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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 589-605

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (589, 756)

Colm Burke

Question:

589. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if persons will be entitled to a refund of the cost incurred for the requirement of having an RT-PCR test taken when travelling into Ireland and the subsequent changes that occurred in the timing as to when the test should be taken in view of the changes which occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61355/21]

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Christopher O'Sullivan

Question:

756. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if refunds will be given to persons who had already secured PCR and antigen tests in order to travel that were not required due to the change of implementation date from 3 to 5 December 2021 for the new regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61999/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 589 and 756 together.

At present, passengers travelling to Ireland require a valid test result (subject to limited exemptions). This requirement has been introduced on a temporary basis as part of our response to emergence of the Omicron variant. Travel requirements are kept under regular review based on the evolving international epidemiological situation and as understanding of the Omicron variant develops. There is no facility in place to pay costs in the cases referred to. In making regulations to introduce these testing requirements, regard was given to the need for balance between the importance of the measure to protect public health and ensuring travellers have sufficient notice of a legal requirement and sufficient time to arrange testing before travel.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (590)

Colm Burke

Question:

590. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the restrictions that apply to persons travelling to Ireland from the United Kingdom who is an Irish citizen but a spouse is a non-UK and or non-European and both of whom have not been vaccinated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61356/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The requirements for travel are kept under regular review based on the evolving international epidemiological situation. At present, and as part of our response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, passengers travelling to Ireland require a valid test result (subject to limited exemptions). A person travelling from Great Britain, who is vaccinated and who does not have a recent travel history to a scheduled state, is required to present evidence of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or arrival or a negative antigen test taken within 48 hours of arrival. Passengers are also required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator form. Full details on international travel policy and the types of tests accepted are published at www.gov.ie/travel.

General Practitioner Services

Questions (591)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Question:

591. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Health the number of general practitioners currently working in Charlestown, County Mayo and in other areas close by to increase the provision of general practitioner care in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61367/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, including the limited access to GP services in certain areas.

Several efforts to increase the number of practising GPs have been undertaken in recent years. The number of entrants to GP training has increased from 120 in 2009 to 233 this year, with further increases expected as responsibility for training has transferred from the HSE to the Irish College of General Practitioners. Changes have been made to the entry provisions to the GMS scheme to facilitate more flexible/shared GMS contracts, and to the retirement provisions for GPs under the GMS scheme. An enhanced supports package for rural GP practices was also introduced.

Recent developments in relation to general practice, in particular the 2019 Agreement on Contractual Reform and Service Development, have helped to re-establish general practice in Ireland as an attractive career choice. The additional investment, which will amount to €210 million annually once the Agreement is fully implemented, provides for an increase in capitation fees, improved maternity and paternity arrangements as well as enhanced supports for rural practices. In addition, targeted funding of €2 million will also be set aside to provide additional support to practices in deprived urban areas.

In relation to GP services in Charlestown, Co Mayo and surrounding areas, 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 (592)

Colm Burke

Question:

592. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the number of appointments for Covid-19 booster shots offered and the rate of uptake of the booster shots since the week commencing 22 November 2021 to date on a regional basis in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61375/21]

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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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (593)

Paul Murphy

Question:

593. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that fathers are being denied access to attend 12-week scans at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, in cases in which partners are fully vaccinated and have no Covid-19 symptoms; the reason partners have been refused access given the advice in national media that partners can attend all pregnancy related appointments; the steps that will be taken to ensure this does not reoccur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61403/21]

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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.

Disability Services

Questions (594)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

594. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); the supports that will be put in place to ensure the person continues to receive all necessary support as they enter adulthood; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61404/21]

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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.

Disabilities Assessments

Questions (595)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Question:

595. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who is awaiting an assessment of needs; the length of time they should expect to wait before an assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61405/21]

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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.

Healthcare Policy

Questions (596)

John McGuinness

Question:

596. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will consider introducing a scheme to ease the cost burden on persons and families that for health reasons are forced to buy more expensive specific types of essential foodstuffs such as gluten free products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61436/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicinal products under the community drug schemes in accordance with the provisions of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013.

Therefore, I have asked the HSE to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Medical Cards

Questions (597)

John McGuinness

Question:

597. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will include the cost to patients of having bloods taken for analysis on the medical card scheme or on the general practitioner contract; if the practice of charging patients and the charge itself is uniform throughout the country; if his Department has agreed the charge with general practitioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61444/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

There is no provision under the GMS GP contract for persons who hold a medical card or GP visit card to be charged for routine phlebotomy services provided by their GP which are required to either assist in the diagnosis of illness or the treatment of a condition. This has been advised to GPs by the HSE.

The issue of GPs charging GMS patients for phlebotomy services is complex given the numerous reasons and circumstances under which blood tests are taken. My Department and the HSE discussed this issue previously with the relevant GP representative body. However, it did not prove possible to achieve agreement that no charges for blood tests would be applied in any circumstances. It is intended to raise this issue again at an appropriate time.

It should be noted that the GP chronic disease management programme which is being phased in, having commenced last year, will involve the ongoing monitoring of patients’ condition and any blood tests required in this context will be covered by the fees payable for this care.

The position remains that where a patient who holds a medical card or GP visit card believes he or she has been incorrectly charged for routine phlebotomy services by his or her GP, then that patient should report the matter to their HSE Local Health Office. The local management, upon being notified of potential inappropriate charging of GMS patients, carry out an investigation into each complaint and will, where appropriate, arrange for a refund of charges incorrectly applied by the GP.

Hospital Staff

Questions (598)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

598. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of occupational therapists currently employed at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan; the staffing level for occupational therapists at the hospital; if there is a vacancy for a line manager in the occupational therapy department at the hospital; the length of time this position has remained vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61454/21]

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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.

Nursing Homes

Questions (599)

John McGuinness

Question:

599. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health the transitional funding arrangement put in place by the HSE for the care of a person (details supplied); if approval for the fair deal scheme will be completed based on the information provided; if an application for a medical card will also be approved as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61457/21]

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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.

Primary Care Centres

Questions (600)

Matt Carthy

Question:

600. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Health when he expects the Carrickmacross primary care centre to be operational; the number of HSE staff that will employed at the centre; the number of nurses that will be based at the centre; the different nursing specialties involved and the number for each; if clinical nurse specialists in tissue viability and wound care will based at the centre; when the recruitment process will begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61461/21]

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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.

Medicinal Products

Questions (601)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

601. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an outline of the requirements for a patient to receive approval to receive the drug ajovy fremanezumab (details supplied) which was approved by the HSE under the high-tech scheme in October 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61477/21]

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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.

Hospital Appointments Status

Questions (602)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

602. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the eighty two children with spina bifida and or hydrocephalus that are awaiting orthopaedic surgical management and orthopaedic review appointments (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61478/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I acknowledge that waiting times for many hospital procedures and appointments are unacceptably long. It is of particular regret that children can experience long waiting times for orthopaedic treatment, especially for time sensitive procedures, and I remain acutely aware of the impact that this has on children and their families. As part of Children’s Health Ireland’s (CHI) paediatric orthopaedic service, most complex orthopaedic cases are treated at Crumlin and Temple Street, with Crumlin providing specialised multi-disciplinary treatment for the most complex patients. The National Orthopaedic Hospital at Cappagh provides additional capacity for the treatment of less complex orthopaedic patients, including routine scoliosis procedures. By using the capacity provided by Cappagh, CHI can free up space in order that complex orthopaedic procedures can be carried out centrally at CHI sites.

More specifically, additional theatre capacity at the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh commenced on the 26 April 2021 for daycase surgery. CHI has advised the Department of Health that this should result in a positive impact in reducing long waiting times for general orthopaedics, in addition to consequential capacity gains for scoliosis patients. In 2022 CHI is planning to undertake a range of inpatient, daycase and outpatient orthopaedic appointments in Cappagh.

In 2018 Children’s Health Ireland was provided with an additional €9 million in funding to address paediatric orthopaedic waiting lists, including the provision of scoliosis services. This funding is recurring and has been provided in the base HSE allocation each year since 2018. The additional funding supported the recruitment of approximately 60 WTEs in 2018 and 2019 to enable the expansion of paediatric orthopaedic services.

Funding proposals submitted to the HSE by Children’s Health Ireland for increased investment in paediatric orthopaedic services in 2022 will be decided as part of the finalisation of the Waiting List Action Plan 2022. In addition, the HSE has advised my Department that a proposal to fund an additional theatre at Temple Street is currently progressing through the normal HSE capital approval process. Improving access to scheduled care capacity remains a priority for the Department of Health as work continues to finalise next years’ Access to Care fund. 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. In addition, my Department, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund 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 the Department of Health and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund.

In relation to the specific query raised by the Deputy regarding the eighty-two children referred to, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly as soon as possible.

Dental Services

Questions (603)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

603. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for Health the number of children on the waiting list for orthodontic services in Waterford (details supplied); the length of time the children have been on the waiting list; the expected timeframe for treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61479/21]

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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.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (604)

David Cullinane

Question:

604. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Health if he will address a series of matters (details supplied) in relation to data protection and antigen testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61520/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

At present, passengers travelling to Ireland require a valid test result (subject to limited exemptions). This requirement has been introduced on a temporary basis as part of our response to emergence of the Omicron variant. Travel requirements are kept under regular review based on the evolving international epidemiological situation and as understanding of the Omicron variant develops. Valid test results that are accepted for travel are defined in SI 135/2021 and the requirements for travel to Ireland are published at www.gov.ie/travel. However, my Department does not have oversight of the policies of covid test providers overseas.

Health Services

Questions (605)

Emer Higgins

Question:

605. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health the expected timeline for the delivery of the three specialist menopause clinics yet to be delivered; if the clinics will be open by the end of 2021 as planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61521/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government recognises that menopause is a key health issue for women in Ireland today. Arising from the work of the Women’s Health Taskforce, and through funding provided under the Women’s Health Fund, the first specialist menopause clinic opened at the National Maternity Hospital earlier this month. Budget 2022 supported further developments in menopause care with funding to increase the number of specialist menopause clinics from one clinic to four clinics nationally. These additional clinics, based in Galway, Cork and Limerick, will form a core part of a new approach to menopause care for women in Ireland and it is intended that the development of these additional clinics will be progressed in 2022.

However, as the establishment of these specialist menopause clinics is an operational matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

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