Question No. 958 answered with Question No. 804.

Vaccination Programme

Question No. 960 answered with Question No. 877.

Questions (959)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

959. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health the target date by which persons in category 7 for vaccination, that is, aged 18 to 64 years of age with a medical condition will all have received their first dose of Covid 19 vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8926/21]

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.

Question No. 960 answered with Question No. 877.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (961)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

961. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Health if institutions (detailed supplied) will be vaccinated in the category, residents of long-term facilities aged 18 to 64 years of age, in view of the high risk of infection in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8928/21]

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.

Speech and Language Therapy

Questions (962)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

962. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Health the number of persons employed as speech and language therapists in services located in Dublin's north inner city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8930/21]

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.

Child and Family Agency

Questions (963)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

963. Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Health the length of the waiting list to access early years supports from Tusla early intervention teams in the north inner city, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8931/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I wish to advise the Deputy that issues concerning TUSLA are a matter for the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions Nos. 965 and 966 answered with Question No. 804.

Questions (964)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

964. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health if a clear roadmap for summer 2021 will be outlined at the earliest opportunity for those planning a wedding (details supplied); when these details are likely to be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8934/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

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

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

As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. In certain settings, such as weddings, higher noise levels due to music, can force people into close proximity, requiring them to raise their voices or shout to communicate thus increasing the risk of spreading the virus to others.

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

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

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

Questions Nos. 965 and 966 answered with Question No. 804.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Questions (967)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

967. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the status of the payment of an approved fair deal application by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8938/21]

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.

Health Services Funding

Questions (968, 970)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

968. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the status of the additional funding of €50 million provided for new medicines as part of budget 2021, with specific reference to the way in which the funding is being allocated and spent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8940/21]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

970. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if the additional funding of €50 million for new medicines as part of budget 2021 will be used to fund medicines for the treatment of rare diseases and access to orphan medicines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8942/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 968 and 970 together.

The HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines under the community drugs schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013.

In line with the 2013 Health Act and the national framework agreed with industry, a company must submit an application to the HSE to have a new medicine added to the reimbursement list.

Reimbursement is for licensed indications which have been granted market authorisation by the European Medicines Agency or the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

In making a relevant reimbursement decision, the HSE is required under the Act to have regard to a number of criteria including efficacy, the health needs of the public, cost effectiveness and potential or actual budget impact.

HSE decisions on which medicines are reimbursed by the taxpayer are made on objective, scientific and economic grounds, on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).

The additional funding of €50m provided for new medicines in Budget 2021 will allow the HSE to provide access to medicines which have been recommended by the HSE Drugs Group, on the basis of efficacy and value for money in line with the 2013 Health Act, and ultimately provide more medicines to Irish citizens.

While the 2013 Health Act does not include provision for a different rule set when assessing orphan drugs, the HSE seeks as far as possible to take into account issues such as the small patient numbers and the nature of the condition to be treated when evaluating these medicines. The criteria that apply to the evaluation process allow sufficient scope for the HSE to take on board the particular circumstances that pertain to orphan drugs and rare diseases.

There has been a number of key changes in the HSE assessment process of medicines within the confines of the 2013 Health Act. These have included changes to the HSE Drugs Group, whose membership has been expanded to include representatives from the National Patients Forum and more clinical expertise in the area of rare diseases.

In June 2018, the HSE Leadership appointed a Technology Review Committee for Rare Diseases (RDTRC) which is responsible for:

1) reviewing proposals received from industry or expert groups in Ireland for funding of new products for rare diseases including orphan drugs, or expanded indications for existing products for rare diseases and making recommendations as to the implementation of the relevant recommendations from the National Rare Diseases Plan 2011-2018; and

2) providing contributions to the development of clinical guidelines for relevant Orphan Medicinal Products (OMPs) and supporting the implementation of guidelines in conjunction with the National Drugs Management Programme Office where applicable. The Committee’s recommendations for reimbursement of OMPs are not intended to replace any part of the existing medicines appraisal or reimbursement process but rather complement it.

As a country, we invest heavily in medicines, to the tune of over €2 billion annually. The number of new medicines approved for reimbursement by the HSE from 2019 to date (as of 16th February) is detailed in the table below:

Year

New medicines

New indications of existing meds.

Total approvals

2019

31

5

36

2020

10

13

23

2021 (as of 16th February)

9

7

18*

*includes expanded reimbursement of Duodopa and provisions for availability under the community drugs schemes of intranasal naloxone (Nyxoid) for the management of opioid overdose.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Question No. 970 answered with Question No. 968.

Questions (969)

Brian Stanley

Question:

969. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Health the status of promised legislation to cap the assessments of assets for the fair deal scheme; and when such legislation will be enacted. [8941/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, commonly referred to as the Fair Deal Scheme, has been in operation for over 10 years and there is broad agreement that the Scheme operates well and continues to provide appropriate financial assistance where it is required.

However, it is recognised that the Act, in its current form, does not place caps on the financial assessment of family owned and operated farms or businesses when calculating the means to pay for nursing home care. This places a potentially onerous burden on family successors and could challenge the future viability of these productive assets.

Therefore, the Department of Health has proposed a policy change to the Scheme, to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at three years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset. The stated policy objective of the legislation is to introduce additional safeguards in the Scheme to further protect the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses that will be passed down to the next generation of the family to continue to work them as productive assets to provide for their livelihood.

This change was approved by Government and underwent pre-legislative scrutiny in the last Dáil. Progress on the development of the Bill was negatively impacted by the dissolution of the last Dáil and by the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the pandemic has been and continues to be a national and public health priority. However, work on this legislation has continued to progress. I requested a waiver to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny from the Business Committee, given this was already undertaken in the previous Dáil, and this waiver was granted on 4th February 2021. I have met with the Attorney General to discuss this legislation, and there has been an ongoing and active engagement between the Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General on the development of the legislation, which will be brought to the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity. It is on the priority list for publication in the Spring legislative session.

Question No. 970 answered with Question No. 968.

Health Services Funding

Questions (971, 972)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

971. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the spending on orphan medicines in each of the years 2010 to 2021, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8945/21]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

972. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the percentage of the annual HSE drugs spending on orphan medicinal products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8948/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 971 and 972 together.

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.

Healthcare Reimbursement Agreements

Questions (973, 977)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

973. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the key findings of the review by a company (details supplied) on the HSE drug reimbursement process as it relates to orphan medicines and rare diseases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8949/21]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

977. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health when officials in his Department plan to re-engage with the workstream related to the review by a company (details supplied) on the HSE drug reimbursement process given the temporary suspension of this workstream in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8956/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 973 and 977 together.

In 2019, following a tender by the Office of Government Procurement, Mazars conducted a review of the governance structures around the HSE's drug reimbursement process. The report was submitted to my Department in January 2020.

The review made recommendations in respect of the HSE’s systems, structures, processes, governance arrangements and use of specialist resources in respect of the drug reimbursement process.

The report was under consideration by officials earlier last year, however the focus of the Department of Health changed to the immediate public health considerations of the COVID-19 pandemic and the preservation of life. This meant that this work stream was temporarily suspended to reallocate resources to support essential services.

My Department aims to complete its consideration of the report’s recommendations in the near future.

Dental Services

Questions (974)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

974. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health when a child (details supplied) will receive an appointment for an orthodontic assessment at Letterkenny University Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8950/21]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (975)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

975. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the number of children on the waiting list for orthodontic treatment by each grade and length of time waiting in Letterkenny University Hospital, County Donegal in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8951/21]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Question No. 977 answered with Question No. 973.

Questions (976)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

976. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health the number of children on the waiting list for orthodontic assessment and the waiting times in Letterkenny University Hospital, County Donegal in 2018, 2019, 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular from; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8952/21]

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.

Question No. 977 answered with Question No. 973.

Vaccination Programme

Question No. 979 answered with Question No. 919.

Questions (978)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

978. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if all possible steps will be taken to acquire more vaccines for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in particular for persons over 70 years of age (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8957/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated a national allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first. 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 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 commenced this week.

Question No. 979 answered with Question No. 919.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (980)

Danny Healy-Rae

Question:

980. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the status of a procedure for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8961/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HSE is currently recommending that only critical time dependent elective procedures are undertaken at this time due to the on-going and significant increased demand for bed capacity related to Covid-19.

This decision was made arising from the rapid increase in Covid-19 admissions and to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy is a standardised approach used by the HSE to manage scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures. It sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists and was developed in 2014 to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction

Questions (981)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

981. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the timeline for the IVF scheme announced in February 2021; the details of the funding model for the scheme; the way in which couples will be assisted financially; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8964/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy will be aware, a commitment to introduce the model of care for infertility, which was developed by officials in my Department in conjunction with the HSE’s National Women & Infants Health Programme, is included in the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”. This model of care will ensure that infertility issues will be addressed through the public health system at the lowest level of clinical intervention necessary. It will comprise three stages, starting in primary care (i.e., GPs) and extending into secondary care (i.e., Regional Fertility Hubs) and then, where necessary, tertiary care (i.e., IVF and other advanced assisted human reproduction (AHR) treatments). Structured referral pathways will be put in place and patients will be referred onwards for further investigations or treatment as required and as clinically appropriate. It is intended that, in line with available resources, this model of care for infertility will be rolled out on a phased basis over the course of the coming years.

Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care has commenced and involves the establishment, at secondary care level, of Regional Fertility Hubs in maternity networks. which will facilitate the management of a significant proportion of patients presenting with infertility issues. Funding of €2m was provided to the HSE to commence Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care in 2020. This was utilised specifically in respect of the development of the first four Regional Fertility Hubs – namely, Cork Maternity University Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.

Additional funding of just over €1m is being made available to enable the continuation of Phase One of the roll-out in 2021, including through the setting-up of the final two Regional Fertility Hubs, to be located in Galway and Limerick.

The roll out of Phase One has been slowed due to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic by the health service broadly and its impact upon the provision of elective health services, including fertility services.

Phase Two of the roll-out will see the introduction of tertiary infertility services, including IVF, in the public health system. Phase Two will not commence until such time as infertility services at secondary level have been developed across the country and the AHR legislation is commenced. Drafting of the AHR legislation is ongoing, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.

It should be noted that while AHR treatment is not currently funded by the Irish public health service, a defined list of fertility medicines needed for fertility treatment is covered under the High Tech Arrangements administered by the HSE. Medicines covered by the High Tech Arrangements must be prescribed by a consultant/specialist and authorised for supply to the client’s nominated community pharmacy by the High Tech Hub managed by the Primary Care Reimbursement Service. The cost of the medicines is then covered, as appropriate, under the client’s eligibility, i.e., Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme. Given the costs associated with certain fertility medicines, I am aware that these schemes can have a material impact on the total cost of AHR treatment for individuals who avail of them.

In addition, there is other support available in that patients who access IVF treatment privately may claim tax relief on the costs involved under the tax relief for medical expenses scheme.

Overall, the implementation of the model of care will help to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible infertility services at all levels of the public health system as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Question No. 983 answered with Question No. 804.

Questions (982)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

982. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health the position regarding designated quarantine centres for healthcare workers who test positive for Covid-19; the number of such centres; when they commenced operation; the location of each; the number of persons who have been quarantined in such centres to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8970/21]

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.

Question No. 983 answered with Question No. 804.