Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (933)

Colm Burke

Question:

933. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the number of elective or planned procedures that have been suspended nationally from 2020 to date as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8806/21]

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.

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, concerning the number of elective or planned procedures that have been suspended nationally from 2020 to date as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Services

Questions (934)

Colm Burke

Question:

934. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the routine non-Covid-19 medical care that has been suspended due to the pandemic; the length of time they have been suspended since 2020 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8807/21]

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.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of 2020. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

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.

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 particular query raised, concerning the routine non-Covid-19 medical care that has been suspended due to the pandemic; the length of time they have been suspended since 2020 to date, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Procedures

Questions (935)

Colm Burke

Question:

935. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the number of urgent and non-urgent surgical procedures that have been carried out in hospitals in 2020; the breakdown of those procedures according to medical specialty in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8808/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of 2020. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

Patient safety remained at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling throughout 2020. All hospitals followed HSE guidelines and protocols to ensure services were provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way.

In relation to the particular query raised concerning, the number of urgent and non-urgent surgical procedures that have been carried out in hospitals in 2020, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Services

Questions (936)

Colm Burke

Question:

936. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health when it is envisaged that non-Covid-19 routine medical care will resume in line with the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8809/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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 particular query raised concerning the resumption of non-Covid-19 routine medical care, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Health Services

Question No. 938 answered with Question No. 804.

Questions (937)

David Cullinane

Question:

937. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health his plans for advancing an inquiry into the use of mesh implants and sodium valproate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8811/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Considerable work has been done and continues to progress in Ireland in relation to the safe use of mesh implants and sodium valproate; and the patient voice is central to our understanding of these, and similar, issues. With regard to the specific details, I will first deal with mesh implants and then consider sodium valproate.

Over the past two decades, Uro-Gynaecological Mesh has been widely used in the surgical treatment of Stress Urinary Incontinence and Pelvic Organ Prolapse in women. Mesh devices are certified as compliant with relevant EU legislation, and as such, European regulatory competent authorities consider that the benefits outweigh the risks for these devices.

I am aware that in response to concerns raised in Ireland regarding complications associated with the use of mesh devices in late 2017, the then Minister for Health requested the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to prepare a report on the matter, which was published in November 2018. The report was informed by the available national and international evidence and the personal experiences of women who have suffered complications following mesh surgery.

In July 2018, in advance of publication of the full report, the CMO requested the HSE to pause all mesh procedures where clinically safe to do so. This pause remains in place.

The HSE published a detailed Implementation Plan for the recommendations in the report in April 2019. The National Women and Infants Health Programme is leading on this work. The HSE has created a dedicated webpage about vaginal mesh implants, including contact information regarding the pathways for women suffering complications. In addition, multidisciplinary specialist services are now available for women suffering from mesh complications across two sites at Cork University Hospital (CUMH) and National Maternity Hospital (NMH) Dublin.

In line with good practice internationally, the establishment of an independent, compassionate process for women affected by mesh to have their voices heard is currently being scoped and this may help to drive learning across the health service and ensure that the healthcare system has appropriate responses in place.

With regard to the medicine, sodium valproate, I am aware of historical and current issues surrounding the use of sodium valproate by women during pregnancy. I am also aware of the significant work carried out by the HSE and the HPRA over the last two years to implement European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommendations from 2018 and to provide support to families who may have concerns about previous exposure to sodium valproate and the possible impact on their children.

As I understand it, the HSE has improved the structures in place to support families affected by foetal valproate syndrome (FVS), including the establishment of a dedicated genetics clinic in Our Lady’s Hospital, Crumlin. This means that families now have access to a clear diagnostic pathway if they feel their child may be affected by FVS.

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.

Question No. 938 answered with Question No. 804.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (939, 950)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

939. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health further to his statement in Dáil Eireann on 11 February 2021, the status of his review of the vaccine priority list for those with very serious underlying medical conditions and transplant patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8845/21]

View answer

Dara Calleary

Question:

950. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health the number of consultations he has had with the national immunisation advisory committee, NIAC, regarding persons who are immunosuppressed and their wish to receive Covid-19 vaccines sooner than planned; if he has outlined the stress that many of these patients are under as a consequence of nearly a full year of cocooning; and his plans to assist this cohort of persons. [8870/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 939 and 950 together.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee continues to review all national and international data in order to inform the vaccine allocation process.

Hospital Services

Questions (940)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

940. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the status of children's diabetes services in the Regional Hospital Mullingar; the details on the current staffing levels and approval for further positions; the steps he will take to ensure the service can remain open with sufficient safe staffing levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8847/21]

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 (941)

Neale Richmond

Question:

941. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health his plans to vaccinate members of the Defence Forces who are serving overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8857/21]

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.

Hospital Services

Questions (942)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

942. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Health if consideration will be given to providing dialysis to patients at Roscommon University Hospital to reduce travelling times; if the matter has been examined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8858/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I am advised by the Saolta University Health Care Group that there are no plans to provide a dialysis service in Roscommon University Hospital. Dialysis services in the Saolta Group area are available at Galway University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital.

Health Services Reports

Questions (943)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

943. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the status of HSE open disclosure training as committed to on foot of the Scally report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8861/21]

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.

Health Services Reports

Questions (944)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

944. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the steps taken to date and the forthcoming plans to introduce a statutory duty of candour on individual healthcare professionals and the groups in which they work which was a key recommendation of the Scally report in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8862/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

A Government Decision on the 3 December 2019 approved the text of the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019, enabling it to be introduced into Dáil Éireann on the 12 December 2019 where it passed the First and Second Stage.

The provisions of this Bill provide for mandatory open disclosure (referred to as duty of candour in other jurisdictions) of serious patient safety incidents, in addition to the provisions for open disclosure already contained in Part 4 of the Civil Liability (Amendment) Act 2017.

The Patient Safety Bill, in addition to addressing mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents, will also provide for a number of other important patient safety concerns, including in relation to mandatory reporting of serious incidents to an appropriate regulatory body such as HIQA and the Mental Health Commission.

The Government Decision of the 3rd of December 2019 also approved the drafting of an amendment which seeks to expand the provisions of this Bill, e.g. section 12, regarding ‘openness and transparency’ to apply more widely in relation to patient safety incidents having regard to the recommendations of Dr. Scally (referred to as duty of candour).

My Department is currently working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on this amendment and are in the final stages of its drafting. This amending provision will provide for ‘openness and transparency’ or ‘duty of candour’ to be embedded across the health service, including among individual healthcare professionals. The Bill is part of the current Programme for Government and due to go to Dáil Committee Stage at the earliest opportunity.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (945)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

945. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the number of follow-up calls made to incoming passengers on a weekly basis since 1 February 2021; the number of calls which were successfully answered on a weekly basis in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8863/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

All passengers arriving to the State are required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator form, there are limited exemptions from this requirement for international transport workers, diplomats and children under 16. The form is used to support a system of engagements with arriving passengers including the targeting of public health messaging by SMS and email and may be used for contact tracing.

Passengers who completed a passenger locator form and do not claim an exemption are followed up and contacted by text to confirm their address. Where a person has not responded to the address verification text, they will be called to verify their place of address. If they are not available at the first call, further attempts will be made to contact each passenger who is in scope for follow up calls. Between 1st and 7th of February inclusive, 81% of passengers requested to do so confirmed their place of residence.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (946)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

946. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health the level of compliance in filling out the passenger locator forms on a weekly basis from 1 February 2021; the number of forms which were correctly and incorrectly completed on a weekly basis, respectively; and the number of persons that refused to fill out the form on a weekly basis in tabular form. [8864/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

All passengers arriving to the State are required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator form. There are limited exemptions from this requirement for international transport workers, diplomats and children under 16. The Passenger Locator Form is used to support a system of engagements with arriving passengers including the targeting of public health messaging by SMS and email and may be used for contact tracing. Invalid passenger locator forms may have illegible or invalid information including phone numbers or other essential information that is required. The paper passenger locator form has been updated to an OCR form to improve legibility. Passengers may have completed a passenger locator form and not travelled.

From the 1st to 7th of February inclusive a total of 13,541 Passenger Locator Forms were completed of which 93.5% were valid and 6.5% were invalid. There have been no incidences of non-compliance notified to An Garda Síochána during the week from 1st – 7th of February inclusive.

Health Promotion

Questions Nos. 948 and 949 answered with Question No. 804.

Question No. 950 answered with Question No. 939.

Questions (947)

Neale Richmond

Question:

947. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Health if he has considered promoting physical activity as a way to improve mental health during the Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8865/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The promotion of physical activity has been a priority for my Department in the context of the implementation of Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013 – 2025. This was evidenced by the publication of Get Ireland Active - the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) in 2016, and its subsequent implementation.

The NPAP contains 60 actions intended to promote increased physical activity levels across the population. The Plan is being implemented, overseen by a cross-sectoral Implementation Group co-chaired by the Departments of Health and Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. The Departments of Education, Children, Equality, Disability, Integration & Youth, Housing, Local Government & Heritage, and Rural & Community Development are also represented, along with Sport Ireland, the HSE, the Federation of Irish Sport, the LGMA and the academic sector.

Key initiatives underway include the Active School Flag programme and national strategies for walking and cycling. Increasing physical activity levels in children and young people is a priority focus. Improving physical activity in women and girls has also been identified as an early priority area by the Women’s Health Taskforce. Implementation of the current Physical Activity Plan will be reviewed this year with a view to charting the future direction of the Plan.

While the restrictions imposed in response to Covid 19 have impacted on sports facilities, team sports and other sporting activities, research published by Sport Ireland in mid-2020 shows that individual adult activity levels had risen, with more people participating in walking, cycling, running and outdoor swimming.

As presentations at the recent virtual Irish Physical Activity Research Collaboration conference made clear, regular physical activity can boost positive immune responses while reducing markers of inflammation, and regular exercise is also effective in reducing the severity of symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

Recent research carried out by DCU regarding the Department of Education’s Active School Flag programme, which is co-sponsored by Healthy Ireland, would indicate positive effects of this programme on school activity levels, but also on attendance, behaviour and learning outcomes.

Bearing in mind the vital role of physical activity in terms of protecting varied aspects of both physical and mental health and wellbeing, the Keep Well national citizen engagement campaign was launched in autumn 2020 as part of the Government’s Resilience and Recovery Plan. This campaign aims to promote resilience and to provide a range of supports for our citizens. The campaign has several themes, one of which is “Keeping Active”. This is in clear recognition of the role of physical activity in supporting positive mental health and improving mood and reducing anxiety, in addition to keeping people fit and healthy and improving their general wellbeing.

Sport Ireland is leading a series of initiatives that are supporting people in keeping active and exercising within their own local areas. In addition, sporting organisations and clubs are developing ways to support local communities within the public health regulations. Details of these supports are available through https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/healthy-ireland/ and https://www.sportireland.ie/keepwell.

Questions Nos. 948 and 949 answered with Question No. 804.
Question No. 950 answered with Question No. 939.

Health Services

Questions (951, 952)

Carol Nolan

Question:

951. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health if the HSE gender identity development services have taken note of the Tavistock judgment in the United Kingdom particularly with respect to the finding that children under 16 years of age considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be sufficiently mature enough to provide informed consent to be prescribed puberty-blocking drugs and medication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8880/21]

View answer

Carol Nolan

Question:

952. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health if he will establish the position of the HSE with respect to the reversibility of hormone suppressants and puberty-blocking medication for children under 16 years of age considering gender reassignment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8881/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 951 and 952 together.

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to services matters. I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (953)

Joe Flaherty

Question:

953. Deputy Joe Flaherty asked the Minister for Health the position of counsellors and psychotherapists in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plans (details supplied). [8883/21]

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.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (954)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

954. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the contracts for public relations advice and consultancy entered into by his Department over the cost of €10,000 since January 2021; the nature of the contract; and the length of the contract in tabular form. [8894/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I can confirm that there have been no contracts for public relations advice and/or consultancy entered into by my Department during the period in question.

International Relations

Questions (955)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

955. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health if there has been any contact with his counterpart in the United States. [8914/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Since coming into office, the Minister for Health has had no contact with his counterpart in the United States administration.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Questions (956)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

956. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the reason the HSE long-term illness scheme does not include the FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system for persons with diabetes over 21 years of age but does include two other glucose sensor monitors which cost more than €1,200 per person per year. [8923/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Long-Term Illness Scheme

Questions (957)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

957. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health the number of persons with diabetes who were funded for the dexcom continuous glucose monitoring sensors by the HSE long-term Illness scheme and the primary care reimbursement service; and the number of such persons over 21 years of age by county in each of the years 2018 to 2020, in tabular form. [8924/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.