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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 623-639

Disability Services

Questions (623)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

623. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the rationale used to revoke eligibility and therefore access to personal assistance services for persons over 65 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61608/21]

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 (624)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

624. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the funding that has and will be made available through Budget 2022 to prevent young persons from entering nursing homes; the preventative measures that will be taken by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61609/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to a service matter, I am referring the question for response to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Budget 2022

Questions (625)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

625. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health if unspent allocations for the decongregation of disabled persons and transfer of under 65s from nursing homes for 2021 will accrue, be ring-fenced and be added to the designated Budget 2022 allocation; if this dedicated funding rolls over into the next budgetary year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61610/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives.

Budget 2022 builds on €100m funding allocated in 2021 to enhance specialist disability services. The 2022 package totals an additional €115m.

In 2021 Funding of €3m was allocated in National Service Plan 21 (NSP21) to support 18 people with disabilities under the age of 65 to transition from nursing homes to more suitable placements in the community. Each CHO has been engaging with individuals, some of whom are supported by the National Advocacy Service, to discuss and plan for a transition to the community. Fourteen people have now transitioned, and each CHO is confident of delivering on the target by year end.

Funding of €4.2m was allocated in NSP 21 to support the transition of 144 people from congregated settings to homes in the Community in 2021. By the end of Q3 a total of 79 people transitioned from congregated settings. A significant number of people are expected to transition by end Quarter 4.

The level of funding available and the quantum of services to be provided by the HSE in 2022 will be considered as part and National Service Planning process which we expect to conclude in the coming weeks. The funding referenced by the Deputy is core funding, it recurs every year. Public financial procedures do not allow for unspent funding to be accrued and rolled over to the following year.

Ministerial Responsibilities

Questions (626)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

626. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health if there is additional legislation needed in order to transfer the disability portfolio to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth; if it is the commencement of pre-existing legislation that is generating a delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61611/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Following the government decision to transfer the Specialist Community Based Disability Services from my Department to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, planning is well underway.

Given the scale of the transfer and the significant budget involved (c. €2.2bn in 2021), Human Resources, policy, legal and governance workstreams are underway within my Department to sequence the range of tasks necessary to effectively complete the transfer of responsibility. A Project Group has been created with representatives from both Departments to prioritise the project and senior officials have been assigned responsibility for this. Fortnightly bi-lateral meetings are taking place to ensure an efficient, collaborative approach to the overall programme of work. Relevant officials have also engaged with colleagues in the Health Service Executive.

The transfer will require the Health Service Executive to report to two Ministers for different elements of its functions and amending legislation is required to the governing Act of the Health Service Executive, namely the Health Act 2004. Following significant engagement over a period of months, an overarching legislative framework has been agreed to provide for a robust accountability structure between the Health Service Executive and the Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

On the 23rd of November 2021 Government approved the priority drafting of legislation, the Health (Amendment) Bill 2021, to enable the transfer. I will shortly be seeking Government approval to proceed with the publication of the Bill to facilitate timely passage through the Oireachtas and to implement the transfer as soon as possible.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (627)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

627. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the outstanding applications for a primary medical certificate at present; and if a breakdown of those waiting will be provided in three month intervals (details supplied) in tabular form. [61618/21]

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.

Primary Medical Certificates

Questions (628)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Question:

628. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the number of outstanding applications for primary medical certificates at each year end from 2017 to 2020 and to date in 2021, by CHO in tabular form. [61620/21]

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.

Obesity Levels

Questions (629)

Carol Nolan

Question:

629. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health if there are plans for the inclusion of obesity in the HSE Integrated Care Programme for the Prevention and Management of Chronic Disease; if supports will be made available to assist those with a diagnosis of obesity to reduce the financial cost of medications associated with the management of obesity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61628/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (630)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

630. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of persons since the start of 2021 in hospital with Covid-19 who were fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated by week. [61629/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (631)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

631. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of persons since the start of 2021 in intensive care units with Covid-19 who were fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated by week. [61630/21]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (632)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

632. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of persons since the start of 2021 who have died as a result of Covid-19 who were fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated by week. [61631/21]

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 Appointments Status

Questions (633)

Peter Burke

Question:

633. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Health the status of a procedure for a person (details supplied). [61645/21]

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.

Legislative Measures

Questions (634)

Seán Crowe

Question:

634. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will release the official advice he received from his Departmental officials that indicates that the chair of the review body into the Health Act 2018 should be appointed following a tendering process. [61647/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 commenced on the 8 December 2021. The Review comprises of 2 main phases. As part of the first phase of the review, information and evidence on the effectiveness and operation of the Act will be collected from women who use the service, health professionals that provide the service and the public.

The second phase of the review will be led by an independent Chair who will assess the extent to which the objectives of the Act have been achieved, analysing in that regard the findings of the three strands of information, on the effectiveness and operation of the Act. Upon completion of the review, a full report with any necessary recommendations will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration.

I would like to clarify for the Deputy that the person who will undertake the work on the Review will be providing a service on behalf of the Department and any contract for services is subject to public procurement rules.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (635)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

635. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the next cohort to receive the Covid-19 vaccine after 5 to 12 years olds (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61653/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a document issued to help facilitate the safe and free international movement of people across the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU Digital COVID Certificates, based on the completion of a primary regime vaccination against COVID-19, are currently being emailed or posted out automatically. Under the Health (Amendment) )No. 2) Act 2021 a person under the age of 18 years, who is accompanied by their parent, guardian or person acting in loco parentis who has proof of immunity in relation to themselves, does not have to show proof of immunity. Proof of immunity is not currently required for access to swimming pools.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (636)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

636. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the proof that EU Digital COVID Certificates (details supplied) reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61654/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The EU Digital COVID Certificate regulation lays down the framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery certificates to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic. How each individual Member State incorporates the EU Digital COVID Certificate as part of their international travel measures is a national decision.

The requirements for international travel into Ireland are kept under regular review based on the evolving international epidemiological situation.

Covid-19 Tests

Questions (637)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

637. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a free antigen test to every home in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61677/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Testing and contact tracing continues to be a key component of the Irish Government’s response to the pandemic. Currently, PCR testing is the gold standard for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection and it is essential that people who have symptoms of Covid-19 continue to be advised to self-isolate and seek a PCR test from the HSE.

Rapid testing also has a role to play as another valuable tool in Ireland’s battle against COVID-19, and I have been very clear in supporting its wider use.

Antigen tests are already widely in use in Ireland, supported by the health service, in appropriate settings and contexts:

- In the health sector, the HSE has deployed rapid antigen tests for use for specific indications in the acute hospital setting, and as part of the response to outbreaks in community settings, supported by appropriate clinical governance and operational arrangements.

- In the agriculture sector, the HSE has supported the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine in implementing an antigen testing programme in food processing facilities, supplementing the existing PCR serial testing programme.

- In the education sector, rapid testing pilot schemes have been underway in a number of universities, and also in other education and childcare settings.

- The HSE is also operating a pilot antigen detection testing programme for staff in a number of Residential Care Facilities for Older Persons across the country.

- Asymptomatic fully vaccinated close contacts of a person that tested positive for COVID-19 can now test themselves at home using free antigen tests sent to them by the HSE.

- Antigen tests are now provided for primary school children who are identified as close contacts as part of a pod in which there was a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Government’s objective has been to ensure the widespread availability of antigen tests, that are CE marked for self-testing, at an affordable price level. Following engagement by relevant Government Departments with leading retailers and wholesalers, it is clear that due to the increased level of competition in the market, the retail price of antigen tests for consumers has been dropping, with some products now available for €3 or less. Supply chains remain robust and appear capable of meeting any potential increase in demand that may arise. Government is already supporting the price reduction seen in the market through implementation of a zero VAT rate for all Covid-19 test kits, and have confirmed this will continue into 2022.

A comprehensive, cross-Government communications campaign on the appropriate use of antigen tests, to ensure there is clear message to the general public on when and how they should be used has also been launched and guidance material has been published on the HSE website and on gov.ie. The HPSC has also published rapid antigen testing programme guidance.

There is ongoing consideration of the use of antigen testing in other settings and in other scenarios. 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, the vaccination status of the population and ECDC guidance.

Alcohol Advertising

Questions (638)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

638. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health when measures reducing children’s exposure to alcohol advertising as enacted by the Public Health (Alcohol) Act in 2018 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61680/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Research evidence consistently shows that exposure to alcohol advertising is associated with an increased likelihood that children will start to drink alcohol or will drink greater quantities if they already do. This is why our Public Health (Alcohol) Act contains strong measures to limit the exposure of our children to alcohol marketing.

In November 2019, sections 14, 17 and 20 of the Act came into effect. Section 14 prohibits alcohol advertising in or on public service vehicles, at public transport stops or stations and within 200 metres of a school, a crèche or a local authority playground will be prohibited. Section 17 prohibits the sale of children’s clothing that promotes alcohol and section 20 prohibits alcohol advertising in a cinema except around films with an 18 classification or in a licensed premises in a cinema.

In November 2020, section 22 of the Act came into effect. It provides that, in mixed retail outlets, alcohol products and advertising are confined to one of the following:

- an area separated by a 1.2 metre high barrier, or

- units in which alcohol products are not visible up to 1.5 metres height, or

- up to three units that can be a maximum of 1 metre wide by 2.2 metres high.

In addition alcohol products can be contained but not be visible in a unit behind the counter.

Section 15 and 16 of the Act came into force on 12 November of this year. These provisions restrict alcohol advertising and sponsorship promoting alcohol products, and include a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship at events aimed particularly at children or at which the majority of participants or competitors are children. These measures will help to ensure that children can grow up in circumstances where they are not regularly exposed to alcohol products and alcohol advertising.

Section 13 of the Act relates to the content of advertisements for alcohol products. This section cannot be commenced until regulations under this section have been made. Draft regulations under Section 13 are currently being developed by my Department; upon finalisation, they must be submitted to the European Commission for assessment as to whether they are in alignment with Single Market principles.

Section 19 of the Act provides for a broadcast watershed for alcohol advertisements on television and radio. It has not yet been commenced as it requires further engagement on compliance and enforcement issues with the Environmental Health Service of the HSE and the Broadcast Authority of Ireland.

Work on commencement of these remaining sections of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act was suspended throughout 2020 and much of 2021 due to resources being diverted to COVID-19 related areas; that work has now restarted. The full implementation of the Act remains a priority.

Health Strategies

Questions (639, 752)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

639. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health when the national stroke strategy will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61681/21]

View answer

Paul Donnelly

Question:

752. Deputy Paul Donnelly asked the Minister for Health when the HSE will produce the first national stroke strategy; and if there will be provision for a properly-funded annual fast campaign as called for by an organisation (details supplied). [61970/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 639 and 752 together.

I wish to advise that the HSE's National Clinical Programme (NCP) for Stroke final draft National Stroke Strategy 2021-2026 was presented at the HSE Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) Clinical Forum at its meeting last July 2021 and was subsequently clinically approved by the Forum, following some minor changes.

The HSE advise that the strategy is now progressing for implementation and consideration is being given through the HSE 2022 National Service Planning process for funding opportunities, looking at alignment, synergy and integration with other current significant HSE programmes of work such as Enhanced Community Care, National Integrated Care Programme for Older People (NICPOP) and so forth. This will ensure that service delivery requirements outlined in the Stroke Strategy are integrated with other programmes of work and will support the HSE National Service Plan for 2022.

I have asked the Health Service Executive to provide the detailed information sought by the Deputy and I will forward this information to him as soon as it is available.

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