further detail, and as this is a service matter, I have also asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (822)

Kathleen Funchion

Question:

822. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 1089 of 13 January 2021, if he will provide further clarity on the matter in view of the additional information provided (details supplied). [8483/21]

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.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (823)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

823. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Health when the processing of primary medical certificates will recommence such as in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8484/21]

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, Paschal Donohoe T.D.. Following the approval of the Finance Act 2020 which provides for the medical criteria in primary legislation, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, T.D., 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.

In the context of the national effort to suppress and manage the impact of COVID, the ability to hold assessments is 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. The HSE has confirmed that the community medical doctors and their teams are predominately deployed to the COVID vaccination rollout in residential care facilities and other health care settings.

I have been informed that the HSE is considering the matter of Primary Medical Certificate assessments in the context of their revision of the HSE Recovery and Restoration Plan, taking into account the pressures and challenges to the health services presented by COVID.

As the issue concerning the individual case raised by the Deputy is a service matter, I have arranged to have the question referred to the HSE for consideration and direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services

Questions (824)

Neale Richmond

Question:

824. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health his plans to clear the BreastCheck backlog due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8485/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services

Questions (825)

Neale Richmond

Question:

825. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health if the BreastCheck service is permitted to run for public health patients during level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8486/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services

Questions (826)

Neale Richmond

Question:

826. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health his plans to prioritise BreastCheck appointments for patients who had their appointments cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8487/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services

Questions (827)

Neale Richmond

Question:

827. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health if he will waive the need for a general practitioner referral letter for patients who choose to get their BreastCheck appointment privately due to a cancelled appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8488/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Cancer Services

Questions (828)

Neale Richmond

Question:

828. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health the current length of the backlog for BreastCheck screening appointments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8489/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (829)

Martin Browne

Question:

829. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Health his views on the World Health Organisation’s determination that Ireland has been in breach of its international health regulations on contagious disease control by failing to designate a competent authority at ports and airports; the reason Ireland has been non-compliant for approximately a decade; the progress being made to address this in the long term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8491/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The International Health Regulations (2005) (hereinafter referred to as IHR) were formally adopted at the 58th World Health Assembly in 2005. The regulations are a binding international legal agreement involving 196 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of the World Health Organisation.

Their aim is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.

The purpose and scope of the Regulations is to “prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade ”. The regulations came into force in June 2007.

A Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), such as the declaration on 30 January 2020 in relation to Covid-19, is declared under the provisions of IHR.

Article 22 of the Regulations specifically provide for the designation of a “competent authority” (in relation to points of entry, i.e. airports and ports) by Member States for the purposes of the Regulations.

The HSE has a Port Health Group which consists of representatives from Public Health, Environmental Health, the National Ambulance Service and the HSE’s Office of Emergency Management. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre is Ireland’s designated Competent Body for liaison with ECDC and is Ireland’s national WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point for communicable diseases.

There has been ongoing engagement between the HSE (HPSC and Port Health); the Department of Health; the Department of Transport; and the Department of Transport’s various agencies in relation to the designation of a competent authority or authorities for Ireland, in accordance with IHR.

Following further engagement between the Department (Health Protection Unit in the CMO’s Office and HSE (HPSC and Port Health), work was conducted to progress this issue during the course of 2019, including the commencement of a review of the relevant legislation by the Department and the submission of a proposal document by the HSE. It was intended that this issue would be further pursued in the context of a more in-depth review of Public Health Legislation in 2020, but this was paused following the onset of the pandemic.

It should be noted that the 2008 and 2009 Infectious Diseases Regulations took account of the provisions of the International Health Regulations when they were drafted, revoking and replacing preceding Regulations relating to infectious diseases on both shipping and aircraft. Consistent with other Regulations made in accordance with the provisions of the Health Act 1947, key responsibilities in these areas were allocated to medical officers of health and health officers (and some of these would mirror the requirements of IHR).

The European Commission has recently issued its new legislative framework for the health sector, which includes provision for a Regulation on cross-border threats to health (which will repeal Decision No 1082/2013/EU). This includes provision for both EU wide and Member State pandemic planning, including greater compliance with IHR. Provision is also made for audits by the ECDC with a view to strengthening IHR and EU emergency structures.

Programme for Government

Questions (830)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

830. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the progress made on the commitment in the Programme for Government which pledges to implement the recommendations of the Working Group to Consider Alternative Approaches to the Possession of Drugs for Personal Use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8494/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government commits to implementing the Health Diversion Programme as an important step in developing a public health-led approach to drug use. This programme will connect people who use drugs with health services and a pathway to recovery, avoiding a criminal conviction, which can have far-reaching consequences for people, particularly younger people.

There are two components to the Health Diversion Programme whereby a person in possession of drugs, determined by An Garda Síochána to be for personal use, on the first occasion would be referred by An Garda Síochána on a mandatory basis to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for a health screening and brief intervention. On the second occasion, An Garda Síochána would have discretion to issue an Adult Caution.

An implementation, monitoring and evaluation group, chaired by the Department of Health, is implementing the Health Diversion Programme. The group is finalising proposals to commence implementation of the programme on an administrative basis in a number of locations in 2021.

As outlined in the Programme for Government, a review of the programme will take place following the first full year of implementation, to ensure that it is meeting all of its aims.

I am committed to a health-led approach for possession of drugs for personal use, and I look forward to the commencement of the Health Diversion Programme in 2021.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (831)

Alan Farrell

Question:

831. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Health his proposals with regard to the vaccination of the 70 plus age group who do not have a general practitioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8508/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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