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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 346-360

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (346)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

346. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal can expect a date for an MRI scan in Letterkenny University Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53741/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

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.

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.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (347)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

347. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health when persons over 70 years of age will receive booster vaccines (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53745/21]

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 Staff

Questions (348)

James O'Connor

Question:

348. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to address the shortage of neurological nurse specialists in Cork University Hospital (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53765/21]

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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.

Departmental Data

Questions (349)

Carol Nolan

Question:

349. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the number of requests for information and support that have been made to the My Options freephone line or webchat option that required an interpretation service, including Irish Sign Language for the period 1 January 2019 to date by language in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53769/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to a service area, I have referred it to the HSE for response.

Health Services

Questions (350)

Carol Nolan

Question:

350. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health the status of the measures being taken by the National Women and Infants Health Programme, working with his Department in developing mechanisms and data collection methods regarding post abortion care for quality assurance purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53770/21]

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.

Health Services

Questions (351)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

351. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will consider allowing a person (details supplied) to remain in the care of a service. [53774/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (352)

Barry Cowen

Question:

352. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health the status of the case of a person (details supplied); and when they can expect an appointment for orthopaedic surgery at the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore. [53775/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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.

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.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (353)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

353. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal can expect a consultation in Sligo University Hospital ophthalmology department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53776/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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.

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.

Hospital Appointments Status

Question No. 355 answered with Question No. 343.

Questions (354)

Barry Cowen

Question:

354. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) can expect an appointment with the nephrology department at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. [53777/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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.

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.

Question No. 355 answered with Question No. 343.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (356)

Colm Burke

Question:

356. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if a business (details supplied) is regarded as a casino for the purposes of Covid-19 restrictions which were not permitted to open during Covid-19; the exact date that casinos were entitled to reopen under public health guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53789/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The closure of premises involving a wide range of business activities was mandated a matter of public safety in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. These included licensed bookmakers under the Betting Acts 1931-2015 and activities permitted or licensed under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-2019.

For the Deputy’s information, I am informed by the Minister for Justice that there is no pathway for the licensing of casinos in the Gaming and Lotteries Acts or any other legislation. A number of Private Members Clubs exist, which self-designate as casinos.

The restriction on the operation of Private Members Clubs (howsoever described) where gaming (within the meaning of the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956 (No. 2 of 1956)) is carried on exclusively amongst members of the Private Member's Club and is the primary purpose of such Private Members' club, was removed by SI 452 of 2021 which came into force on 6 September 2021.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (357, 375)

Joe O'Brien

Question:

357. Deputy Joe O'Brien asked the Minister for Health if consideration has been given to amending guidelines for asymptomatic close contacts of cases in school settings in relation to testing and isolation in view of increasing cases of Covid-19 nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53797/21]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

375. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health his views on contact tracing for primary school children (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53926/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 375 together.

The role of testing and contact tracing, as part of the wider public health response, has been under ongoing review throughout the pandemic and will continue to be reviewed and amended in line with the epidemiological profile of the disease, its impact on healthcare utilisation and outcomes, and the vaccination status of the population.

In line with recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team, it was agreed that from September 27th 2021, automatic contact tracing of asymptomatic close contacts in children aged over 3 months and less than 13 years, in Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare (SAC) facilities, primary education and social and sporting groups was no longer recommended.

The recommendations which have come into effect are based on what has been learned throughout the pandemic, primarily

- Children seem more likely than adults to have no symptoms or to have mild disease

- Investigation of cases identified in school settings suggests that child to child transmission in schools is uncommon and not the primary cause of Sars-CoV-2 infection in children, particularly in pre-school and primary educational settings

- Children are rarely identified as the route of transmission of infection into the household setting

- Children are not more likely than adults to spread infection to other people.

As case numbers increase in younger age groups, the situation in our schools continues to be monitored closely in consultation with the Department of Education. I am reviewing all available options for the further protection of children in our schools.

It is important to reiterate that the public health advice remains that any child aged 12yrs or under who displays symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should rapidly self-isolate and not attend school or socialise until 48 hours after they are symptom free.

Further information is available in the Guidance for COVID-19 Contact Tracing for Children (>3 months to under 13 years of age) published by the Health Protection and Surveillance Centre, available at www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/educationguidance/Contact%20tracing%20under%2013s.pdf

Health Services

Questions (358)

Richard Bruton

Question:

358. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health if his Department has sought to enunciate general principles which should apply in relation to patient visiting opportunities; if particular considerations are suggested in circumstances in which the patient’s vulnerability may call for greater family support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53799/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I take it the Deputy is referring to visiting in an acute hospital setting. As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund

Questions (359)

Matt Shanahan

Question:

359. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health the breakdown of the national treatment purchase fund activity at St. Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny, South Tipperary Hospital and Wexford General Hospital waiting lists for the past five years; the individual procedures outsourced; the name of the hospital systems in which such national treatment purchase fund activity was awarded and carried out; the proportion of these allocations that was achieved in each individual hospital system by name; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53803/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted in the last twenty months as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently as a result of the ransomware attack. While significant progress was made in reducing waiting times from June 2020 onwards, the surge in Covid-19 cases in the first quarter of 2021 and the associated curtailment of acute hospital services, coupled with the ransomware attack of May 2021, has impacted waiting times.

My Department, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) are focusing on improving access to elective care in order to reduce waiting times for patients. These plans include increased use of private hospitals, funding weekend and evening work in public hospitals, funding “see and treat” services where minor procedures are provided at the same time as outpatient consultations, providing virtual clinics and increasing capacity in the public hospital system.

On the 7th October I published the Acute Waiting List Action Plan. This plan, to run until December 2021, has a series of targeted measures that are designed to address the growth in waiting lists caused by Covid-19 and the cyber-attack.

In addition, my Department, the HSE and the NTPF are also working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.

For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists. The €250 million will be used to fund additional activity in both the public and private sectors. The €50 million additional funding provided to the NTPF brings its total allocation for 2022 to €150 million, and as a consequence there will be a budget of €350 million available to support vital initiatives to improve access to acute hospitals and community health services.

In relation to the specific query raised by the Deputy, the NTPF works with public hospitals, as opposed to with patients directly, to offer and provide the funding for treatment to clinically suitable long waiting patients who are on an inpatient/day case waiting list for surgery, having been referred on to such a list following clinical assessment by a consultant/specialist at an outpatient clinic.

The key criteria of the NTPF is the prioritisation of the longest waiting patients first. While the NTPF identifies patients eligible for NTPF treatment, it is solely on the basis of their time spent on the Inpatient/Daycase Waiting List. The clinical suitability of the patient to avail of NTPF funded treatment is determined by the public hospital.

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to St. Luke’s Hospital Kilkenny, South Tipperary Hospital and Wexford General Hospital, has been provided to my Department by the NTPF and is outlined in the attached documents.

St. Luke's

Tipperary UH

Wexford GH

National Children's Hospital

Questions (360)

Matt Shanahan

Question:

360. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health the monetary value of the latest approved budget expenditure construction costs completed to date at the national children's hospital; the number of invoices and overall valuation of same which are in dispute between client and contractor; the present scheduled completion date of works; the expected final costs of the construction phase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53804/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The new children’s hospital (NCH) project, comprises the main hospital on a shared campus at St James’s, and two paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centres at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, and Tallaght University Hospital.

In 2018, the Government approved a capital budget of €1.433bn for the NCH project. This included the capital costs for the main hospital at St James's Hospital campus, the two Outpatient Department and urgent care centres at Connolly and Tallaght campuses, equipment for the three sites, and the construction of the carpark and retail spaces.

There are a number of items not included in this investment figure as there was no price certainly for them and nor can there be, for some, for the duration of the project. These include construction inflation, the impact of Covid-19, statutory changes, any change in scope resulting in healthcare policy changes and the Employment Order.

Since the commencement of the NCH project construction, just under €815m has been drawn down for works on the project across the three sites.

A major milestone was reached in July 2019, when the Urgent Care Centre at the Connolly Hospital campus opened, providing a new model of ambulatory care for children.

The second paediatric Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Tallaght Hospital was substantially completed in early September 2021, and the new facility is expected to open later this month after a period of operational commissioning and equipping.

Together with the Urgent Care Centre, CHI at Connolly, these new facilities will improve access to urgent care for a significant number of paediatric patients. The opening of the second of the three new campuses, will mark another important milestone in the NCH programme and in the delivery of children’s health services.

Despite delays and Covid-19 restrictions, significant progress is being made on the site at St James’s and the new children’s hospital building is taking shape, with the building expected to be weathertight by the end of the year.

The NPHDB has advised that the main contractor’s programme schedule outlines completion can be achieved by December 2023 which would mean the NCH at St James’s could open in the second half of 2024, after the necessary commissioning period. The NPHDB is working to ensure that contractor will meet its own schedule.

However, there remain external risks to the NCH project beyond the control of the NPHDB and the contractor, arising from Brexit, the global pandemic, global supply chain difficulties, and shortages of construction raw materials.

Definitive updates on outturn costs cannot be provided due to the fact that there is a live contract in place and speculation on any costs would be detrimental to the Development Board’s commercial engagements.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) has statutory responsibility for planning, designing, building, and equipping the new children's hospital. This includes assessment and defence of claims/ disputes submitted by the contractor under the construction contract. I have therefore referred this element of your question to the NPHDB for direct reply.

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