Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Hospital Accommodation.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

15 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the Irish Heart Foundation’s national audit of stroke care; if the six acute stroke units announced by the Health Service Executive are fully staffed and have enough beds to cater for the full throughput of stroke patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16315/08]

David Stanton

Ceist:

25 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the percentage of hospitals which have transient ischaemic attack services; her plans to improve coverage of same; the number of designated stroke unit beds nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16225/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

28 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the plan of action agreed in response to the national audit of stroke care recently published by the Irish Heart Foundation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16324/08]

David Stanton

Ceist:

69 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the Irish Heart Foundation Irish National Audit of Stroke Care published in April 2008; the action she will take as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16224/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 25, 28 and 69 together.

I welcome the publication of the Irish Heart Foundation National Audit of Stroke Care, which was conducted with the support of my Department.

The report covers the spectrum of care from prevention to treatment and rehabilitation. It has highlighted a number of areas where clinical care and the organisation of stroke services can be enhanced. Last year I established the Cardiovascular Health Policy Group to advise on how to prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and improve services for individuals affected by these conditions. I am aware that the Policy Group has, in the course of its work, considered the Audit and will be making recommendations to me in the summer.

My Department has also discussed the issues raised in the Audit with the Health Service Executive and the HSE is already working to enhance acute hospital services for stroke patients. There have been a number of service developments since the stroke audit researchers collected their data. The HSE is currently finalising an evaluation of its current stroke services and will be publishing the results of this in the next few weeks. The evaluation has so far identified a number of hospitals where stroke services have begun to be developed. Dedicated beds for stroke patients are provided in a number of hospitals which do not yet have a dedicated acute stroke unit.

Several hospitals have either on-site rehabilitation beds for stroke patients or have good links to nearby hospitals providing rehabilitation. There have also been developments within the emergency services, with training of EMTs and fast-tracking of patients with suspected stroke in some areas, and plans to extend this to other areas.

Child Protection.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

16 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the findings of the national review of child protection and welfare services that health authorities are failing some of the most vulnerable children in the State, that health authorities are not able to respond adequately to hundreds of cases of children at risk of abuse or neglect due to staff shortages and the under-resourcing of social work teams; the action she will take to ensure that children receive rapid intervention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16344/08]

The review to which the Deputy refers is part of an extensive regulatory regime which ensures effective governance of services for vulnerable children and families. Under Section 8 of the Child Care Act, 1991 the HSE is required to produce, on an annual basis, a report on the adequacy of the child care and family support services. The purpose of the review was to identify services where changes or improvements could be made. In that respect it is an important part of the planning process. Moreover it does not provide a full and comprehensive picture of child welfare and protection services and it would be wrong, therefore, to take this review in isolation to represent the HSE's current services.The HSE have informed me that:

in all cases where there is a serious and immediate risk to the health or welfare of the child, the HSE responds immediately and takes appropriate action;

all child abuse reports to social work departments are subject to a phased process of initial screening and assessment and appropriate interventions are provided;

child care and family support services provided by the HSE are subject to a rigorous regime of inspection and monitoring by monitoring officers and by HIQA — Social Services Inspectorate.

There has been significant investment in child welfare and protection services in recent years. The HSE have also informed me that the resources allocated to child care and family support services have increased considerably in recent years with an additional 335 social work posts created since 2005 and an increase of nearly 80% in funding of family support services since 2003 (from €45.7m to €81.8m in 2008).

This reflects the commitment of the HSE to the on-going implementation of the ‘National Children's Strategy' and most recently the ‘Agenda for Children's Services'.

Hospital Expenditure.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

17 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explain the value for money achieved by the hike in the hospital cleaning costs which increased by almost €50 million between 2005 and 2007 and is projected to increase by another €11 million in 2008 representing a total spend of over €578 million up to the end of 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16286/08]

Hospital hygiene is essential for the health and safety of patients, visitors and staff alike. It is a priority for me and I believe that patients are entitled to the highest possible hygiene standards in our hospitals.

In recent years the HSE has significantly improved its range and standard of hygiene services as part of its National Infection Control Plan. I welcome the fact that some hospitals are now providing a 24/7 cleaning service in specific areas such as Accident and Emergency Departments. There have also been increased internal hygiene audits and other quality improvements. Additional hospital beds or units have been opened and new contract cleaning specifications have been set to take account of national hygiene guidelines. Some hospitals required new additional cleaning equipment, products and hygiene signage. Funding has also been allocated to rectify some of the deficits identified in the national hygiene audits particularly in terms of infrastructural deficits e.g. dedicated waste compounds and renovating ward kitchens. Finally, some of the increase in the cleaning bill is attributable to the rising costs of materials and staff salaries.

I am pleased that the HSE is allocating more funding to improve hospital hygiene. Safe, quality care is also cost effective care. I also expect the HSE to plan its cleaning services, through contract arrangements or otherwise, to ensure the best and most efficient cleaning services at a reasonable cost.

Proposed Legislation.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

18 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the report on the affect on the health services of the abuse of alcohol in society here; her further views on whether the proposals being brought forward by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform are sufficient response from the Government; her proposals to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16264/08]

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

38 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she plans to take to reduce the increasing number of cases of people being treated for alcohol related problems as reported by the Health Research Board recently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12444/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 38 together.

Recently published research by the Health Research Board and the Health Service Executive clearly demonstrates the scale of the harm being caused by alcohol in our society.

In order to tackle alcohol related harm we are taking a twin-track approach, involving, on the one hand, policies and interventions targeted at vulnerable populations and, on the other, policies targeted at the population at large to reduce the overall level of alcohol misuse in society. Government has a clear responsibility to ensure that our laws and regulations contribute, and indeed, drive cultural change in this area. I fully support the initiatives being taken by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in relation to licensing laws with a view to reducing public disorder. The further restrictions on advertising and marketing that I have announced are also part of the Government's ongoing response to the problem.

Patient Care.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

19 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children her view on the finding of the Health Information and Quality Authority report into the misdiagnosis of a person (details supplied) that the HSE network management system does not have confidence of staff and that new systems have delayed the decision making process rather than facilitate it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16339/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

70 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to review the structures of the Health Service Executive in the context of growing concern among the public and health workers that it is not delivering improved care to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16323/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm recent reports from three employees of the Health Service Executive that as part of her reform of the HSE she intends to divide the HSE into four separate authorities with their own individual chief executive officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16165/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 70 and 161 together.

The Fitzgerald report for the Board of the HSE about the management of events at Portlaoise identified systemic weaknesses of governance, management and communication within the HSE. Arising from that report, I asked the Chairman of the HSE to consider whether the lessons from the report have wider application across the HSE and its proposals to address these matters, as soon as possible. At that time, I also asked the Board of the HSE to immediately adopt an interim serious incident management protocol. I asked the Board to engage closely with this issue through its Risk Management Committee until it was satisfied that serious incidents would be managed to the required standard and to designate one person at national level to ensure that any future reviews are conducted in accordance with the protocol.

At its meeting of the 13th March the Board adopted its current interim Policy and Procedures for Serious Incident Management. The Chief Executive Officer of the HSE has since appointed a senior official to take responsibility at national level for the immediate implementation of this Policy and Procedures.

I am aware that the HIQA report into the misdiagnosis of a particular individual includes various findings and recommendations about the management and governance of acute hospitals. I am confident that these recommendations will also be taken into account by the Board in responding to my request regarding their assessment of the overall situation on governance, management and communication.

I am also aware that the HSE has engaged McKinsey & Co. to undertake some work for it on organisation design.

Deputies may also wish to note that the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, chaired by Dr. Deirdre Madden, has been asked to make recommendations on a system of leadership for clinicians and managers which would underpin robust corporate accountability for institutional and clinical performance.

I have no plans to divide the HSE into four separate authorities under their own individual chief executive officers. In my view, the focus should be on improving the operational capability of the existing organisation structure. This requires robust governance/management structures, processes and procedures, incorporating clear reporting relationships and lines of accountability, with permanent top level managers in key posts, good systems of delegation, and a strong sense of corporate identity which permeates all levels of the organisation.

I am aware that the Board of the HSE are addressing these issues and I look forward to receiving their proposals in the near future.

Child Protection.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

20 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make statutory the guidelines on child protection; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16233/08]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

58 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children if proper procedures are in place to ensure that information given to her Department or the Health Service Executive that have implications for child protection are appropriately acted upon; if the recommendations of the independent inquiry in relation to a lecturer in child care policy in Athlone Institute of Technology will be implemented; if a strategy for their implementation has been devised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16250/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 58 together.

The HSE have informed me that in all cases where there is a serious and immediate risk to the health or welfare of a child, they respond immediately and take appropriate action. They have also informed me that they are committed to addressing the recommendations of the Report of the independent inquiry into the lecturer in child-care studies in Athlone Institute of Technology.

One of the recommendations of the report is that the Children First guidelines be put on a statutory basis. This will be considered in the context of the review of the guidelines which is nearing completion in the Office of the Minister for Children.

Senior officials in my Office have convened an urgent meeting with key stakeholders in child protection, including the HSE and An Garda Síochána, to ensure that there is full awareness of child protection policies, guidelines and procedures.

Hospital Services.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

21 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the commitment given to the people of the north east that no service will be removed until a better service is in place elsewhere is kept; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16237/08]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

27 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the Health Service Executive plans to transfer all acute inpatient care from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital and all emergency surgery from Our Lady’s Hospital Navan and out of hours emergency surgery from Louth County Hospital in Dundalk to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, additional resources have been provided to the HSE to support these changes; if not, the way she intends to prioritise patient safety; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16294/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 27 together.

The Teamwork Report, prepared for the Health Service Executive, has helped to inform the approach being adopted in relation to the Transformation Programme. The report clearly indicated that the current service configuration in the North East region is unsustainable. It recommended a reconfiguration of hospital services across the existing five hospital sites and ultimately the development of a new regional hospital in order to ensure the highest level of patient safety. The Report also identified a future role for all five hospital sites in the provision of acute hospital services.

The Transformation Programme for the North East region involves widespread and fundamental change and is designed to build a health system that is in line with the model of care emerging internationally. In progressing the Programme the HSE has repeatedly emphasised its commitment that existing services in the region will remain in place until they are replaced with higher quality, safer or more appropriate services. The overriding aim of the Programme, which I fully support, is the need to improve safety and achieve better standards of care for patients in the region.

The Transformation Programme is approaching the end of its initial phase of detailed planning and is moving towards detailed design and implementation. The initial focus of the Programme is to have acute and complex care transitioned from 5 to 2 hospital sites by 2010. In determining the future capacity of each hospital in the region the HSE will need to have regard to the findings of reviews which it commissioned and which highlighted the potential to use the existing bed complement in a more efficient manner. The reviews confirmed, for example, that acute hospital admissions and length of stay could be reduced if access to a range of support services is improved.

In its draft Capital Plan the HSE is proposing to spend in the region of €100 million additional capital funding up to 2013 in the North East to progress the Transformation Programme. The HSE intends to make a capital allocation available in respect of each of the 5 hospitals in the region to meet the cost of interim infrastructural works necessary in each facility.

The reconfiguration of services in the North East in a way which demonstrably delivers safer and more effective services for people in that region will continue to have my full support.

Health Service Executive Appointments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

22 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the criteria used in the decision to appoint persons (details supplied) to the board of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16249/08]

Section 11(2) of the Health Act 2004 provides that appointments to the Board of the Health Service Executive are to be made from among persons who, in the Minister's opinion, have sufficient experience and expertise relating to matters connected with the Executive's functions to enable them to make a substantial contribution to the performance of those functions.

Both Board Members referred to by the Deputy have significant experience and expertise in the healthcare and financial sectors and I am confident that they will make a substantial contribution to the performance of the Executive.

Hospital Inquiries.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

23 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will instigate an external inquiry into the circumstances in which a healthy kidney was removed from a child in a hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16320/08]

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep regret over this incident. The immediate priority must be to ensure that the child in question is provided with all necessary medical care and that the family receives full support. An investigation into this case is already underway. It will be carried out in two phases. The first phase involves an internal review to establish the precise circumstances surrounding the incident. This review is being conducted by a team consisting of a

Clinical Risk Manager

Consultant Surgeon

Consultant Anaesthetist

Consultant Nephrologist and

Senior Nurse Manager.

Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin expects that this internal review will be completed in the next week. On completion, the second phase of the investigation will be carried out by a team of external experts. The Hospital has confirmed that Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London, led by a team of consultants, will carry out this external review on their behalf. This review will undertake a root cause analysis to determine why the incident occurred and provide recommendations for future practice at the hospital where appropriate. Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children have committed to completing the review in the shortest timeframe possible. The Board of Directors of the hospital will consider the findings of both reviews. The completed reports will also be made available to the parents of the child in question and to the Health Service Executive.

Health Care Associated Infections.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

24 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the impact financial cuts are having on laboratory testing for MRSA and other hospital acquired infections; the way she expects to achieve her target to reduce MRSA by 30% if a series of service restrictions have been imposed as a result of the cutbacks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16278/08]

Tackling all Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) continues to be a priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%.

I have been informed by the HSE that all hospitals throughout the country will continue to maintain their existing levels of service in this important area. Laboratory services are in effect demand-led and often have to deal with fluctuations in the need for their services for a wide variety of reasons. They are a crucial part of both hospital and community health services and while demands are high so too is the skill, expertise and commitment of the staff providing the services. Hospital networks throughout the country have also received approval to recruit scientists (in addition to pharmacists and infection control nurses) specifically for healthcare associated infection services, many of which are now in place.

At a European level, the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS) was established in 1999 in response to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in Europe. EARSS comprises a network of over 800 microbiological laboratories serving some 1,200 hospitals in 30 countries that collects routinely generated antimicrobial susceptibility testing data on invasive infections caused by seven important bacterial pathogens. As of final quarter of 2007, 44 Irish laboratories serving 65 acute hospitals (public and private) participate in EARRS representing 100% coverage of the Irish population.

In quarter 4 of 2007, 28.8% of Staphylococcus Aureus isolates were Methicillin resistant compared to 40% in quarters 3 of 2007. This is a statistically significant difference. The annual trends indicate that the portion on MRSA in Ireland levelled off at approximately 42% between 2002 and 2006. In 2007, preliminary data indicate that this has dropped to 38.5%.

If the trend for 2008 remains downwards, it will indicate that our policies relating to control of healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance in Ireland are having a positive impact. While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that a sustained effort to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur is being maintained.

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 15.

Childhood Obesity.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

26 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has developed or is developing, a strategy to address the growing problem of childhood obesity in view of recent statistics which state that 300,000 children here are overweight; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16326/08]

The Health Service Executive has established a Working Group to implement the health sector recommendations of the Task Force on Obesity for which the HSE has the lead responsibility and for which €3 million has been allocated. This is in addition to the annual spend of €25 million on health promotion activities, €5 million of which is utilised in specifically anti-obesity initiatives.

Funding has been provided by the HSE to University College Dublin to record height and weight in children at school entry point as part of an EU initiative to counteract obesity. The development of a national database to monitor prevalence trends of growth, overweight and obesity was also funded. The HSE is working with the Irish Universities Nutritional Alliance to research food and nutrition in children. Funding has also been allocated to the Irish Heart Foundation to undertake a project on marketing of foods to children.

My Department is working to address the wider health determinants, including issues such as diet, physical activity, food production and promotion, which are covered in the Task Force's recommendations.

My Department has already published food and nutrition guidelines for preschools and for primary schools. Guidelines for post-primary schools are currently being finalised. These guidelines are designed to assist schools to develop a healthy eating policy and promote the concept of healthy eating through a supportive school community. The guidelines will be available as part of a training resource for teachers, trained jointly by Community Dietitians and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) Co-ordinators.

My Department is currently finalising a National Nutrition Policy, which will provide strategic direction on nutrition for the next ten years. The target group is young people, 0-18 years, and the priority actions are intended to reduce obesity and food poverty.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 15.

Hospital Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

29 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that additional staff, particularly midwives, are allocated to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda as a matter of urgency, following a report into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16232/08]

The death last year in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda of the woman concerned and her infant son was a terrible tragedy. The recent publication of a report on the case by a Review Team commissioned by the Health Service Executive set out the failures, both systemic and diagnostic, which led to the fatalities.

The staffing levels at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital clearly relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. However, I am advised that a total complement of 66 whole time equivalent midwives were employed in the Hospital before the sanction of 22 new midwives by the HSE. Eighteen new midwives have been appointed to date at the Hospital, and a further four posts are in the process of being filled. The total complement of midwives is now 88, giving a significant reduction in the midwife/patient ratio at the Hospital. A clinical facilitator has been appointed to support nursing and midwifery practice.

In addition to the upgrading of the midwifery resource, lead clinicians in Obstetrics and Paediatrics have been appointed, as have three additional consultant anaesthetists. There has also been a significant reduction in both the number of locums appointed and their duration of service.

Further developments in staffing at the maternity services unit will include the appointment of a Consultant Obstetrician. A workforce planning exercise with the Director of the National Hospitals Office in 2007 identified the need for additional staff within all disciplines, including additional midwives and neonatal nurses. The HSE anticipate that the provision of these new posts under the Transformation Programme for the North East will be prioritised within the immediate future. The Executive will continue to monitor staffing levels within the maternity services unit at the Hospital relative to demand.

Hospital Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

30 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will re-affirm the pre-election commitment to the people of County Clare with regard to the €39 million redevelopment of Ennis General Hospital and the continued delivery of consultant delivered accident and emergency services on a 24 hour per day and seven days per week basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11958/08]

Significant developments to enhance the services at Ennis General Hospital have taken place over the past few years. The €39m capital development project for Ennis was approved to stage 3 in 2006 and planning permission was granted in 2007.

The HSE is undertaking a strategic review of acute hospital services in the Mid-West region. The review is focussing on identifying the best configuration of acute hospital services in the Mid-West including arrangements for A&E, critical care, acute medicine and surgery, together with diagnostic services so that the highest quality of care can be delivered to the population. The HSE has advised my Department that the review is currently in the process of being finalised and that any implications for capital developments in the Mid-West will require to be taken into account.

Finally, the HSE has submitted to my Department for consideration and approval in the normal way a draft Capital Plan which sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer term infrastructural priorities and commitments. Consultation on this draft Capital Plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department.

Health Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

31 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the cuts that have taken place in the provision of respite for people who are being cared for in the community in various parts of the country; her views on the effect of these cuts on her stated policy of transferring more treatment from hospital to community care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16260/08]

It is Government Policy that Community and Home Based Care should be developed to maintain older people in their communities for as long as possible and to support the important role of the family and informal carer. Respite is a resource that provides a temporary break for a family or an informal carer and it is an important element in the range of community supports available to allow the older person to remain at home. Respite Care may be provided in a community setting e.g. in the person's home or local Day Care Centre or in a residential setting e.g. Community Hospital, Nursing Home etc. or may be provided by way of Home Care Packages.

There has been considerable investment in Community Services over the last number of years, particularly, in the provision of Home Care Packages (which includes provision of Respite Care), Home Help Service and Day Care/Respite.

Home Care Packages focus on older people currently in residential or hospital care, who have the capacity to return to their homes, and on people in the community who are considered to be at risk of requiring residential care in the absence of such intervention.

In 2006 over 7,000 people benefitted from these Home Care Packages including those who availed of respite care as part of a HCP. In 2007 over 10,500 people benefitted from Home Care Packages. In 2008 it is anticipated that over 11,500 will benefit from Home Care Packages including those who avail of respite from this resource which equates to 4,350 packages at a full year cost of €120 million.

It is possible to support these numbers as packages are often not required on an ongoing basis but rather to meet an immediate but often short term need e.g. in the immediate period following return home from hospital while person is regaining his/her normal levels of independence or provision of short term respite care breaks.

Home Help Service

Home Help Services are an important part of the community team and the service plays an important role in supporting older people in particular to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.

2005 — 2007: The Home Help budget allocation has increased from €156m in 2005 to €207m in 2007.

2007 — 11.78 million home help hours were provided.

2008 — it is anticipated that 11.98m home help hours will be provided; A total of 54,500 people are expected to benefit from home help services in 2008.

Day Care & Respite Care

In 2008 an additional €3.6m was allocated to day care/respite care. This will provide for 345 new day care places and 2500 weeks of respite care benefiting approximately 1,250 people if each person is allocated 2 weeks respite break. This will bring the projected day care provision to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

A number of respite services nationally, have advised that for a variety of reasons, including staffing and budgetary reasons they will have to curtail respite services during the summer months particularly. All of these units are re-examining and prioritising bed allocations in the light of current service pressures in their particular areas. The HSE has advised that it is currently reviewing the position in relation to bed closures as a matter of urgency.

Accident and Emergency Services.

John Deasy

Ceist:

32 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason in view of her description of the accident and emergency crisis as a national emergency in March 2006, the subsequent establishment of the accident and emergency task force and the publication of the emergency department task force report, a culture of acceptance of trolley waits in hospitals still exists which extends right up to herself who stated in the Dáil that waiting on a trolley could be a pleasant experience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16300/08]

Some 184,159 people attended at 34 A&E departments in January and February this year. Of these, about 61,000, or one-third, were admitted as in-patients.

The vast majority of these patients were admitted without delay. The HSE reports daily on the numbers of the remaining patients at 2 p.m. who are not admitted immediately. They break this down in waiting times between 0-6 hours, 6-12 hours, 12-24 hours and over 24 hours.

The number of patients waiting in each category as a proportion of the total who are not admitted immediately can be calculated daily by anyone who accesses the HSE website. The number of patients waiting in each category as a proportion of total admissions is not immediately apparent from the published figures, since the majority who are admitted immediately are not reported daily.

The HSE is also committed to monitoring and reporting on the total length of time patients spend in Emergency Departments, whether they are admitted or not. A number of hospitals have commenced reporting this information and the HSE expects to be in a position to publish data on up to 18 hospitals in the next few months.

Significant additional resources have been provided to address problems arising in Emergency Departments. These include additional long stay beds, and a range of community based measures aimed at reducing the need to use acute hospital services. A draft national code of practice for integrated discharge planning is at the final stage of development and is due to be completed next month. I am committed to continuing to focusing on alleviating pressures on Emergency Departments, reducing waiting times, freeing up capacity and allowing for more timely admission and discharges.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 14.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

34 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the way she will ensure that families who would rely on access to respite care in Leopardstown Park Hospital in south Dublin will be able to access this care if proposals to suspend it are implemented; if her attention has been drawn to threats to this service in other parts of the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16319/08]

With regard to Leopardstown Park Hospital, I understand that the HSE met with the CEO and Chairman of the Board on Friday 25th April. It was possible through this meeting to draft a mechanism that would allow the hospital to continue respite care. It was agreed that the CEO and Chairman would contact the members of the Board of the hospital with a view to having this draft mechanism endorsed. In the interim it was agreed that no respite services would be curtailed in advance of the Board's consideration of the plan.

A number of respite services nationally, have advised that for a variety of reasons, including staffing and budgetary reasons they will have to curtail respite services during the summer months particularly. All of these units are re-examining and prioritising bed allocations in the light of current service pressures in their particular areas. The HSE has advised that it is currently reviewing the position in relation to bed closures as a matter of urgency with a view to securing an early reopening of closed beds in Dublin Mid-Leinster using all available revenue streams.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

35 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of operations carried out in 2007 and to date 2008; the number of operations cancelled for same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16359/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

36 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason €24 million of the €51 million allocated was spent on the implementation of the recommendation of A Vision for Change, the report of the Expert Committee on Mental Health; her views on the fact that if there is no further allocation of resources in 2008 it will result in no further progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15469/08]

The estimated additional cost of the implementation of ‘A Vision for Change' the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy is €150m over 7 — 10 years. A total of €51.2 million has been allocated since 2006 which represents over a third of the overall requirement.

In addition to the extra funding required to finance ‘A Vision for Change', existing resources need to be remodelled and reallocated. As there are substantial resources already invested in mental health — €1 billion was spent on mental health services in 2007 — it is clear that implementation of the report is dependent to a much greater extent on the remodelling of existing resources, than on new additional funding. It is also clear that additional investment must be phased in parallel with the reorganisation of mental health services and resources. In view of the significant additional investment in 2006 and 2007, it is necessary to pause and review the situation in 2008, to ensure consolidation of the investment to date.

The Department of Health and Children has been advised by the HSE that some of the €51.2m development funding was not used as planned, because of competing expenditure pressures and the overriding obligation on the HSE to live within its overall Vote. As a result, some of the planned developments in mental health services have been delayed; however, some of the mental health services funded in 2006 and 2007 will be put in place in 2008. These include:

the provision of 8 additional child and adolescent mental health teams

the provision of 18 additional beds for children and adolescents at St. Anne's, Galway, St. Vincent's, Fairview and St. Stephen's Hospital, Cork, to increase the bed complement from the current provision of 12, to 30 during 2008.

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney has made it clear to the HSE, in the context of their Service Plan for 2008, that there can be no question of diverting capital or development funds to meet expenditure pressures in relation to other services. The Minister also pointed out that she believes there is scope within the HSE's overall allocation to deliver further service enhancements in 2008, over and above those outlined in the Service Plan, through improved performance / productivity and realignment of existing resources. The implementation of ‘A Vision for Change' will be a key priority for the recently established Office for Disability and Mental Health.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

37 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the review of services at Roscommon County Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16054/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

52 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funds ringfenced by the Health Service Executive for the transfer of surgical services from Roscommon County Hospital; the timetable for its implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16055/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 52 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has conducted a review of services at Roscommon County Hospital and at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. The review was initiated in response to concerns raised by Comhairle na nOspideal about the current service configuration for surgery and anaesthetics, at Roscommon and Portiuncula, the issues faced by the two small hospitals in maintaining surgical services independently, and the need for closer co-operation between them to ensure services are sustainable in future. The review will help to inform decisions about the most appropriate configuration of services at these hospitals in the future. My Department has been informed by the HSE that the Executive is at present considering the outcome of this review.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 18.

Health Care Associated Infections.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

39 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the information her Department has on the prevalence of C-difficile in hospitals here; her views on the recent report of the Health Service Executive into this infection among patients in Ennis General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16258/08]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

66 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the information her Department has on the prevalence of MRSA in hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16259/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that tackling all Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), including MRSA and C Difficile, continues to be a priority for the Government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Since 2002 MRSA cases have been collated by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre — Ireland's specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases — via the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS). In 2007, 44 Irish laboratories serving 65 acute hospitals (public and private) participated in EARSS. The total number of MRSA cases recorded over the last six years was 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005, 588 cases in 2006 and 533 cases in 2007.

A National Surveillance System has recently been established by the HSE to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our health system:

1. Staphylococcus bacteraemia (blood stream infections);

2. Antibiotic consumption;

3. Alcohol gel use;

4. MRSA Surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The HSE intend to publish available data on the above for 2006 and 2007 in the near future and then quarterly thereafter. However, as the total data on surveillance in Intensive Care Units is new, the historical information for 2006 and 2007 will not include data under this heading.

Clostridium Difficile (C Difficile) was not, up to now, a notifiable disease and, as a result, it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. However, it was examined in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty-six patients had C. difficile representing 0.5% of patients studied. In March 2008, I instructed the HSE to make C. Difficile a notifiable disease and from May 4th all cases will have to be notified to the relevant Department of Public Health.

I consider the findings of the recent report carried out by the HSE into an outbreak of C. Difficile at the Midwestern Regional Hospital, Ennis to be a serious matter and I would like to express my sympathy to any patient and/or family who has been affected by the outbreak. I have been informed by the HSE that most of the recommendations in the report have already been implemented and the HSE will continue to monitor their implementation so as to ensure that the incidence of HCAIs is reduced to an absolute minimum and, particularly, that significant outbreaks such as this do not occur again.

The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in healthcare settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Palliative Care.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a commitment that the planned roll out of palliative care here over a five year period is adhered to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16248/08]

Under the Programme for Government, the Government has committed to removing regional disparities in the provision and funding of palliative care, and to ensuring that the needs of all those who require palliative care are met. Additional funding totalling €18 million was provided by the Government in Budgets 2006 and 2007. Budget 2008 provided a further €3m for enhanced service provision.

On the 14th September 2007, officials from the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive met with representatives of the Irish Hospice Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Association for Palliative Care. At that meeting it was agreed to develop a five year implementation framework for the delivery of palliative care services. At a follow-on meeting on 23rd January 2008, it was reported that good progress towards developing this framework had been made. It is intended that the document will be complete by the end of May/June 2008.

It is expected that this implementation plan will then be reflected in the HSE Service Plan each year. It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within its budget and in line with overall health policy priorities.

Suicide Prevention.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

41 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is no increase in funding the national suicide prevention office to facilitate the implementation of the report of the national strategy on suicide prevention entitled Reach Out. [15470/08]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

148 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason additional funding has not been allocated in 2008 to the National Office for Suicide Prevention to enable the setting up of new suicide prevention services in counties such as County Kildare. [16112/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 148 together.

Since the establishment of the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention in 2005, additional funding of €3.05 million has been provided for the implementation of ‘Reach Out' — the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, 2005-2014. This brought the total funding available to support suicide prevention initiatives to €8 million and this level of funding continues into 2008.

It should also be emphasised that a range of services such as mental health and primary care services are important in helping to prevent suicide. These services play a vital role in the drive to reduce the incidence of suicide, and should be taken into account when considering the level of expenditure devoted to suicide prevention.

Hospital Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

42 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made on the promises made to cystic fibrosis patients to provide a number of isolation beds in summer 2008 for adult cystic fibrosis patients who need treatment in a hospital setting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16263/08]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the project at St Vincent's Hospital, the National Adult Tertiary Centre for the treatment of persons with cystic fibrosis.

I identified the need to improve services for persons with cystic fibrosis as a priority in the Estimates process over recent years. Since 2006, additional revenue funding of €6.78m has been allocated to the HSE to develop services for patients with cystic fibrosis. I also asked the HSE to place a particular focus on the development of services at St. Vincent's Hospital, where concerns had been raised regarding the need to improve facilities. A number of capital projects have been completed at the hospital and further developments are in progress.

In the longer term, a new ward block is to be built at St. Vincent's which will include 120 replacement beds in single en-suite accommodation. The new facility will accommodate cystic fibrosis patients and will include appropriate isolation facilities. The HSE advises that planning permission has been obtained, financial provision has been included in the HSE Capital Plan and the contract is to be awarded in 2008. It will be a condition of the contract that the design build period be no more than 24 months from the date of contract award.

In the interim, work is underway on the refurbishment of accommodation to provide eight single en-suite rooms for patients with cystic fibrosis. The project is due to be completed over the coming months. The HSE advises that on completion of this first phase, work will commence to further increase the number of single rooms for patients with cystic fibrosis.

In the 2008 Budget, a special allocation of €2.5m capital funding was provided to enable Beaumont hospital to provide out patient facilities for cystic fibrosis patients. The HSE advises that patients with cystic fibrosis will also benefit from additional single room capacity in the new medical admissions unit at the hospital which is due to open in December.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

43 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive an appointment for an MRI scan in the Cork University Hospital; the number of people on the waiting list for an MRI scan; the present waiting time for an MRI scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14280/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

44 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the expansion of Waterford Regional Hospital will not go ahead in the planned timeframe promised before the general election in 2007; her plans to ensure that it can fulfil its role as one of the specialist cancer centres in the timeframe envisaged in the cancer strategy being implemented by Professor Tom Keane; the assurances she will provide that patients in the south-east region will have access to a speedy and comprehensive service in the short to medium term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16235/08]

The specific question raised by the Deputy in relation to progress under the HSE National Cancer Control Programme relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Hospital Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

45 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Cork University Hospital report into the appointment of a pathologist (details supplied) which was commissioned in August 2007 will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16255/08]

The review of the work of the temporary pathologist at Cork University Hospital referred to by the Deputy is near completion and the report is expected to be published in the very near future.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

46 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the process of accreditation of cytology laboratories which carry out tests for cervical cancer is completed as soon as possible in order that the national cervical screening programme can have testing done here rather than abroad; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16234/08]

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis and is in the final stages of preparations. The service will be available free of charge to all eligible women in Ireland aged 25-60. A national programme will provide screening in a primary care setting every three years for women aged 25-44 years and screening every five years for women aged 45-60 years. The priority is to establish a national quality assured, organised cervical screening programme and it will be implemented in line with best international practice.

All elements of the programme will be quality assured — call and recall, laboratory testing, colposcopy and will be managed to deliver a single integrated national service. A cytology procurement process is underway. This process commenced in December 2007 and the outcome of this will be announced in the coming month.

The vital emphasis of the procurement process has been and will be on quality of the national programme. The necessary entry criteria in choosing a cytology partner included accreditation status and that the laboratory dealt with a minimum of 25,000 smears per annum. These criteria were chosen in line with international acceptable criteria for cervical screening programmes. The NCSS will ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner and with high quality and acceptable turn-around time for results and so avoid unacceptably long delays for routine cervical smear test results as a priority.

The specific question raised by the Deputy in relation to the accreditation of cytology laboratories in Ireland relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Tobacco Control.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

47 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the report from the Office of Tobacco Control that 48% of national retailers were willing to sell cigarettes to underage youths; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12467/08]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

197 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to combat the report from the Office of Tobacco Control which reported that 64% of youths were not prevented from buying cigarettes from vending machines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12469/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 197 together.

This report shows that the ease of access to tobacco products by persons under 18 years of age must be addressed. The Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002 and 2004 contain a number of key provisions, including a prohibition on all display and advertising of tobacco products in retail outlets and regulations for the sale of tobacco products from vending machines. I intend to announce a date for their commencement shortly. The aim of these provisions is to further de-normalise tobacco and to protect children from the dangers of tobacco consumption.

Health Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

48 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children when the eligibility review unit was established in her Department; the progress made in developing proposals to update and clarify the law in relation to eligibility for services under the Health Acts; if the unit operates under directions as to the timeframe within which it should work; when its work is expected to be completed and any such proposals published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16252/08]

The Eligibility Review Team was established in my Department in 2005, to begin working on a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services. The aim is to produce a clear set of statutory provisions that ensure equity and transparency and to bring the system up to date with developments in service delivery and technology that have occurred since the Health Act 1970. The legislation will define specific health and personal social services more clearly; set out who should be eligible for what services, as well as criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework.

As the Deputy will appreciate, this is a very complex undertaking, as the current legislation has been in place since 1970, and there have been significant developments in services since then. Nonetheless, it is expected that proposals will be brought to Government during 2008.

As part of this work the Department is reviewing the eligibility criteria for the assessment of medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016 to clarify entitlement to a medical card. A Steering Group has been established which is expected to complete this work in Autumn 2008.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

49 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious financial hardship being suffered by many elderly people in nursing homes due to the inadequate levels of nursing home subvention which is restricted to a maximum of €300 per week in a situation where charges can be up to €850 per week; and the proposals in the short term to relieve this hardship. [15762/08]

The Nursing Home Subvention Scheme was introduced in 1993 to assist with the cost of private nursing home fees. A subvention may be paid where a person has been assessed as needing nursing home care by the Health Service Executive and where the person has satisfied a means test. Since the 1st January 2007 there are no longer three separate rates for subvention. Persons who apply may receive any amount up to a maximum of €300 per week.

An enhanced subvention contribution, which is an additional discretionary contribution, may be paid by the HSE in addition to basic subvention. These discretionary contributions are subject to the limit of the resources available for the scheme. There is no set amount of enhanced subvention contribution. The amount payable in each individual case will vary depending on the following criteria:

the assessed means of the applicant

the cost of care in the individual case compared to the level of fees in the locality

the amount of basic subvention payable

the amount of resources available for the scheme

the need for the HSE to ensure that the available resources are distributed in a way that supports applicants as evenly as possible across the country.

Guidelines on the operation of the nursing home subvention scheme are available on the HSE website at www.hse.ie. The choice of private nursing home is a matter for the applicant and/or their representatives. The HSE pays the approved subvention to the nursing home of the applicants' choice and the payment of the balance of the nursing home fee is a matter between the applicant and the nursing home under the contract of care agreed between these parties.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

50 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the control she will have on the running of the proposed private co-located hospitals; if she has had discussions with a group (details supplied) on this issue; if that group will run the hospitals for which they have applied for planning permission; if they will be subject to regulation of standards by the Health Information and Quality Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16236/08]

I issued a policy direction under section 10 of the Health Act 2004 to the Health Service Executive (HSE) on 14 July 2005 (amended on 18 April 2007) on the co-location of private hospitals on the sites of public hospitals. This initiative aims to make available approximately an additional 1,000 public acute hospital beds for public patients by transferring private activity, with some limited exceptions, from public acute hospitals to co-located private hospitals and is considered the fastest way of doing this. The policy direction sets out, inter alia, an assessment framework for assessing co-location proposals. It is, however, an operational matter for the HSE to comply with and to implement the policy direction on co-location.

In accordance with a competitive dialogue procurement process, the Board of the HSE has approved successful bidder status for the development of co-located hospitals at the following six hospital sites:

Waterford Regional Hospital

Cork University Hospital

Limerick Regional Hospital

Sligo Regional Hospital

Beaumont Hospital

St. James's Hospital

My Department has been advised by the HSE that successful bidder status for the Beaumont, Cork and Limerick Hospital projects has been awarded to the Group referred to by the Deputy. The Project Agreements for these sites have been signed. The Group is now in discussion with the HSE on a number of matters relating to the Project Agreements. My Department will be briefed on the outcome of these discussions. It is anticipated that the Project Agreements for the three other sites at Waterford, St James's and Sligo Hospitals will be signed in the near future.

Connolly Hospital and Tallaght Hospital, which are also participating in the co-location initiative, are at an earlier stage of the procurement process. A tender in relation to Connolly Hospital is under consideration and it is expected that the invitation to tender (ITT) for Tallaght Hospital will issue shortly.

Finally, I established the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance last year to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for both public and private health care providers and services. The Commission is due to report by July this year.

Health Services.

James Reilly

Ceist:

51 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds that have been closed around the country; the number of respite beds she expects to close over the coming months; the provision her Department made to offer alternative respite services to those affected by these closures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16351/08]

The development of Services for Older People is a priority for the Government. This is reflected in the funding committed to services for older people in Budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Government funded a significant expansion of services for older people with a full year cost of €150m. In 2007 a full year package of €255m was allocated for services for older people. Budget 2008 provided an additional €135m bringing the total spend over the last three years to €540m.

In this context, over €16m has been provided in the last three years for new Day/Respite Care services. The recent Budget will allow an additional 1,245 clients nationally to avail of new Respite places and brings the total projected Day Care provision by the Health Service Executive to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

The HSE have committed through it's National Service Plan 2008 to deliver services within its Vote provided by the Oireachtas. It will manage the provision of respite care beds within this context and also recognising the priority the Government and the Executive have given to services for older people.

It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within its budget and in line with overall health policy priorities. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated in detail and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 14.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the cost-cutting measures proposed to her Department by the Health Service Executive in order to address their projected budget deficit of €300 million; if these include, as reported, reductions in beds, curtailment of accident and emergency, restrictions on medical cards and diversion of funds earmarked for developments for people with disabilities and older people; the decisions made on these proposals; her views on requesting a supplementary estimate in order to reduce the damage to services such cuts would cause; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16231/08]

The 2008 post budget gross current expenditure allocation for the HSE, excluding the provision for the long-stay repayment scheme, is €14.2 billion. This represents an increase of 9% on the 2007 allocation and 8% on the 2007 outturn. The services to be provided by the HSE in 2008 are set out in the National Service Plan which I approved in November, 2007 and the Addendum to the Service Plan which I approved in February, 2008. Both of these documents have been laid before this House and published.

In its Exchequer Issues return to end April the HSE is reporting an overspend against profile of €95m, excluding the long-stay repayments scheme. I have had discussions recently with the Chairman and CEO of the HSE about these emerging budget pressures. The HSE is now considering what steps it should take to bring spending levels back within target while still meeting my policy priorities in relation to service delivery. When I receive the HSE's proposals in this regard I will be reporting to Government as part of the normal expenditure management process.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

55 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of staff employed throughout the country in the delivery of health services; the number of consultants, doctors, nurses or others involved in delivery of community care, special hospital or general hospital services; the staffing levels and structures on a local, national or regional basis of the Health Service Executive; the degree to which these numbers have increased in the past six years; the extent to which the delivery of services has improved or deteriorated in the same period; the number of patients catered for in the 12 months to date and in each of the previous five years; the degree to which hospital beds have been increased in this period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16247/08]

The main source of employment data in the health services is the Health Service Executive's Health Services Personnel Census which is derived from payroll history in each agency. The census collects data on actual staffing level for each staff grade in each health agency at a given point in time. Up to and including 2002 the census was conducted annually. Since 2003 the census has been carried out quarterly at the end of March, June, September and December each year.

The data in relation to the number of staff employed by grade category including the increase in the past six years (Table 1), the number of staff employed by service pillars (Table 2), and the numbers employed on a regional basis (Table 3) are set out as follows (source — Health Service Personnel Census):

Table 1: Health Service Employment 2002-20071 (source: Health Service Personnel Census)

Grade category2

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Change Dec-01 to Dec-07

% Change Dec-01 to Dec-07

Medical/Dental

6,279

6,771

6,789

7,013

7,263

7,712

8,005

1,726

27.49%

of which Consultants

1,574

1,693

1,756

1,873

1,968

2,096

2,220

646

41.04%

Nursing

31,423

33,386

33,756

34,313

35,243

36,737

39,006

7,583

24.13%

Health and Social Care Professionals3

9,193

12,544

12,665

12,830

13,927

14,913

15,705

6,512

70.84%

Management/Administrative

14,694

15,668

15,747

16,157

16,680

17,262

18,043

3,349

22.79%

General Support Staff

13,783

13,713

13,823

13,771

13,215

12,910

12,900

—883

—6.41%

Other Patient and Client Care

14,840

13,510

13,642

14,640

15,580

16,739

17,846

3,006

20.26%

Total

90,213

95,591

96,422

98,723

101,908

106,273

111,505

21,292

23.60%

Notes

1 excludes Home Helps.

2 Management/ Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 The methodology under which employment figures are compiled changed during the course of 2007 with the addition of personnel not previously included in subsumed agencies such as the Health Service Executive-EA (HSEA), the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (GMSPB), Health Boards Executive (HeBe) and the Office for Health Management (now part of the HR function) together with many other posts in projects or post previously excluded such as HRBS/PPARS and Value-for-Money posts (all of which are largely in the Management/Administrative stream) together with the inclusion of student nurses and chaplains. This change was undertaken to represent health service employment on a like-for-like basis with employment ceilings and to more accurately represent a reconfigured health service's employment information. As a result of this change year-on-year figures are not comparable.

4 Caution should be exercised in making grade category comparisons due to changes in category composition over time.

Table 2: Health Service Employment1 at 31 December 2007 (source: Health Service Personnel Census)

Grade Category

National Hospitals Office

Primary Community & Continuing Care

Corporate

Population Health

Total

Medical/Dental

6,049

1,821

35

102

8,007

Nursing4

21,481

17,353

161

14

39,009

Health and Social Care Professionals

6,257

9,333

54

61

15,706

Management/ Administrative2

8,141

6,822

2,782

310

18,055

General Support Staff

7,131

5,338

431

1

12,901

Other Patient and Client Care

4,667

13,102

14

44

17,827

Total

53,726

53,769

3,477

533

111,505

Notes

1 excludes Home Helps.

2 Management/Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 The methodology under which employment figures are compiled changed during the course of 2007 with the addition of circa 4,000 wte not previously included in subsumed agencies such as the Health Service Executive-EA (HSEA), the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (GMSPB), Health Boards Executive (HeBe) and the Office for Health Management (now part of the HR function) together with many other posts in projects or post previously excluded such as HRBS/PPARS and Value-for-Money posts (all of which are largely in the Management/ Administrative stream) together with the inclusion of student nurses and chaplains. This change was undertaken to represent health service employment on a like-for-like basis with employment ceilings and to more accurately represent a reconfigured health service's employment information.

4 Student nurses are included in the 2007 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The December 2007 employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,597 wte.

Table 3: Health Service Employment1 at 31 December 2007 (source: Health Service Personnel Census)

Grade Category

National

Dublin/ Mid-Leinster

Dublin/ North-East

South

West

Total

Medical/Dental

27

2,528

1,884

1,740

1,826

8,005

Nursing4

13

11,149

8,494

9,398

9,952

39,006

Health and Social Care Professionals

5

5,346

3,701

3,313

3,340

15,705

Management/ Administrative2

905

5,084

3,872

3,708

4,475

18,043

General Support Staff

55

3,547

2,821

3,608

2,868

12,900

Other Patient and Client Care

2

5,665

3,560

3,483

5,135

17,846

Total

1,007

33,320

24,332

25,250

27,596

111,505

Notes

1 excludes Home Helps.

2 Management/ Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 The methodology under which employment figures are compiled changed during the course of 2007 with the addition of circa 4,000 wte not previously included in subsumed agencies such as the Health Service Executive-EA (HSEA), the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (GMSPB), Health Boards Executive (HeBe) and the Office for Health Management (now part of the HR function) together with many other posts in projects or post previously excluded such as HRBS/PPARS and Value-for-Money posts (all of which are largely in the Management/Administrative stream) together with the inclusion of student nurses and chaplains. This change was undertaken to represent health service employment on a like-for-like basis with employment ceilings and to more accurately represent a reconfigured health service's employment information.

4 Student nurses are included in the 2007 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The December 2007 employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,597 wte.

The activity levels for each of the last 5 years is as set out in the following table.

January to December

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

In-patients

561,623

570,885

573,834

588,875

617,831

Day Cases

447,697

483,210

509,831

557,387

590,578

OPD

2,255,998

2,363,821

2,453,000

2,989,598

3,418,872

Source: Integrated Management Returns (IMRs).

As the Deputy will be aware operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. In this regard, the Executive has advised that since its establishment it has undertaken a number of initiatives aimed at improving the provision of services to patients and clients and aimed at improving the health and social well being of people living in Ireland. These have included the enhancement and reconfiguration of services in line with national policies (e.g. Health Strategy, Primary Care Strategy, A Vision for Change) and funding of new services across all sectors. It has also undertaken many reviews that have and will continue to shape the way services are delivered into the future. For example, the national review of bed capacity showed how acute capacity needs to be re-configured in the future, the need to build a new national children's hospital was identified and re-configuration of services in the North East was identified as a priority by the HSE. The HSE has further advised that it has also tried to re-engineer how it gathers views and opinions from patients and staff through the establishment of Expert Advisory Groups.

The OECD report on the Irish Public Service — ‘Towards an Integrated Public Service' notes that the health of the Irish is good and improving at an exceptionally rapid pace. Ireland is the European country which had the most spectacular increase in its life expectancy at birth since 1990: almost five years in 15 years, an average of four months a year. There are a number of other indicators which show how services have improved, for example:

The rate of heart disease as a cause of death is down 42% between 1997 and 2005.

Cancer survival is improving: five-year survival rates for breast cancer are rising at one of the highest rates in Europe.

Five times more home care for the elderly since 2004: Approximately 11,000 clients benefited from Home Care Supports in the period January 2006 — July 2007, and an additional 800 people will benefit in 2008. Almost 12 million home help hours were provided in 2007 benefiting about 53,000 people. Approximately 200,000 Home Help hours will be added this year.

In relation to the performance of the HSE in the delivery of services, I would like to outline that the HSE has commissioned a report by McKinsey consultants in this regard. I have had recent discussions with the Chairman of the Board of the HSE in relation to optimising the HSE's operational capability by addressing the following issues:

robust governance and management structures, processes and procedures;

clear reporting relationships and lines of accountability;

having permanent top level managers in key posts;

good systems of delegation; and

a strong sense of corporate identity which permeates all levels of the organisation.

The Board is currently considering these issues and will report to me on its proposals to address the situation as soon as possible.

In 2001, the year of the publication of the Health Strategy, the average number of in-patient beds and day places available in the 53 public acute hospitals was 12,145, based on returns to the Department (11,374 in-patient beds and 771 day places). The provisional number of acute hospital beds recorded by the Health Service Executive for 2006 was 13,771 (12,574 in-patient beds and 1,197 day places) based on a total bed complement. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to provide an additional 1,500 public acute hospital beds. In this context the co-location initiative which was announced in July 2005, aims to make available approximately 1000 additional acute beds for public patients through the transfer of private activity from public hospitals to co-located private hospitals. Additional acute beds, which are at various stages of planning, will be made available through the Health Service Executive's capital plan.

The provision of private care in public acute hospitals is a long standing feature of the Irish healthcare system. Over 2,500 beds in public hospitals are designated as private and semi-private. There is an 80:20 public/private ratio average across the entire acute system. The percentage of beds designated as private varies between individual hospitals; for example, there is a higher ratio of private beds in maternity and paediatric hospitals and a lower ratio in other hospitals.

The Health Service Executive recently published a Review of Acute Bed Capacity carried out by PA Consulting together with a HSE discussion document which proposes an integrated approach to health service delivery that seeks to achieve the right balance between in-patient, day case and community based care.

The Review found that with future challenges, such as our ageing population and the increase in chronic diseases, we will need to plan for a 60% increase in demand for health care by 2020. It suggests that if current practices and processes continue the demand for public hospital beds would escalate to nearly 20,000 by 2020. To meet this need we would have to provide the equivalent of twelve new 600-bed hospitals over the next thirteen years. It concludes that such reliance on acute hospitals for service delivery is neither sustainable nor in the best interests of patients.

The Review examined alternative approaches to meeting this demand. It recommends an integrated approach to health service delivery involving substantial change in the way care is provided. Among the measures proposed are significant increases in day beds in hospitals, more long-term care beds, more rehabilitation beds and more services in community-based, non-acute hospital settings.

The Review outlines a number of bed demand scenarios ranging from partial to full delivery of an integrated health service. It makes the point that other developed countries, such as Australia, Canada, Denmark and England have achieved significant results through their reform programmes. It also points out that some of our hospitals are already achieving the required efficiencies, such as shorter lengths of stay, more day surgery and admission on day of surgery. The challenge is to achieve these standards of service across the entire acute system.

Pending the implementation of such reforms, the Review estimates that 1,100 additional acute hospital beds are needed to meet current demand. The Review also advises that services in acute hospitals should not be altered until viable and appropriate community based alternatives are in place. I believe that the Review forms a basis for discussion with key stakeholders on how best to plan for the provision of public health care delivery to 2020.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to provide direct to the Deputy the number of staff involved in the delivery of community care, special hospital or general hospital services.

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

56 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost-cutting measures imposed by the Health Service Executive in the north-east region since September 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16240/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drug Treatment Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

57 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department funds a 24 hour telephone helpline for persons affected by drug use; the amount of finance allocated to such a project; the number of calls to this helpline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12466/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 20.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

59 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the proposed regional hospital for the north east; the role of her Department in determining the next steps with regard to this plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16239/08]

The Health Service Executive has recently received the report of a consultancy firm, which it commissioned to carry out an independent study on a possible location for the new Regional Hospital. The study took account of various criteria including demographics, access, planning and development considerations and interdependencies.

I received a briefing recently from the HSE and the consultants who prepared the report on the key findings of the study. The report was considered by the Board of the HSE on 9th April and the contents were noted by the Board. No decision has been taken by the Government or by the HSE on the location of the new hospital.

The immediate task for the HSE is to ensure that services in the region are organised to optimise patient safety. The first step in the development of a fully integrated regional health service is to ensure that the people of the North East have local access to both routine planned care and immediate life saving emergency care. Over the next few years, in preparation for all acute emergency in-patient care and complex planned care being provided at a regional centre, the existing five hospitals will continue to improve services by further merger of their acute care specialties.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

60 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if she plans to provide funding and supports for vital services and resources for children who have a drink or drug dependency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12443/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) currently makes €91 million available for its drugs services overall: this includes an additional €6 million which was allocated for key priorities in Budget 2007.

The HSE's addiction services prioritise under 18s for whom there is no waiting list for methadone substitution. In addition, performance indicators in use in the HSE indicate that in mid-2007 (the latest date for which the relevant collated data are available), appropriate treatment commenced for over 99% of substances misusers under the age of 18 within one calendar month of presenting.

Any requirements for additional resources for this category will be considered in the context of overall HSE service developments for 2009.

Hospital Services.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

61 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the provision of kidney dialysis services for patients here; the number of patients who have to travel outside their own region for dialysis; the progress made on plans to increase the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16327/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

62 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will provide urgently needed step down beds in the Dublin area in order that patients in acute hospitals who are ready to be discharged to such beds can be transferred, relieving pressure on the accident and emergency departments, particularly the Mater Hospital accident and emergency; if she will introduce other measures to address the overcrowding that is causing such suffering to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16253/08]

The Deputy will be aware that operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy in respect of step-down beds in the Dublin area. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

With regard to issues around delayed discharges and overcrowding the HSE is working closely with those hospitals which are experiencing difficulties. The focus is on improving and streamlining hospital processes and patient pathways to ensure that care is provided in a more timely, appropriate, and efficient manner. Targeted initiatives include:

setting up consultant led Clinical Decision Units and Acute Short Stay Units with a dedicated number of beds,

integrated discharge planning implemented on a 7 day basis, including nurse facilitated discharges,

updating the bed management system and processes with a focus on improved discharge planning,

reducing inappropriate referrals from GPs to Emergency Departments,

reducing admissions with the duty medical registrar deciding on admissions,

standardising assessment processes,

enhancing diagnostic capacity.

One of the most effective strategies for reducing total patient journey time is to focus on the bottlenecks in both the admission and the discharge process. The greatest variation is typically in the number of discharges carried out. The HSE established a National Working Group last November to bring forward recommendations and proposals for an action plan to deliver key goals.

Key features of the proposed new approach are that:

all patients have an expected date of discharge within 24 hours of admission;

the expected date of discharge is actively managed on a daily basis against the treatment plan and any changes are communicated to the patient;

patients can be discharged in a more proactive manner at weekends;

there is an increased emphasis on nurse facilitated discharges;

ward rounds are scheduled in a way that facilitates a more timely review of treatment plans.

A draft national code of practice for integrated discharge planning is now at final stage of development and includes national standards, guidelines, policies and recommended practices. This is due to be completed in May 2008.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

63 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions she has had with the Health Service Executive regarding the transformation plan for hospital services in Counties Cavan and Monaghan involving the ending of acute inpatient care and critical care at Monaghan General Hospital with the closure of 50 inpatient acute beds and six critical care beds and the transfer of responsibility for these services to Cavan General Hospital without the provision of a single additional bed there; if she will call a halt to this drive to destroy a hospital that has served the community in Monaghan for generations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16238/08]

I have had many discussions with the Health Service Executive regarding the Transformation Programme for the North East region. The Programme involves widespread and fundamental change and is designed to build a health system that is in line with the model of care emerging internationally. The overriding aim of the Programme, which I fully support, is the need to improve safety and achieve better standards of care for patients in the region. The Transformation Programme is approaching the end of its initial phase of detailed planning and is moving towards detailed design and implementation.

The Teamwork Report, which has helped to inform the approach being taken by the HSE in relation to the Transformation Programme, clearly indicated that the current service configuration in the region is unsustainable, that there needs to be a reconfiguration of hospital services across the five hospital sites and ultimately the development of a new regional hospital in order to ensure the highest level of patient safety. The Report also identified a role for all five hospital sites in the provision of acute hospital services.

In progressing the various elements of the Programme the HSE has repeatedly emphasised its commitment that existing services in the region will remain in place until they are replaced with higher quality, safer or more appropriate services.

In the case of Monaghan General Hospital the HSE envisages that the future role of the hospital will be to provide a range of acute services within a clinical network. It has identified a requirement for additional services to be provided at the hospital as part of an integrated service with Cavan General Hospital. In determining the future capacity of the Hospital the HSE will also have regard to the findings of various reviews which it commissioned and which highlighted the potential to use the existing bed complement in a more efficient manner. The reviews confirmed that acute hospital admissions and length of stay could be reduced if access to a range of support services is improved.

In conclusion, I wish to emphasise that Monaghan Hospital will continue to have an important role to play in the provision of health services in the North East. This view was confirmed in the Teamwork Report and also in the North East Transformation Programme.

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

64 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost-cutting measures imposed by the Health Service Executive in the southern region since September 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16244/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

65 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures in place to retain profits from the sale of property currently used for psychiatric care within the mental health budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16325/08]

‘A Vision for Change' the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which was launched in January 2006, has been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services. The Report recommends inter alia that a plan to bring about the closure of all psychiatric hospitals should be drawn up and implemented, and that the resources released by these closures should be protected for reinvestment in the mental health service. The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney has made it clear to the HSE in the context of their Service Plan for 2008, that there can be no question of diverting capital or development funds to meet expenditure pressures arising in relation to core services.

The identification and disposal of assets which may be in excess of known HSE requirements is the responsibility of the HSE National Director of Estates. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 39.

Patient Care.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

67 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will extend the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority to include private health care facilities and hospitals; her plans to review the structures of the Health Service Executive in the context of growing concern among the public and health workers that it is not delivering improved care to patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16321/08]

A core function of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is to set standards on safety and quality of health services and to monitor enforcement of those standards in an open and transparent way. The Health Act 2007 currently gives HIQA strong powers in this area in relation to services provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and bodies funded by the HSE to provide services on their behalf. The process by which such a regulatory regime is introduced first in the public sector is a feature of similar developments in other jurisdictions. The extension of this type of monitoring and control to the private sector would involve further legislation of a complex nature.

However, the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance was established last year to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for public and private health care providers and services. The Commission is due to report by the end of July this year.

In relation to HSE management structures, the 2001 Health Strategy highlighted the need to strengthen existing delivery structures at local level within a framework of national standards for the whole health system. Following on from this, the HSE was established to manage and deliver health and personal social services, or to arrange for such services to be delivered on its behalf. Its primary statutory responsibility is the operational delivery of health and personal social services.

The Fitzgerald report for the Board of the HSE about the management of events at Portlaoise identified systemic weaknesses of governance, management and communication within the HSE. Arising from that report, I asked the Chairman of the HSE to consider whether the lessons arising from the report have wider application across the HSE and to let me have the Board's assessment of the overall situation, and its proposals to address matters, as soon as possible.

I am aware that the HIQA report into the misdiagnosis of a particular individual includes various findings and recommendations about the management and governance of acute hospitals. I am confident that these recommendations will also be taken into account by the Board in responding to my request. I am also aware that the HSE has engaged McKinsey & Co. to undertake some work for it on organisation design.

In my view, the focus should be on improving the operational capability of the existing organisation structure. This requires robust governance/management structures, processes and procedures, incorporating clear reporting relationships and lines of accountability, with permanent top level managers in key posts, good systems of delegation, and a strong sense of corporate identity which permeates all levels of the organisation. I am aware that the Board of the HSE are addressing these issues and I look forward to receiving their proposals in the near future.

Proposed Legislation.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

68 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the recent report by the Irish Council for Bioethics on stem cell research; if she will introduce legislation in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16261/08]

The report referred to by the Deputy has just been received by my Department and it is currently being examined and considered.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 15.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 19.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 14.

Hospital Staff.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

72 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will require the Health Service Executive to urgently address the acute staff shortage at Tralee General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16245/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

73 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the promised six extra beds which were to have been in place by March 2008 for the child and adolescent psychiatric service have not been delivered at St. Vincent’s, Fairview, Dublin; when they will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16265/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to provide access to a microbiologist in all hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16266/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. As such it is for the HSE to determine priorities and decide how these funds are used to deliver the best and most efficient and safe public health service.

However, I have been informed by the HSE that Consultant Microbiology appointments to date have tended to centre on the larger hospitals which provide more complex care. Many smaller hospitals do not have dedicated sessions from a microbiologist but have access to microbiology advice. Strengthening infection control remains a priority with the HSE and further increases in consultant microbiology staffing will occur as resources allow. Hospitals which do not currently have dedicated sessions will be prioritised for such appointments.

Nursing Home Standards.

James Bannon

Ceist:

75 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children when the standards for nursing home care, recently approved by the board of the Health Information and Equality Authority, will be published; when the standards will come into force; if the standards will be compulsory; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16269/08]

The draft standards that the Deputy is referring to were published on 11th March, 2008 by the Health Information and Quality Authority together with a guide to the draft standards themselves. Both documents are available at www.hiqa.ie.

The Board of HIQA submitted the draft standards for approval by the Minister for Health and Children, as required under section 10(2) of the Health Act, 2007. These draft standards are currently under consideration by the Department. The standards and the Regulations required to underpin them will be subject to a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) before finalisation. It is hoped that work on the RIA and the Regulations will commence later this year. In the meantime, the Health Service Executive continues to carry out inspections of private nursing homes under the 1993 Care and Welfare Regulations.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

76 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will act to prevent the closure of 12 respite care beds at Cherry Orchard Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16242/08]

The development of Services for Older People is a priority for the Government. This is reflected in the funding committed to services for older people in Budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Government funded a significant expansion of services for older people with a full year cost of €150m. In 2007 a full year package of €255m was allocated for services for older people. Budget 2008 provided an additional €135m bringing the total spend over the last three years to €540m.

In this context, over €16m has been provided in the last three years for new Day/Respite Care services. The recent Budget will allow an additional 1,245 clients nationally to avail of new Respite places and brings the total projected Day Care provision by the Health Service Executive to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

The HSE have committed through its National Service Plan 2008 to deliver services within its Vote provided by the Oireachtas. It will manage the provision of respite care beds at Cherry Orchard within this context and also recognising the priority the Government and the Executive have given to services for older people.

There is no doubt that demand can at times exceed service resources and that this problem can manifest itself in particular at local level. I understand that there are particular pressures being experienced at Cherry Orchard, and that these are kept under constant review by the HSE.

It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within its budget and in line with overall health policy priorities. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated in detail and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Drug Treatment Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

77 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions being put in place to provide treatment for the ever growing number of polydrug users in society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12355/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Protection.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

78 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the ongoing programmes in place in each Government Department and State agency to ensure appropriate training on child protection issues is provided for the management and employees of Government Departments and State agencies. [14414/08]

The HSE has informed me that it supports comprehensive, ongoing training in the application of child protection guidelines and generally promotes awareness and good practice within the health services and other relevant organisations. On an ongoing basis the HSE provides child protection training for staff in the health service and those working in relevant voluntary and community groups. Support is also provided to other public agencies training staff in this area. In response to the Report ("Review Inquiry on any matter pertaining to Child Protection Issues touching on or concerning Dr. A"), a review of training available on child protection matters will be undertaken, with a view to ensuring compulsory child protection training for senior managers.

Training and education, together with good recruitment and child protection policies in line with Children First in all relevant agencies, is most important in ensuring child protection. The HSE have undertaken in their response to the review to address these issues (training and education in particular).

Health Services.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

79 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will act to prevent the closure of the 12 bed respite care unit at St. Oliver Plunkett’s Hospital, Dundalk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16241/08]

The development of Services for Older People is a priority for the Government. This is reflected in the funding committed to services for older people in Budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Government funded a significant expansion of services for older people with a full year cost of €150m. In 2007 a full year package of €255m was allocated for services for older people. Budget 2008 provided an additional €135m bringing the total spend over the last three years to €540m.

In this context, over €16m has been provided in the last three years for new Day/Respite Care services. The recent Budget will allow an additional 1,245 clients nationally to avail of new Respite places and brings the total projected Day Care provision by the Health Service Executive to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

The HSE have committed through its National Service Plan 2008 to deliver services within its Vote provided by the Oireachtas. It will manage the provision of respite care beds within this context and also recognising the priority the Government and the Executive have given to services for older people.

There is no doubt that demand can at times exceed service resources and that this problem can manifest itself in particular at local level. I understand that there are particular pressures being experienced at St. Oliver Plunkett's, and that these are kept under constant review by the HSE.

It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within its budget and in line with overall health policy priorities. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated in detail and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

80 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the promise she has made to introduce a national cervical cancer screening programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16028/08]

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis and is in the final stages of preparations. The service will be available free of charge to all eligible women in Ireland aged 25-60. A national programme will provide screening in a primary care setting every three years for women aged 25-44 years and screening every five years for women aged 45-60 years. The priority is to establish a national quality assured, organised cervical screening programme and it will be implemented in line with best international practice.

All elements of the programme will be quality assured — call and recall, laboratory testing, colposcopy and will be managed to deliver a single integrated national service. A cytology procurement process is underway. This process commenced in December 2007 and the outcome of this will be announced in the coming month.

The vital emphasis of the procurement process has been and will be on quality of the national programme and the necessary entry criteria in choosing a cytology partner included accreditation status and a laboratory dealing with a volume of a minimum of 25000 smears per annum. These criteria were chosen in line with international acceptable criteria for cervical screening programmes. The NCSS will ensure that the laboratory elements will be delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner and with high quality and acceptable turn-around time for results and so avoid unacceptably long delays for routine cervical smear test results as a priority.

In advance of offering contracts to medical practitioners in primary care settings, the NCSS published a draft NCSS / Smeartaker contract and invited views and feedback concerning the contract on a non privileged basis by the end of February 2008. Many GPs, Smeartakers and representative bodies participated in this process and provided feedback. Formal discussion is underway with a final party and this will lead to contract finalisation and then the establishment of a collaborative working relationship with all Smeartakers.

Patient Care.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

81 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the structures she has put in place to ensure that the recommendations of the Health Information and Quality Authority report on the misdiagnosis of breast cancer of a person (details supplied) are implemented; the authority the person appointed to implement the recommendations has been given to ensure that appropriate powers and resources are available to them for this purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16257/08]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that in response to recommendation number 15 of the Health Information and Quality Authority report referred to by the Deputy, the National Director of the National Hospitals Office in the HSE has been appointed and given responsibility for ensuring the development of an action plan for the remaining 14 recommendations. The action plan is being devised within the context of a national integrated quality and risk management strategy, standards and systems for the HSE and will be presented to the Board of the HSE for their approval in May. I am assured by the HSE that the Director of the National Hospitals Office will have the full co-operation and support of the HSE to ensure the implementation of the report's recommendations.

Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

82 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps her Department is taking to combat depression and isolation among members of the farming community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13062/08]

The last few years have been very significant in the area of mental health with the launch of two important Strategy Documents, ‘Reach Out' — A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, which was launched in September 2005, and ‘A Vision for Change' the Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, which was launched in January 2006.

‘A Vision for Change' outlines a comprehensive model for mental health service provision for Ireland. It describes a framework for building and fostering positive mental health across the entire community and for providing accessible, community-based, specialist services for people with mental illness.

‘Reach Out' provides a policy framework for suicide prevention activities in Ireland. The strategy calls for a multi-sectoral approach to the prevention of suicidal behaviour in order to foster cooperation between health, education, community, voluntary and private sector agencies.

‘Reach Out' recognises the importance of reaching out to people who are self-employed or those who work in places and settings that can be isolated, such as farmers. Implementation of these Strategy documents is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

Hospital Services.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

83 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the acute hospital services review; the steps she will take in view of this review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16029/08]

The HSE is undertaking a strategic review of acute hospital services in the Southern region. The review is focusing on identifying the best configuration of acute hospital services in the South including arrangements forA&E, critical care, acute medicine and surgery, together with diagnostic services so that the highest quality of care can be delivered to the population. The HSE has advised my Department that the review of acute hospital services in the HSE South is being finalised at present.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

84 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the extra resources being assigned to maternity hospitals to address the growing birth rate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16328/08]

The number of births nationally last year was over 70,000. The Health Service Executive has made provision in its National Service Plan for 2008 for an increase in this number to approximately 73,000.

Recognising the increased birth rate, and the increasing complexity of maternity and neonatal services nationally, the HSE has prioritised the requirement for additional service development funding in recent years for this service. For example, in the eastern region the recurring revenue budget for the three Dublin Maternity Hospitals has increased from €125m to €153m over the last four years. When account is taken of once-off funding, the investment stands at over €161m in 2008.

In 2007 additional funding of €3m was provided to address patient safety priorities overall, including funding for maternity services to support the implementation of the very important recommendations made in the Lourdes Hospital Inquiry Report. The HSE prioritised maternity service requirements in 2007 from this general patient safety fund.

On the capital side, the HSE has made provision in its HSE Draft Capital programme for additional investment of some €10m each year for the next three years in respect of maternity services in the Dublin region. This investment builds on a range of capital improvements already put in place or currently in train as follows:

The establishment of the National Epidemiology Centre in 2006 to facilitate the monitoring of all data from Irish maternity units with the aim of improving clinical services for mothers and babies.

The opening of the new Cork University Maternity Hospital last year saw the amalgamation of Cork's three existing hospitals on the one site.

€15m for Wexford General Hospital to meet the cost of upgrading the obstetric and gynaecological service.

€9m to upgrade maternity facilities at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

Upgrading of the obstetric/gynaecology ward and delivery suite at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar.

Upgrading of the special care baby unit at Portiuncula Hospital.

The HSE is also committed to developing a strategic approach to maternity services nationally. The first stage in this work is the Review of Maternity & Gynaecology Services in the Greater Dublin Area. The review, which is being conducted for the HSE by KPMG Consultants, will set out recommendations and provide an action plan to facilitate delivery of the best model of care for primary, community and hospital maternity services in the future. The review is designed to provide the necessary platform for the provision of safe, sustainable, cost effective, high quality and consistent maternity, neonatology and gynaecology care services. The report will also include recommendations regarding areas where there is potential for performance improvement within existing services.

The HSE is also establishing a Maternity Services Expert Advisory Group which will provide a central platform for clinical and health communities, patients, clients and managers to become actively involved in the development and transformation of maternity services.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

85 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Health Information and Quality Authority report of a review of pathology services at University College Hospital, Galway will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16254/08]

The investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority into pathology services at University College Hospital, Galway was commenced in September 2007. I am aware that, in the interest of thoroughness, the Authority extended the original scope of the investigation on two occasions in light of information that emerged as part of the investigation. I am informed that significant progress has been made and that the work of the investigation team is almost complete. It is anticipated that the report will be published by the end of May or early June.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

86 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the terms and conditions of arrangements between the Health Service Executive, on the one hand, and Mercy University Hospital Cork in particular and the other voluntary hospitals here in general, on the other hand; if each of these arrangements has been reduced to writing; the nature and effect of directions issued by her under Section 10 of the Health Act 2004, in so far as they relate to agreements between the HSE and voluntary hospital service providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16251/08]

I have not issued any direction to the HSE under Section 10 of the Health Act 2004 and relating to agreements between the Executive and voluntary hospital service providers.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to address the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 14.

Official Engagements.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

88 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his discussions with the European Commission President Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso on a visit to Dublin recently; if he discussed the importance of protecting the future of farmers here during the World Trade Organisation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15948/08]

I met with the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso in Dublin on 17 April as part of a two day visit by the President to Ireland. Our discussions focused on a number of issues on the European Agenda including preparations for the referendum on the Reform Treaty. I also sought and received confirmation from the President that the Reform Treaty would copper-fasten Ireland's veto in relation to taxation matters.

During my discussions with the President, I told him that while as a trading nation Ireland wants a successful conclusion to this round of WTO negotiations, we are unhappy with the unbalanced way in which the World Trade Organisation negotiations have proceeded. The Government has impressed on the Commission at every opportunity and level that it must remain within its mandate and not do anything that would damage European and Irish agriculture.

Census of Population.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

89 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Taoiseach if he will include a question on the next national Census form asking if any person or persons in each household has autism, as such information is important to establish the levels of autism here, and is vital to assist in policy development in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16025/08]

The Central Statistics Office will be commencing the consultation phase of Census 2011 in August 2008. It will place notices in the national press and on the CSO website inviting submissions from the public and interested parties on the suggested content of the 2011 census questionnaire. The CSO will directly contact the national organisation representing autism during this consultative phase.

The CSO, as in previous censuses, intends to set up a broadly based consultative group to assist it in assessing the merits of the various submissions which it may receive. This group will be representative of Government departments, local and public authorities and major users of census data. This will be followed by a pilot test in April 2009 to assess, among other things, the feasibility of any new questions introduced, bearing in mind the pressure for space on the census form.

The final decision regarding the questionnaire content for Census 2011 will be based on a recommendation by the Director General of the CSO to Government, taking full account of the results of the pilot test. This is expected to be in Autumn 2009.

Data Protection.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

90 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Taoiseach the steps he will take in his Department to protect computer systems from theft and from the release of sensitive personal information which is held on these computer systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16146/08]

My Department applies best practice and uses industry standard security protection devices, procedures and software to protect its computer systems from security breaches. A number of measures are currently in place in my Department to protect its computer systems. My Department regularly reviews and updates these security procedures as a matter of course. My Department also evaluates and reviews information security products and technologies as they come to market and implements them where appropriate. We will continue this practice.

Decentralisation Programme.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

91 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Taoiseach the number of new persons transferred from Dublin under the decentralisation programme since 1 January 2008; and the number of persons transferred under this programme as at the current date. [16135/08]

The number of new persons transferred from my Department under the decentralisation programme since 1 January, 2008 is two. The number of persons transferred from my Department to date under this programme is sixteen.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

92 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Taoiseach the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16536/08]

I outline in the following table the list of meetings I have had with Heads of State, Government Ministers and other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries over the past 3 years.

2005

Meeting

18th January — Beijing

Courtesy Call on President Hu and meetings with Premier Wen, and Minister of Commerce, Bo.

21st January — Hong Kong

Meeting with Mr. Tung Chee Hwa, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

3rd February — Dublin

Courtesy Call on Taoiseach by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Anton Valionis.

11th February — Sofia, Bulgaria

Meetings with President Paranov and Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

16th February — Dublin

Meeting with Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosislli of Lesotho.

3rd May — Dublin

Meeting with Prime Minister Anton Rop of Slovenia.

9th May — Moscow

Ceremony to mark the 60th Anniversary of the end of WW2. Meeting with President Putin.

23rd May — Warsaw

Meeting with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of Croatia at Council of Europe.

20th June — Dublin

Meeting with President Svetozar Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro.

7th July — Rome

Meeting with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Rome.

28th-29th November — Zagreb

Meeting’s with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, President of Parliament of Croatia Mr. Vladamir Seks, and President Stjepan Mesic.

12th December — Dublin

Meeting with President Paranov of Bulgaria.

2006

Meeting

19th January — New Delhi, India

Courtesy call on Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, President of India. Meeting with H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.

8th February — Dublin

Meeting with Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Borys Tarasyuk.

2nd March — Dublin

Meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

17th May

Visit of Governor of Aceh, Mustafa Abubakar.

25th September — Dublin

Meeting with Vice Premier Zeng of China.

16th November — Dublin

Visit of Ms. Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, Deputy President of South Africa.

7th December — Dublin

Visit of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

2007

Meeting

16th January — Saudi Arabia

Meeting with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

17th January — Dubai

Meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

8th October — Dublin

Meeting with Prime Minister Kirkilas of Lithuania.

2008

Meeting

13th January — Pretoria

Meetings with President Mbeki and Deputy President Mlambo Ngcuka of South Africa.

15th January — Dar es Salaam

Meetings with President Kikwete and Prime Minister Lowassa of Tanzania.

18th February — Dublin

Visit of Prince Faisil of Saudi Arabia.

26 February — Ljubljana

Meetings with President Turk and Prime Minister Janša of Slovenia.

10th March — Dublin

Visit of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam.

9th April — Dublin

Visit of Deputy President Mlambo Ngcuka of South Africa.

Financial Services Regulation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

93 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will advise on a matter (details supplied). [15955/08]

Moneylenders are covered by a range of provisions under the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 (CCA) including the annual licensing process and the register of licensed moneylenders system as administered by the Financial Regulator (FR). Licensed moneylenders are currently subject to the ‘Interim Code of Practice for Licensed Moneylenders' which was introduced by the FR and comprises general principles with which licensed moneylenders must comply, such as acting fairly, with due skill and care, with appropriate resources and making adequate disclosure of all relevant information.

In early 2007, the FR published its review of the licensed moneylending industry in Ireland. With respect to interest rates, it concludes that the introduction of an interest rate ceiling for moneylenders may not achieve the objectives of lowering the cost of credit for consumers. The Report contained a number of other conclusions, including the fact that:

Overall, consumers that use licensed moneylenders as a source of finance are happy with the service provided despite the fact that it is a relatively expensive form of credit.

Not all consumers have access to other sources of credit.

The FR committed to reviewing the ‘Interim Code of Practice for Licensed Moneylenders', with a specific emphasis on increasing transparency, helping consumers make informed decisions and enhancing the consumer protection framework.

In late 2007, the FR engaged with a number of interested stakeholders (including Credit Union representatives) with a view to increased transparency in relation to costs associated with loans from moneylenders. It sought views on how best to disclose an itemised statement of the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on its Register and how best to highlight the total cost of credit associated with moneylenders. Responses are being considered in the context of work being carried out in relation to the draft Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders and transparency in the moneylending sector.

In line with the above, the FR's Strategic Plan for 2008 — 2010 commits to having an updated code of conduct for moneylenders in place by December 2008. As part of this process the FR, in March 2008, published its ‘Consultation Paper / CP33' entitled ‘Consumer Protection Code for Licensed Moneylenders' seeking the views of persons on its content. The primary aim of the draft Code as contained in CP33 is to increase transparency in the moneylending sector. It proposes a number of provisions including ‘suitability' of loans, disclosure of the high-cost nature of certain loans and the provision of information on credit counselling services, e.g. MABS, to clients who demonstrate difficulty in meeting their repayments obligations. The closing date for contributions on the consultation paper is Friday, 16 May 2008, after which the FR will consider the best way forward in light of submissions received.

The FR provides an information service covering the different forms of credit available to consumers and I strongly urge consumers to avail of this service. In particular, I urge all consumers to shop around for credit, to examine the scope to borrow from community based lenders such as credit unions and to avail of the information which is available through the FR's publications, help-line (Lo call 1890 77 77 77) and website: http://www.itsyourmoney.ie.

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) which falls under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, is a national, free, confidential and independent service for people in debt, or in danger of getting into debt and its offices, throughout the country, work with people in order to assist them with their financial planning and budgeting for the future.

Finally, the Deputy may wish to know that my Department is currently undertaking a review the Consumer Credit Act, 1995 in the light of the recently adopted EU Directive on credit agreements for consumers. Furthermore, the Advisory Forum on Financial Legislation, which I have established to advise and assist in the consolidation and modernisation of financial services legislation, will, as part of its work, consider the basis for licensing moneylenders to facilitate lower costs.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

94 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps which he is taking to address the summer flooding in the Shannon Callows which is having a dramatic impact on wildlife with a 90% drop in calling males in the past eight years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15997/08]

Following discussions with the Irish Farmers Association and Birdwatch Ireland last year, the Office of Public Works removed a substantial amount of vegetation which was impeding the efficient flow of water in the Shannon Cut. While it is not possible to measure precisely the effect of this work, I am advised that it did have a beneficial impact on the level of flooding in the Shannon Callows. OPW is considering whether similar work in other areas would be beneficial. OPW has also had discussions with other stakeholders to review and if possible to improve the water management regime on the Shannon.

In response to a proposal from the Irish Farmers Association, OPW also sought a license from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to remove some silt from the Shannon Cut. The Department has sought additional information in relation to the application. OPW is currently dealing with this request.

OPW intends to commence, within the next couple of years, a Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study of the River Shannon Catchment. This will result in the preparation of a long term management plan for the river. All interested parties will have the opportunity to contribute to the study.

Capital Allowances Schemes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his view as to whether publicly funded hospitals, meaning hospitals which provide services to persons pursuant to their entitlements under Chapter II of Part IV of the Health Act 1970, are entitled to avail of the capital allowances scheme for private hospitals provided for by section 64 of the Finance Act 2001 as amended; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16394/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the scope of the capital allowances scheme for hospitals is specifically confined to private hospitals. Section 64 of the Finance Act 2001 (now inserted as section 268 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997), which introduced the scheme, defines a qualifying hospital for capital allowance purposes as a private hospital within the meaning of the Health Insurance Act 1994 (Minimum Benefits) Regulations 1996. Regulation 3 of those Regulations in turn defines a private hospital as one which, inter alia, is not a publicly- funded hospital.

To qualify for capital allowances a private hospital must meet certain minimum capacity requirements and it must provide a range of facilities and services. As private hospitals are privately funded, the purpose of the capital allowance scheme is to attract private investment into the provision of these hospitals by means of a tax incentive.

Garda Stations.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

96 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a new Garda station will be provided at Ballyvary, Castlebar, County Mayo; if his attention has been drawn to the dilapidated condition of the existing premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16438/08]

Tender documents for the new Garda Station at Ballyvary, Co. Mayo are currently being prepared. It is expected that tenders will be invited during the Summer and a contract placed in the Autumn.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

97 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will provide in tabular form, details regarding the numbers of civil servants awaiting transfer to locations within the Laois-Offaly area, including Nenagh, Athlone and Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15952/08]

My Department has completed the transfer of 125 people to Tullamore. There remain a number of applications from civil servants for a transfer to my Department and the grade breakdown is as follows:-

Grade

Number of Staff

Principal Officer

0

Assistant Principal

0

Higher Executive Officer/Administrative Officer

3

Executive Officer

6

Staff Officer

0

Clerical Officer

16

Service Officer

0

Total

25

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the details regarding the numbers of civil servants awaiting transfer to locations within Laois/Offaly including Nenagh, Athlone and Mullingar is as follows:

Grade

Tullamore

Portlaoise

Athlone

Nenagh

Principal Officer

0

0

0

0

Assistant Principal

0

0

1

5

Higher Executive Officer/Administrative Officer

6

12

9

17

Executive Officer

15

22

17

17

Staff Officer

1

1

1

4

Clerical Officer

42

39

47

52

Total

64

74

75

95

Capital Allowances Schemes.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

98 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will include micro combined heat and power systems as part of the energy efficient technologies under the enhanced capital allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15956/08]

In Finance Act 2008, I introduced a new tax initiative to encourage the use of energy efficient equipment by registered companies. Section 46 allows companies to claim the full cost of energy efficient equipment, within specified classes of technology, against their taxable income in the year of purchase. The classes of technology are: lighting (including controls); motors and drives (variable speed drives); and building energy management systems. The list of approved products is being established by order of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) is responsible for maintaining this list. As micro combined heat and power (CHP) units do not fall within any of the specified classes of technology they would not attract accelerated capital allowances.

However, I have been informed by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that should the micro CHP unit contain as a component, a motor or variable speed drive that meets the efficiency criteria specified in Regulations made by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in accordance with section 46, and provided that all other requirements of section 46 are met, then the value of that motor or drive may be eligible for the allowances.

It should be noted that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources launched a new pilot Microgeneration Programme on 16 April which will be making available financial supports for the installation of certain small scale renewable electricity generation technologies. Micro CHP may be eligible for this Programme. Sustainable Energy Ireland will be making available further details of the Programme in the coming months.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

99 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has received all of their tax repayments and tax allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15979/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have requested the necessary information from the taxpayer to enable them to determine the correct tax credits due to the taxpayer and to process any tax repayments that may be due for the years 2006 and 2007.

Public Works Projects.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

100 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the progress to date by the Office of Public Works in implementing the recommendations of the Towards a Liffey Valley Park report prepared by ERM Ireland and published in November 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16072/08]

This study was undertaken on behalf of a Steering Group comprising representatives of the County Councils of Fingal, Kildare, South Dublin, Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works. It is a matter for each public body to consider making progress from within its own resources.

The Office of Public Works is undertaking a major improvement scheme at Castletown House and Park, including the restoration of the original eighteenth century garden features such as the lake and cascade. One of the main elements in this will be the development of the OPW managed grounds at Castletown together with the adjoining lands owned by Kildare County Council and Coillte into an integrated public parkland area with linked pathways across the river and through the woods.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

101 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on the recommendation directed to him in respect of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service in the Consumer Strategy Group Report; if he has, or will implement this recommendation; the reasoning behind this action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16077/08]

The Money, Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) has for a number of years been providing and continues to provide an important free, confidential and independent service for people experiencing financial difficulties. The 2005 report referred to by the Deputy recommended that MABS be represented on the Consultative Consumer Panel of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. In recognition of the positive contribution that a MABS input could make to the Consumer Panel I appointed a nominee of MABS, to the Consumer Panel in May 2006.

Land Registry.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

102 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he expects the go ahead for the new Land Registry offices in County Roscommon to be sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16081/08]

The OPW has completed an evaluation of tenders received for construction of new offices for 230 staff of the Property Registration Authority (formerly known as the Land Registry) and a preferred tenderer has been identified and notified. The necessary sanction to proceed with the project has been received from the Department of Finance. The Preferred Tenderer will now be required to apply for planning permission and on satisfactory completion of the planning process, the OPW will instruct the Preferred Tenderer to finalise working drawings, specifications and a Bill of Quantities with a view to a contract being placed and construction work commencing on site at the earliest possible date.

Tax Code.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

103 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will introduce tax relief for the costs of structural works to a home necessitated by a disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16093/08]

The position is that my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, provides Exchequer funding to individuals with a disability or the parents of children with a disability through the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability Scheme and the Mobility Aids Housing Grant Scheme. These schemes, operated by the local authorities, are designed to assist in the carrying out of works to provide adequate accommodation for people with a disability.

Details of the revised framework of grant aid to assist older people and people with a disability were announced as part of the Government's Housing Policy Statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, published in February 2007. The revised suite of Schemes was implemented on 1 November 2007.

I would also point out that mortgage interest relief is available at source in respect of interest paid on monies borrowed for the purchase, maintenance, repair or improvement of the taxpayer's main residence. The level of mortgage interest relief which a borrower receives is determined by the amount of interest which the borrower pays and by the rate of relief and the ceiling on that relief in force at any given time.

Full details about mortgage interest relief are available on the Revenue Commissionerswebsite — www.revenue.ie — or by contacting the Tax Relief at Source Lo-Call number1890 46 36 26.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

104 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will introduce tax relief for the extra costs of hiring a car suitable for person with a disability when they are on holidays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16094/08]

The position is that tax relief is not available in respect of expenses incurred in hiring a car suitable for a person with a disability when they are on holidays. However, in recent years, this Government has increased significantly the supports available through the direct expenditure system for individuals with disabilities. In all, it is projected that over €900 million of the 2008 Estimates allocation for the Department of Education and Science will be related to disability and special needs and €1.6 billion of the 2008 Estimates allocation for the Department of Health and Children will be related to disabilities.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

105 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on levying direct and indirect tax on online casinos based here at a level comparable to that levied in the Isle of Man; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16095/08]

I have been advised by my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D., that under Irish law, gaming and gambling is illegal, except where it is specifically permitted under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act. Certain gaming activities, such as those carried out in casinos, are prohibited. The Deputy will be aware that what is deemed to be illegal off-line is also illegal on-line and this is the case in relation to the provisions of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956-1986. In such a context, therefore, the question of taxing on-line casinos does not arise at present.

However, the issue of internet gambling is one of the matters considered by the Casino Committee on regulating gaming in Ireland which has reported to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is expected that the Report of the Casino Committee will be published shortly and the Government plans to establish an All-Party Committee to consider its content.

Data Protection.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

106 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he will take in his Department to protect computer systems from theft and from the release of sensitive personal information which is held on these computer systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16145/08]

My Department has a stringent policy and set of procedures for protecting computer systems. The computer systems in my Department are housed in dedicated computer rooms accessed only by appropriate IT personnel and managed by a security system. Within my Department's IT infrastructure, systems can only be accessed by individuals based on their access permission set up by the IT network and system administrator and the number of such individuals is kept to a minimum. My Department has recently begun the process to enforce encryption of data stored on laptops.

Tax Code.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

107 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reducing the rate of VAT on defibrillators from 21% to 13.5% in view of the fact that they can save lives and are badly needed by many clubs throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16208/08]

The position is that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, I would point out that the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service depends on the nature of the good or service and not on the status of the consumer. Accordingly, there is no provision in EU law that would permit the removal or reduction of VAT based on the social or economic status of the consumer or community group.

In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators. Therefore, the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the measures he proposes to take to address the issue of competitiveness in the economy thereby protecting inward investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16372/08]

Improving national competitiveness is essential to facilitate a re-balancing of the economy towards more sustainable, export-led growth and to maintain our attractiveness as a location for inward investment. While external factors such as the exchange rate have an impact on domestic costs, these are beyond our control. As such, we must seek to control those costs which we can influence. We must also take steps to improve productivity.

In support of these objectives, the Government is committed to maintaining a low burden of taxation on capital and labour, and has implemented a range of policies aimed at improving competition in product markets and flexibility in the labour market. We are also investing heavily in physical and human capital under the National Development Plan. These measures will help restore competitiveness and ensure that Ireland creates the right environment for foreign investment and export-led growth.

Of course, improving the economy's competitive position will also require sensible wage developments. It is particularly important that the current round of pay talks delivers on this — wage increases that cannot be justified on productivity grounds will, if achieved, only constitute short-term gains with significant long-term costs for all.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

109 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason holders of UK bank and credit cards living here are being penalised with having to pay stamp duty from Ireland when their account is with a UK bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16382/08]

A Stamp Duty on financial cards is chargeable: a) in respect of credit card accounts maintained by a financial institution at any time during the twelve month period ending on 1 April, and b) in respect of ATM / debit cards issued at any time which are valid on 31 December in a year. A financial institution is entitled to pass the charge on to the account holder.

A card issued by a foreign financial institution to an individual with an address in the State is liable to stamp duty and the location of the card issuer is irrelevant. This ensures that there is equity in treatment between resident individuals regardless of the location of the card issuer.

Customs Service.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

110 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied that the number of customs and excise officers at international and regional airports here and the number of checks carried out by such officers conforms to the minimum requirements set down by the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16399/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there are no minimum requirements set down by the European Union in relation to the number of Customs and Excise Officers at international and regional airports or for the number of checks to be carried out at those airports.

As regards the Customs controls at Irish airports, I am advised that there is a permanent Customs presence at the three main airports. This staffing resource is kept under constant review in particular to take account of emerging smuggling trends and any traffic increases at these airports.

Customs controls at the smaller airports are risk-based and are carried out by mobile Customs enforcement staff. Attendance is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Flights with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating would attract particular interest. These attendances cover the full range of flight times. As in the case of the three main airports, this staffing resource is also kept under constant review.

It is important to note by way of context that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than anti smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of the smaller airports where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In fact some of the smaller ones have no international flights at all. The approach has of necessity been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

I have been assured by the Revenue Commissioners that they are satisfied with the level of Customs controls at airports. In particular, they are satisfied that the risk-based approach applied at the smaller airports remains valid and that their operations at these airports are on par with, and may even exceed, those of many other EU Member States.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

111 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of sniffer dogs available to customs and excise officers; the number of trained dog handlers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16400/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners who have responsibility for the Customs service, that they currently deploy twelve detector dog teams at strategic locations around the country including our ports, airports and international postal depots. Each of the dog teams consists of a trained dog handler and sniffer dog. The Customs Dog teams are supported on an ongoing basis in their routine work and during specific operations by other Customs Enforcement Officers. The teams include "sit and stare" type dogs, which are used specifically, but not exclusively, to screen passengers arriving at our ports and airports, together with proactive detector dogs, suitable for the examination of luggage and freight and multipurpose dogs suitable for both passenger, freight and tourist traffic. The main emphasis is on drugs detection but there is also a tobacco and cash detection capability. Customs detector dog teams also provide back-up for An Garda Síochána, on request.

Financial Services Regulation.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

112 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has made a decision on raising the level of deposits protected under deposit protected schemes in view of the greater uncertainty which prevails. [16407/08]

I would remind the Deputy that, as I have mentioned in response to previous similar questions, the first and most robust line of defence for depositors must be a well-managed system of prudential regulation and supervision so as to try to minimise the risk that a Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS) needs to be activated. Recent assessments by bodies such as the IMF have confirmed that the Irish regime for financial regulation complies with best international practice.

I might also point out that the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland has confirmed that Irish financial institutions have only very limited exposure to impaired sub-prime or related assets. Moreover, Irish banks have been solidly profitable over recent years. In these circumstances, I consider that Irish banks are well placed to cope with current uncertainty prevailing at the international level.

The Deputy will also be aware that, arising from an Ecofin Council meeting last October, a review of the EU DGS was initiated. That review is ongoing and Irish officials are participating in the review. I will, of course, consider in that context any specific changes required in the Irish DGS to ensure that savers in Ireland benefit from safeguards in line with EU best practice.

Disabled Drivers.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

113 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will change the medical criteria for qualification for the disabled drivers and passengers tax relief scheme to include people who do not satisfy the strict criteria of the current scheme but who have a medical need to have their car adapted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16482/08]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations.

As the Deputy will be aware there was an interdepartmental review of the Scheme. Some 12,500 people benefited under the scheme in 2007 at an overall estimated cost of €74 million. Any changes would have to be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

State Property.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

114 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding an estate (details supplied) in County Cork; if he is satisfied that the State received adequate consideration for the sale of its property; if this transaction was ever examined as to its propriety; the steps taken by his Department to safeguard the property interests of the State in such transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16496/08]

Under Section 28 (2) of the State Property Act 1954, the Minister for Finance assumes responsibility for all personal property and land vested in or held in trust for a body corporate (other than personal property or land held by such body in trust for another person) immediately prior to its dissolution. Upon the dissolution of the body corporate, such property becomes State property. The effect of Section 28 is that the Minister does not hold the assets of dissolved companies as beneficial owner. He holds them in trust. The title which the Minister acquires under this section has been described as a defeasible title since, if the dissolved company is restored to the Register of Companies within twenty years of the date of its dissolution, its property is automatically restored to it. The State Property Act also includes, in Section 31, a power for the Minister to waive the interest acquired under Section 28 of the Act.

It appears that the property which is the subject of the current question was held within a company which was struck off the Register of Companies in September, 1972 for failure to file annual returns with the Companies Office. The beneficial owner of the property applied to my Department for a waiver of the interest acquired by the Minister for Finance under the provisions of the State Property Act and that waiver, in respect of which the consideration was £160, was completed in October, 1986. The effect of the waiver would have been to allow the beneficial owner to complete the process of assembling a satisfactory title. The waiver itself would have formed only a limited element in the establishment of that title and the transaction was a normal exercise of my Department's functions.

I wish to advise the Deputy that a question similar to the current question was answered by me in November last. At the time the reply to that question was prepared, it was understood to relate to an adjacent property which was the subject of a similar corporate holding structure. I am now advised that that question was intended to refer to the same property as the current question.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

115 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16531/08]

The following table outlines the meetings I have had in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries between May 2005 and April 2008.

Details of meetings with non-OECD countries May 2005-April 2008

Date

Meeting held with

Location

Items discussed

24 Jun 2005

Vice Premier of China Minister for Finance China

Beijing

General Economic Issues

25 Jun 2005

Ministers for Finance Indonesia and Singapore

Tianjin

General Economic Issues

08 Apr 2006

Minister for Finance Malaysia

Vienna

General Economic Issues

09 May 2006

Minister for Industry, Trade and Development Brazil

Dublin

General EconomicIssues

18 May 2006

Minister for Economic Affairs and Communication Estonia

Dublin

General Economic Issues

05 Jul 2006

Minister for Finance and Economy of the Government of the Republic of Serbia

Dublin

General Economic Issues — learning from the Irish experience in attracting foreign investment

5 July 2006

Minister for Finance Jamaica

Dublin

Artists Tax Exemption

21 Nov 2006

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Economic Development, Mauritius

Dublin

General Economic Issues

2 Oct 2007

Israeli Ambassador to Ireland

Dublin

Courtesy Call

12 Dec 2007

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom and Ireland

Dublin

General Economic Issues

10 Mar 2008

Prime Minister of Vietnam

Dublin

Purpose of the meeting was to facilitate the signing of the Double Taxation Agreement between Ireland & Vietnam

10 Mar 2008

Prime Minister of Vietnam

Dublin

Hosted a Dinner (Deputised for Taoiseach)

13 Mar 2008

Outgoing Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur

St. Patrick’s Day Programme

14 Mar 2008

Minister for Finance Singapore

Kuala Lumpur

St. Patrick’s Day Programme

17 Mar 2008

Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam

Hanoi

St. Patrick’s Day Programme

Residential Property.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

116 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the value of all residential property here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16539/08]

My Department does not compile the necessary information that would be required to answer the Deputy's specific question. One method of estimation would be to multiply the total number of residential dwellings by the average price of such dwellings. However, one must be cautious of drawing any conclusions from such an estimate, given the crude assumptions that would be required. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government publishes statistics regarding the stock of dwellings and average prices of new and second-hand dwellings. This information is available on their website at: http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/StatisticsandRegularPublications/ HousingStatistics/

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

117 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if the home care grant will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16405/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

118 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive recruitment freeze has had the effect of making it difficult for graduate physiotherapists to secure jobs and that students were encouraged to enter college physiotherapy courses in the expectation of increased employment within the HSE for graduate physiotherapists, in view of the Bacon Report of 2001; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16447/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

204 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive recruitment freeze has had the effect of making it difficult for graduate physiotherapists to secure jobs, that college places have been significantly increased in physiotherapy since the Bacon Report of 2001 and that it is proving difficult for graduate physiotherapists to secure employment with the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16446/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 204 together.

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This pause did not involve random job cuts but did mean that the recruitment of staff to approved positions was delayed. The HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process.

This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions Circular 01/2008. This circular sets out the HSE Employment Control Framework for 2008 and is aimed at ensuring that health services are delivered in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 National Service Plan and within the funding provided by Government.

There has been a growing demand for, and investment in, physiotherapy services over the last number of years. A particular priority for this Department and the Department of Education and Science in recent years has been the expansion of the supply of therapy graduates. Training places for physiotherapists have increased by 126% since 1997 (from 64 to 145). My Department has worked closely with the HSE in the provision of clinical placements for these students which is an essential component of the therapy degree programmes.

I am aware that an issue has arisen whereby some physiotherapy graduates have had difficulty in obtaining employment. My Department has been addressing this situation in a proactive manner over the last year with a view to ensuring that the various factors which contributed to it are addressed. In this regard, the Department has chaired a working group with the HSE comprising the relevant stakeholders and has identified the contributing factors to this complex situation. An Action Plan has been developed to address these matters and the situation is being closely monitored.

The Deputy may wish to note that between 1997 and end December 2007, the number of physiotherapists employed in the public health service increased by 139%. In addition, arising from the Budget Day package approved by Government for 2008, an additional 1,050 new posts have been approved for the health services. These include 710 posts for the Disability sector. It is anticipated that a number of these posts will be therapy professionals. The filling of these service development posts will be progressed by the HSE through its employment control process.

Accident and Emergency Services.

James Reilly

Ceist:

119 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason patients are spending unacceptable amounts of time on trolleys in accident and emergency in view of the implementation of her accident and emergency ten-point plan combined with her description of the accident and emergency situation as a national emergency in March 2006, the subsequent establishment of the accident and emergency task force and the publication of the ED task force report and the setting of target waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16778/08]

184,159 people attended at 34A&E departments in January and February this year. Of these, about 61,000, or one-third, were admitted as in-patients. The vast majority of these patients were admitted without delay. The HSE reports daily on the numbers of the remaining patients at 2 p.m. who are not admitted immediately. They break this down in waiting times between 0-6 hours, 6-12 hours, 12-24 hours and over 24 hours.

The number of patients waiting in each category as a proportion of the total who are not admitted immediately can be calculated daily by anyone who accesses the HSE website. The number of patients waiting in each category as a proportion of total admissions is not immediately apparent from the published figures, since the majority who are admitted immediately are not reported daily.

The HSE is also committed to monitoring and reporting on the total length of time patients spend in Emergency Departments, whether they are admitted or not. A number of hospitals have commenced reporting this information and the HSE expects to be in a position to publish data on up to 18 hospitals in the next few months.

Significant additional resources have been provided to address problems arising in Emergency Departments. These include additional long stay beds, and a range of community based measures aimed at reducing the need to use acute hospital services. A draft national code of practice for integrated discharge planning is at the final stage of development and is due to be completed next month.

I am committed to continuing to focussing on alleviating pressures on Emergency Departments, reducing waiting times, freeing up capacity and allowing for more timely admission and discharges.

Health Care Associated Infections.

James Reilly

Ceist:

120 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the impact financial cuts having on laboratory testing for MRSA and other hospital acquired infections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16779/08]

Tackling all Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) continues to be a priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%.

I have been informed by the HSE that all hospitals throughout the country will continue to maintain their existing levels of service in this important area. Laboratory services are in effect demand-led and often have to deal with fluctuations in the need for their services for a wide variety of reasons. They are a crucial part of both hospital and community health services and while demands are high so too is the skill, expertise and commitment of the staff providing the services. Hospital networks throughout the country have also received approval to recruit scientists (in addition to pharmacists and infection control nurses) specifically for healthcare associated infection services, many of which are now in place.

At a European level, the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS) was established in 1999 in response to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in Europe. EARSS comprises a network of over 800 microbiological laboratories serving some 1,200 hospitals in 30 countries that collects routinely generated antimicrobial susceptibility testing data on invasive infections caused by seven important bacterial pathogens. As of final quarter of 2007, 44 Irish laboratories serving 65 acute hospitals (public and private) participate in EARRS representing 100% coverage of the Irish population.

In quarter 4 of 2007, 28.8% of Staphylococcus Aureus isolates were Methicillin resistant compared to 40% in quarters 3 of 2007. This is a statistically significant difference. The annual trends indicate that the portion on MRSA in Ireland levelled off at approximately 42% between 2002 and 2006. In 2007, preliminary data indicate that this has dropped to 38.5%. If the trend for 2008 remains downwards, it will indicate that our policies relating to control of healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance in Ireland are having a positive impact.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that a sustained effort to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur is being maintained.

Hospital Accommodation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans for a new ten-bed spinal injuries unit at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15936/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

122 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason emergency admissions to psychiatric institutions are being delayed for several days due to the lack of such specialist services as stated by a person (details supplied) at the recent Irish Medical Organisation annual general meeting. [15939/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

123 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to introduce specialist transplant co-ordinators in all of the regional acute hospitals here in order to increase the low rate of conversion of potential donors to recovered organs. [15940/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

124 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a six year audit of cancer services at St. James’s Hospital which has shown dramatic increases in urological and other cancers and that this is the first audit carried out here to provide long-term outcome data on cancer patients which enables for the first time a comparison of cancer care at the hospital with international standards and benchmarks; and if she will urge other hospitals to carry out such an audit (details supplied). [15941/08]

I officially launched the Six-Year Cancer Audit Report, St. James's Hospital 2001-2006 on 7 April last. High quality information which is timely, accessible and accurate is vital to the implementation of the Health Service Executive National Cancer Control Programme.

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. The Registry has published a number of comparisons of cancer care and outcomes in Ireland with those in other countries, most recently the EUROCARE report on cancer survival in Europe and the imminent CONCORD report on cancer outcomes in five continents, as well as audits of cancer treatment against international standards. Continued development of cancer information systems has been given a high priority by the Director of the National Cancer Control Programme. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €1m to the Registry this year to support the further development of quality and audit systems in all eight designated cancer centres, which includes St. James's Hospital.

Hospital Accommodation.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

125 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange funding, which is both appropriate and necessary, to facilitate the opening of the recently completed dementia unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Mountmellick, County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15943/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

126 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a recent comment by a person (details supplied), that general practitioners are in danger of suffering from heart attacks and other medical problems because of the workload that has been foisted upon them. [15949/08]

I understand the comments referred to by the Deputy were made in reference to a motion which was passed at the recent Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) AGM, which called for a negotiated GP contract that would recognise that chronic illness care is being transferred to general practice and that this additional work should be resourced and rewarded. The current General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme GP contract is based on a diagnosis and treatment model. It is my view and that of the Health Service Executive that we need to move to a new GP contract with an increased emphasis on the prevention of illness and the management of chronic conditions. I can assure the House that, in doing so, it is not the intention to put at risk the health and safety of GP contractors.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the personnel census for the first quarter of 2008 for the Health Service Executive as well as for the last quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2007. [15950/08]

The main source of employment data in the health services is the Health Service Executive's Health Services Personnel Census which is derived from payroll history in each agency. The census collects data on actual staffing level for each staff grade in each health agency at a given point in time. Up to and including 2002, the census was conducted annually. Since 2003 the census has been carried out quarterly at the end of March, June, September and December of each year. The data referred to in the question are set out in the following table, the source for which is the Health Service Personnel Census:

Health Service Personnel Census by Grade Category

Grade category

30/06/2007

31/12/2007

31/03/2008

Medical/Dental

7,926

8,005

8,007

of which Consultants

2,176

2,220

2,214

Nursing

38,609

39,006

38,047

Health and Social Care Professionals

15,441

15,705

15,681

Management/Admin

18,259

18,043

17,930

General Support Staff

13,249

12,900

12,873

Other Patient and Client Care

18,088

17,846

17,759

Total

111,572

111,505

110,297

Notes

1 excludes Home Helps.

2 Management/ Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 The methodology under which employment figures are compiled changed during the course of 2007 with the addition of personnel not previously included in subsumed agencies such as the Health Service Executive-EA (HSEA), the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (GMSPB), Health Boards Executive (HeBe) and the Office for Health Management (now part of the HR function) together with many other posts in projects or post previously excluded such as HRBS/PPARS and Value-for-Money posts (all of which are largely in the Management/Administrative stream) together with the inclusion of student nurses and chaplains. This change was undertaken to represent health service employment on a like-for-like basis with employment ceilings and to more accurately represent a reconfigured health service's employment information. As a result of this change year-on-year figures are not comparable.

4 Caution should be exercised in making grade category comparisons due to changes in category composition over time.

National Diabetes Policy.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

128 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a national strategy for the treatment and prevention of diabetes in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15958/08]

My Department published a national policy on diabetes in 2006 — Diabetes: Prevention and Model for Patient Care. Following the publication of the report, the Health Service Executive established an Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes to implement the recommendations on prevention, diet and management of diabetes. The group has identified as one of its priorities the development of an Integrated Care Model for the treatment of diabetes. This model will focus on the joint participation of hospital consultants and general practitioners in the planned delivery of care for patients. The Expert Advisory Group has also identified the other areas of diabetes care that need priority attention such as retinopathy screening, paediatric diabetes, patient education and empowerment, and podiatry.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

129 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if consideration has been given to providing direct funding for continuos glucose sensors for diabetes patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15959/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

130 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond positively to the reasonable and finite demands of post polio survivors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15966/08]

Following a submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children in December 2004, the Post Polio Support Group received a substantial increase in their funding from approximately €84,000 to over €300,000 per annum. The organisation is in receipt of an annual grant of €398,806 from the Health Service Executive. I am aware that access to the long-term illness scheme has been an issue of concern for the Post Polio Support Group. There are no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions under the long-term illness scheme. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations. Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the long-term illness scheme can use the Drug Payment scheme, which protects against excessive medicine costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family pays more than €90 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

National Lottery Funding.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

131 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is funding available to financially support a conference (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15976/08]

Applications for funding from the Department of Health and Children's National Lottery allocation are received from individuals, groups, and organisations with an involvement in the provision of health services to specific client groups and national groups providing information and support. To date, no application for National Lottery funding has been received from the organisation referred to by the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

132 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will look into the matter of the six-year-old child (details supplied) in County Tipperary who, despite several referrals from their general practitioner and speech therapist, has been unable to access the ear nose and throat service at Waterford Regional Hospital due to prolonged waiting lists, as reported by the ENT surgeon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15978/08]

The management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in accordance with its operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. Therefore, the HSE is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to arrange to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy. Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the parents or guardian of the person in question to contact the Fund directly in relation to his case.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

133 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had to wait 14 months for an outpatient examination in the urology department in Tallaght hospital. [15990/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Bannon

Ceist:

134 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford is still on the waiting list for a hip replacement since December 2007; the reason any surgeon’s waiting list for same should stand at 131 patients without action being taken to provide alternative surgical care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15991/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

135 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 431 of 26 September 2007, if the briefs have been completed for the subgroups recommended by the Report of the Universal Neonatal Hearing Screening Group; the position in relation to the implementation of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15998/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

136 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Cork University Hospital has been without a helipad for the past number of years; the plans in place to reinstate a helipad at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16021/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

137 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place for the future development of the regional centre of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service in Cork City. [16022/08]

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has sought capital funding to build a new blood transfusion centre in Cork. The service has carried out an assessment of the need for this centre in accordance with the Department of Finance's Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector. It has also submitted a report to me, prepared by a Focus Group, which was chaired by the Chief Executive of the IBTS. I have met the Chairperson and some members of the Board and have informed them that I intend to bring a Memorandum to Government on the issue shortly.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

138 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who needed an urgent appointment in a hospital in Dublin three weeks ago has not been given a bed to date. [16023/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

139 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a proposal (details supplied). [16058/08]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

140 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist people with mental health issues especially when they complete a community employment scheme. [16059/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 140 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

141 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [16061/08]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

147 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [16106/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 147 together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Asylum Support Services.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

142 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the general practitioners services available to asylum seekers during their first weeks as asylum seekers while they are awaiting their medical cards; the cost of providing those services in terms of payments to GPs and pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16074/08]

Under the Health Act, 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the healthcare of asylum seekers is provided by the HSE in the context of general arrangements governing eligibility for public health services, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter addressed and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

143 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children over the age of seven waiting to have an appointment with an occupational therapist in each Health Service Executive region; the length of time they are waiting for appointments in the same regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16084/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on 1 June 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50 million of investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Food Safety Authority.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is proposing to introduce a ban on additives in children’s food as called for by an association (details supplied). [16086/08]

Public concerns have been raised following the publication last year of a study by researchers at Southampton University in the United Kingdom that suggested a link between the intakes of a combination of food additives to altered behavioural patterns in children. Following its publication, a scientific panel of experts, including experts in behaviour, child psychiatry, allergy and statistics, from the European Food Safety Authority assessed the findings. The authority reached a broadly similar conclusion to the UK's Committee on Toxicity that there is limited evidence that the additives have a small but measurable effect on children's behaviour, although the effects seen are not consistent and only certain children were affected. The authority further stated that the findings of the study could not be used as a basis for altering current acceptable intake levels. The additives in question are six colours (E110-Sunset yellow, E122-Carmosine, E102-Tartrazine, E124-Ponceau 4R, E129-Allura Red, E104-Quinoline Yellow) and a preservative (E211-Sodium Benzoate). An E-number means that a food additive has been thoroughly assessed through extensive safety evaluation and toxicological tests by EFSA, or its predecessor, the Scientific Committee on Food, and has been accepted as safe.

I understand that the majority of manufacturers are already in the process of reformulating products to remove these particular food colours. The additives, particularly the colours, are used in a range of sweets, snacks and soft drinks. Researchers from UCD have studied the Irish National Food Ingredient Database and the 7-day dietary survey of 594 children aged 5-12 years. They found that, of the total number of brand codes in the database, 94.8% did not contain any of the additives examined in the UK study. Ireland applies EU legislation on food additives. In a recent meeting in Brussels, the European Commission stated that any action to limit or prohibit the use of these colours in foods on the European market would have to be firmly based on scientific evidence and be equally applicable in all Member States. Such a measure should also apply to foods imported into Europe. The European Commission's Expert Committee on Food Additives is expected to meet before the summer to consider whether additional management controls on the colours are necessary, and if so, the form these should take. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of food legislation. It has advised me, based on current scientific evidence set out above, that a ban is not justified. The authority has advised parents of children in Ireland who display symptoms of hyperactivity or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to consider limiting their children's consumption of food products containing these food colours.

National Reference Laboratory.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

145 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is proposing to provide the necessary resources to create a national reference laboratory to identify types of clostridium difficile in health facilities. [16087/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. As such it is for the HSE to determine priorities and decide how these funds are used to deliver the best and most efficient and safe public health service. However, I have been informed by the HSE that upcoming national guidance on clostridium difficile is addressing the question of such a reference laboratory.

Health Services.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

146 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of grants her Department and the Health Service Executive provided to assist with the purchase of digital directional hearing aids in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16096/08]

My Department does not provide any grants towards the purchase of digital directional hearing aids. Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided in its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the provision of hearing aids under its Community Audiology Service. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the question raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 147 answered with Question No. 141.
Question No. 148 answered with Question No. 41.

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

149 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who was first referred to St. Finbarr’s Hospital for orthodontic treatment in 2003, but whose file appears to have been misplaced between then and 2008; if she will arrange to have this matter dealt with in a satisfactory manner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16117/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

150 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a service (details supplied). [16118/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-09 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on 1 June 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50 million investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

151 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a person (details supplied). [16119/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

152 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical cards applied for in January, February and March 2007 and January, February and March of 2008. [16122/08]

Details of the number of medical card holders are provided to my Department each month by the Health Service Executive. The figures are provided on a net basis showing the balance after new cards have been issued and other cards, as appropriate, have been deleted from the Executive's database, e.g. following a review of a person's circumstances. The following table shows the number of medical card holders on the last day of January, February and March in 2007 and 2008.

2007

2008

January

1,227,577

1,280,510

February

1,228,468

1,288,621

March

1,238,330

1,292,086

As the figures sought by the Deputy regarding medical card applications for the specified months are not routinely provided to my Department and as the HSE has the operational and funding responsibility for the medical card benefit, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Psychological Service.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

153 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the publication of the Health Service Executive’s national review showing that children with urgent mental health problems are waiting more than three years to see a psychiatrist; if she will report on when a social work out-of-hours service will be made available for those children at risk in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16142/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

154 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech therapists in County Laois; the average length of waiting lists to see a speech and language therapist; the qualification criteria to be seen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16148/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-09 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on 1 June 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50 million of investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

155 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of speech therapists in County Offaly; the average length of waiting lists to see a speech and language therapist; the qualification criteria to be seen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16149/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75 million in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on 1 June 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements. The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50 million of investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

156 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if patient transport will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [16153/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

157 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of child care workers attached to the south Lee area in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16154/08]

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

158 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of social workers attached to the south Lee area in Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16155/08]

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

159 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of vacancies for social workers and child care workers in the south Lee area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16156/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 to 159, inclusive, together.

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future. Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

160 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment under the health repayment scheme in view of the fact that a decision on this matter was reached in July 2007. [16160/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 19.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

162 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the services available for stroke victims in County Louth; the proposed improvements for such services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16174/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16180/08]

People and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive and, with the exception of people aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold. As the HSE has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

164 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason people attending an oral hearing in respect of the repayment scheme understand from correspondence the hearing will be conducted by an appeals officer when, in fact, it is conducted by a solicitor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16184/08]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. When the Scheme Administrator issues a decision on an application to a claimant, a copy of Section 16 of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 is included, informing the applicant of their entitlement to appeal the decision. Claimants who appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator have the option of requesting an oral hearing conducted by an Appeals Officer. Section 16 of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides that the person appointed to consider appeals shall be a barrister or solicitor of not less than five years standing.

Health Service Prosecutions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

165 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has on a yearly basis in the past five years taken prosecutions in the courts against nursing home proprietors and persons in charge for breaches of regulations; the breaches of the regulations in each case; the name of the persons who were successfully prosecuted; if the nursing home closed or if new proprietors or persons in charge were in place as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16188/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

166 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects to receive the Health Service Executive review report on its child and family services for 2007; and the action she has taken to ensure it is published during the first half of 2008. [16192/08]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

169 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if she or the Minister of State with responsibility for Children has received the Health Service Executive review report on its child and family services for 2006; if not, the action taken by either of them to force the HSE to comply with its obligation to produce an annual report on the aforesaid services; the date when the report will be published; and if the date is not known, the reason for same. [16196/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 169 together.

Under Section 8 of the Child Care Act, 1991, the HSE is obliged to prepare an annual report on the adequacy of the Child Care and Family Support Services and submit a copy to the Minister for Health and Children. The first year for which the HSE had responsibility for preparing the Section 8 Report was 2005. Previously this report was prepared by individual Health Boards.

The HSE have informed me that a working group was established in October 2005 to develop a national template for the HSE Section 8 Report. This template was finalised in April 2006 and the 2005 Report was subsequently produced.

The HSE have assured me that improved procedures are now in place to ensure more timely preparation of Section 8 Reports. In that regard the 2006 report is nearing completion, and the 2007 Report will be available in summer 2008. The Office of the Minister for Children will be working with the HSE to achieve this objective and to make the report even more informative.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

167 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the Health Service Executive quarterly performance monitoring report on children’s services for 1 January 2008 to 31 March 2008 for each HSE region on the number of notifications of child abuse or neglect, the number of assessments conducted following notification, the number of children on waiting lists following notification of child abuse or neglect and the average time spent on a waiting list for assessment following notification of child abuse or neglect; and if she will detail the information contained in the report. [16193/08]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that their 2008 National Service Plan commits them to developing from the end of Quarter 2 (i.e. starting 1st July, 2008) a means of collecting information on the following for each administrative area: a) number of notifications made of child abuse or neglect; b) number of assessments conducted following notifications; c) number of children on waiting lists for assessments following notification of child abuse or neglect; and d) average time spent on a waiting list for assessment following notification of child abuse or neglect.

Reporting against this information will be based on the phased implementation of standardised business processes through the Childcare Information System project.

Since the inception of the Office of the Minster for Children, there has been a significant build up in both the flow and quality of management information available. Key components of this information management include the ‘Analysis of Child Care Interim Data Set' prepared annually by the HSE and the regular service plan monitoring reports submitted to my Department by the HSE. The further development of this information strategy is set to continue with the completion of the joint OMC/HSE Knowledge Management Policy and its subsequent implementation plan. This implementation will include a pilot scheme which will integrate the children service data sets into the HSE's award-winning innovative Health Atlas project.

All of these initiatives, if accompanied by planned commentary and analysis, will allow for much enhanced management of children's services by cross referencing a series of relevant data and research sources. It is anticipated that this capacity will begin to be available to HSE and OMC policy makers, managers and front line staff in 2009 in line with the requirements and approach of the OMC developed Agenda of Children Services, the overarching policy for children services in Ireland.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

168 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the guidelines set down by her Department for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16195/08]

The Orthodontic Review Group, established by the HSE in 2006, finalised its report last year. One of the recommendations contained in the report relates to the guidelines originally issued in 1985. The Review Group made a unanimous recommendation to the HSE to replace these guidelines with new assessment criteria based on Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN). The national implementation of the proposed guidelines will ensure equity of access to treatment for all patients deemed eligible.

The implementation of the new guidelines relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 169 answered with Question No. 166.

Child Care Services.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

170 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the date when she or the Minister of State with responsibility for Children first received the Health Service Executive review report on its child and family services for 2005; the reason the report only first appeared in full on the HSE website at the end of February; the reason it has not to date been published in book form; and if it will be so published. [16197/08]

Under Section 8 of the 1991 Children Act, the HSE is obliged to prepare an annual report on the adequacy of the Child Care and Family Support Services and submit a copy to the Minister for Health and Children. The first year in which the HSE had responsibility for preparing the Section 8 Report was 2005, the report having previously been prepared by individual Health Boards.

A working group was established by the HSE in October 2005 to develop a national template for the HSE Section 8 Report. This template was finalised in April 2006, and the 2005 Report was subsequently produced and submitted to the Office of the Minister for Children on 11 June 2007.

Matters relating to the subsequent scheduling and manner of the publication of the report are proper to the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

171 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the health budget for each year from 1994 to date in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16199/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table. The table shows the Revised Estimates Volume provisional outturns in respect of the Department of Health and Children for the years 1994-2004.

Vote 40 in respect of the Health Service Executive was established in 2005. The table shows the combined provisional outturns for the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive in respect of the years 2005-2007. The figures for 2008 are the Revised Estimates Volume provision.

Gross Voted Funding Department of Health and Children and Health Service Executive

Year

Gross Capital and Non-Capital

€ m

1994

2,918.028

1995

3,104.345

1996

3,136.595

1997

3,636.742

1998

4,124.555

1999

4,831.140

2000

5,656.038

2001

7,077.260

2002

8,353.211

2003

9,302.314

2004

10,559.066

2005*

11,872.218

2006*

12,702.962

2007*

14,395.168

2008*

15,460.603

Source: provisional outturn published in the Revised Estimates Volumes 1995-2008.

*Figure is the total of Vote 39 Department of Health and Children and Vote 40 HSE combined.

Child Care Services.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

172 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will explain the changes which will take place in regard to the level of funding of child care programmes and the NCIP after June 2008 with a detailed analysis for each project in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16204/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) under which the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being implemented.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme was introduced on 1st January 2008 with an allocation of €154.2 million over 3 years. The Scheme continues to support community-based childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports of Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement in place for all parents. Community childcare services qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. The parent profile of each service, and the amount of subvention it receives, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which they return as part of the application process. The subvention received by services is, in turn, reflected in reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate community services which were funded under the previous scheme to adjust to the new arrangements, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. Under these arrangements, existing grant recipients continued to receive grant support during January/June 2008 at the same level as in 2007. From July 2008, the new level of grant funding for these services will be based on the information they have returned to my Office. Services which benefit from an increased level of funding under the CCSS will receive the increased amount from 1st July 2008. Where the new arrangements would result in a reduction in funding for a particular service, that service will continue to receive 90% of its previous level of grant aid during July/December 2008. Should the service continue to qualify for a reduced level of funding in 2009 and 2010, it will continue to receive 85% of its previous level of grant aid in 2009 and 75% of its previous level of grant aid in 2010.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that the Childcare Directorate of my Office is in the course of notifying services of their individual grant levels for July-December 2008, including those in Co. Donegal, and that it is anticipated that this process will be completed early next month. I am confident that the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme is a fair and equitable way of supporting community childcare operators in the provision of an affordable and high quality service to parents, based on their means.

Hospital Services.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

173 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed plan to amalgamate the male and female wards at St. Conal’s Hospital is to go ahead; her views on whether the patients basic human rights are being violated by such a move; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16205/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

211 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the proposed amalgamation of the male and female wards in St. Conal’s Hospital in Letterkenny is to go ahead; her views on whether the Health Service Executive are infringing on the human rights of the patients, in view of the difficulties with such arrangements in the past; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16507/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 211 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if in view of an adjournment debate (details supplied) she will review the funding crisis that exists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16216/08]

As indicated to the Deputy when the question of funding for Páistí le Chéile was raised in a recent debate, funding for this project was provided by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. While I understand that this funding has now ceased, I must advise the Deputy that my Office is not in a position to accommodate this project under the current provisions of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which is implemented by my Office.

However, funding is provided by my Office under the NCIP to support the activities set out in the Action Plans of the 33 City and County Childcare Committees, including Roscommon County Childcare Committee which was involved in the pilot project funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The total NCIP funding provided to the Committees this year amounts to €13.3 million which represents an increase of more than 7% on the funding for the previous year. This includes €295,360 in funding approved for Roscommon County Childcare Committee, which is one of the highest allocations per capita in the country.

Parliamentary Questions.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

175 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 318 and 319 of 5 February 2008, the reason Dáil Éireann was mislead even though the Health Service Executive had two months to compile the statistics; the specific managers who signed off on the figures; when the errors with the reply came to light; when this Deputy was informed on each such error; if she will provide an accurate set of figures which the HSE is prepared to stand over; when an apology will be issued to Dáil Éireann regarding the whole debacle; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16217/08]

I asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to Deputy Damien English in relation to these two questions put down for answer on 5th February 2008 about cleaning costs in each hospital in the State. The Executive responded to Deputy English on 10th April 2008. Unfortunately, some incorrect information was given by the National Hospitals Office in the Executive's response and I regret that this has happened. I am informed by the Executive that this error came to attention soon afterwards and that corrected information together with an apology for the earlier error was sent to Deputy English on 23rd April 2008.

My Department has asked the Executive to review the information gathered for Deputy English together with the processes used to gather the information with the objective of finally ensuring that all the requested information is being sent to him. My Department has also asked the Executive to immediately take all necessary steps to avoid future errors of this nature.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

176 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a date for surgery for a knee replacement operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16220/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

John Perry

Ceist:

177 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place by the Health Service Executive to appoint a full-time cardiologist at Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16230/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

178 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospitals and the number of respite places which the Health Service Executive is cancelling in 2008; the alternatives that are to be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16332/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

179 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the assistance given to adults suffering from Asperger’s syndrome; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16333/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5's and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

180 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children when the process of mapping and profiling of primary care teams and health and social care networks in relation to the Wexford local health office will be finalised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16334/08]

The development of Primary Care Teams and Networks is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

James Bannon

Ceist:

181 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures that have been put in place to enable the residential house in Marian Avenue, Ballymahon to open, as it is completed but has been sitting idle for the past year due to lack of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16370/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

James Bannon

Ceist:

182 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding in place to open phase B of the Lamagh Respite House in Newtownforbes, County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16371/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under fives and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Funding.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

183 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that funding will be made available for research into muscular dystrophy as requested by an organisation (details supplied). [14246/08]

I met with representatives of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland in October 2007 and discussed the issue raised by the Deputy.

I subsequently wrote to Mr. Joe Mooney, Director of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland, on 7th February 2008 outlining the position in relation to funding research trials into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in the United Kingdom. There is no mechanism or budget for Government funding of U.K. health research.

I understand that Muscular Dystrophy Ireland held the first information day on "Advances in the Care of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy" for families and doctors on 2nd March. I was pleased to be able to support Muscular Dystrophy Ireland by providing over €9,000 towards the costs associated with the information day.

Health Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

184 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Meath will get a place at St. Joseph’s in Trim, County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16378/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason she has not availed of her power under section 45(3) of the Health Act 1970 to specify by regulations the classes of persons with full eligibility for medical services under that Act; the merits of the alternative, non-statutory approach for determining eligibility for services provided under statute; the reasoning behind the introduction and retention of the medical card scheme as a non-statutory alternative to the provisions of section 45; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16383/08]

Section 45 of the Health Act 1970 formed the statutory basis for the granting of full eligibility (i.e. medical cards) to certain categories of persons. The section has been amended on a number of occasions and, in broad terms, medical cards are now granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive (HSE), are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. In addition, persons aged 70 and over are entitled to a medical card, regardless of income.

Section 45(3) of the 1970 Act empowered but did not require the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, by regulations to specify a class or classes of persons who would have full eligibility. This provision has never been invoked by any of my predecessors and I have no plans to do so as I am satisfied that, in general, the system for assessment of persons in relation to medical card eligibility has worked well.

Nonetheless, in conjunction with the development of a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility for health and personal social services, my Department is reviewing the assessment criteria in the context of financial, medical and social need in line with the commitment in Towards 2016. A Steering Group has been established which is expected to complete this work in autumn 2008.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the Health Service Executive has complied with its obligation to publish, in accordance with section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997, the rules, procedures, practices, guidelines and interpretations used by it, and any index of any precedents kept by it, for the purposes of decisions, determinations or recommendations, under or for the purposes of determining eligibility to a medical card, to a general practitioner visit card, to general medical services and under any other enactment or scheme administered by it with respect to rights, privileges and benefits to which members of the public are or may be entitled or subject under those schemes; if not, if she will ensure the publication of the information; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16384/08]

The Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 applied, since its establishment, to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the same way as it did to the health boards, the Area Health Boards and the Eastern Regional Health Authority. The obligation on the HSE to produce a manual pursuant to Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and 2003 Act is set out in Schedule 7 of the Health Act 2004.

Consequently, the HSE is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the services provided by the Health Service Executive that do not have a specific statutory underpinning in the Health Acts 1947 to 2005; the basis according to which these services are provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16385/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will outline and explain the meaning of the use of the term “personal social services” when used by her Department and by the Health Service Executive; the services provided under the Health Acts 1947 to 2005 categorised as personal social services, as opposed to health services; the statutory basis for the provision of those services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16386/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that section 38 of the Health Act 2004 enables the Health Service Executive to arrange for the provision of health or personal social services by a service provider only if such services were, immediately before the establishment of the HSE, provided by the health boards themselves, difficulties are encountered in the provision of services which were not previously provided by the health boards; the way such difficulties are dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16390/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 188 and 191 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has functions under a broad range of legislation including the Health Acts 1947 to 2007, the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2007 and the Mental Health Acts 1945 to 2001. In relation to some services, more detailed and specific arrangements are provided for in regulations made under primary legislation.

A function of the HSE under the Health Act 2004 is to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services in accordance with that Act. The scope of what is generally understood by the term "health services" differs from country to country and in Ireland it is broader than in many other countries. For example, health care here includes areas such as child welfare and protection. In recent decades, there has also been a growing emphasis on the social context of health care ensuring that patients and clients are seen in the context of family and environmental relationships.

The use of the term "health and personal social services" in the 2004 Act does not refer to two distinct services but is intended as a more complete and contemporary description of the nature of actual services provided in the public health system consistent with our national concept of health care. "Health and personal social services" is therefore defined in the 2004 Act to mean services that immediately before the establishment day for the Executive (1 January 2005) were provided under the Acts referred to in Schedule 1 of the Act by a specified body as defined in section 56 of the Act. An extensive list of legislation including the Health Acts 1947 to 2001 is set out in the Schedule and covers areas as diverse as the provision of hospital services and adoption matters. The specified bodies defined in section 56 are the health boards, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Area Health Boards, the Hospital Bodies Administrative Bureau, the Health Boards Executive, the General Medical Payments Board, the Health Service Employers Agency and the Interim Health Service Executive.

The position in regard to section 38 of the Health Act 2004 as amended is that the section allows the HSE to enter into an arrangement with a person for the provision of a health and personal social service by that person on behalf of the Executive. As I have outlined, the definition of health and personal social services covers a broad spectrum of services. I am not aware of any issues arising in regard to the provision of services by service providers under section 38.

Health Service Contracts.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

189 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the bodies with which the Health Service Executive has contracts, agreements or arrangements carried over and given effect by virtue of section 63 of the Health Act 2004; if any of those contracts, agreements or arrangements are with voluntary hospitals; if so, the hospitals and the details of the contract, agreement or arrangement in question; when the contract, agreement or arrangement relating to the voluntary hospitals was last revisited or revised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16388/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the bodies with which the Health Service Executive has entered into arrangements under section 38 of the Health Act 2004 for the provision of health or personal social services on behalf of the executive; the number of such bodies that were previously party to contracts, agreements or arrangements carried over and given effect by virtue of section 63 of that Act; if any of the contracts, agreements or arrangements are with voluntary hospitals; if so, the hospitals and the details of the contract, agreement or arrangement in question; when the contract, agreement or arrangement relating to the voluntary hospitals was last revisited or revised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16389/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 and 190 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular questions raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Question No. 191 answered with Question No. 187.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a voluntary hospital, meaning a hospital which is substantially funded by means of an arrangement with the Health Service Executive under section 38 of the Health Act 2004, can also be a private hospital for the purposes of the Health Insurance Act 1994 (Minimum Benefit) Regulations 1996, meaning a hospital which provides prescribed health services but does not provide services to persons pursuant to their entitlements under Chapter II of Part IV of the Health Act 1970; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16391/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the services provided to persons pursuant to their entitlements under Chapter II of Part IV of the Health Act 1970, as referred to in the Health Insurance Act 1994 (Minimum Benefit) Regulations 1996; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16393/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 194 together.

Chapter II of Part IV of the Health Act 1970 requires the Health Service Executive to provide inpatient and outpatient services to persons with full eligibility and persons with limited eligibility, and allows for them to provide ambulance services. Inpatient and outpatient services within the meaning of the Health Act, 1970 are publicly funded services, provided by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive. Under Chapter II patients attending hospitals providing these services, including voluntary hospitals, may avail of inpatient services as either public or private patients, hence the reference in the Health Insurance Act (Minimum Benefit) Regulations, 1996. The Health Insurance Act (Minimum Benefit) Regulations 1996 serve a different purpose, insofar as they prescribe the minimum level of cover to be provided under health insurance contracts, and as such they are not comparable. Under these Regulations a private hospital means a hospital, other than a nursing home, which is not a publicly funded hospital.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the class of persons who have an entitlement to receive services from voluntary hospitals not provided or maintained by the Health Service Executive but substantially funded by it; the class of persons who have an entitlement to receive in-patient services from hospitals provided and maintained by the HSE itself; if any distinction is made for the purpose; if the arrangement between the HSE and the hospitals in question provides for an entitlement on the part of those with full eligibility under the Health Act 1970 to avail of services in those hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16392/08]

Eligibility for health services, including hospital services, is based on residency. Any person accepted by the Health Service Executive as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility or limited eligibility. Where a voluntary hospital enters into an agreement with the Health Service Executive under Section 38 of the Health Act 2004, all persons are eligible to avail of publicly funded hospital services which are being provided by the voluntary hospital on behalf of the HSE. From an eligibility perspective, there is no distinction made between publicly funded services provided by the HSE directly or those provided on its behalf.

Question No. 194 answered with Question No. 192.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the Health Service Executive has a full statutory basis for the services it provides free of charge, the services it provides at a fee and the services it provides on an optional or occasional basis; her views on the demographic and geographic anomalies that arise in the provision of services by the HSE throughout the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16395/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has a range of functions under the Health Acts 1947 to 2007 and other Acts including the Child Care Acts 1991 to 2007 and the Mental Health Acts 1945 to 2001.

The Health Act 1970 provides broadly for persons to have either full or limited eligibility for health services. Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service.

Persons with limited eligibility are eligible for in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, outpatient public hospital services including consultant services. Dental and routine ophthalmic and aural services are not provided by the State, but this treatment is provided to children who have been referred from a child health clinic or a school health examination. A maternity and infant care service is provided during pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth. In 2005, the GP Visit Card was introduced as a graduated benefit, so that people on lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Provision is made for charges in a number of areas, including inpatient charges and certain outpatient charges. There is also provision that persons with limited eligibility must meet the first €90 of prescribed drugs costs per month, above which the Drug Payments Scheme meets all further costs.

Before the establishment of the HSE, some variation in practice had developed over time, between the individual health boards, in relation to the provision of certain services. In the HSE's National Service Plan 2008, Section 8 of the Plan describes Consistency and Social Inclusion initiatives which are designed to provide and improve consistency of service provisions, ensure geographical equity and equity of access to treatment and care.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has arrived at a conclusion on the question as to whether persons specified as having full eligibility for services under the Health Act 1970 have a statutory entitlement to those services; if officials of her Department are still reviewing the question; when they might be expected to report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16396/08]

The Health Act, 1970 (as amended) provides for two categories of eligibility for all persons ordinarily resident in the country, i.e. full eligibility (medical card) and limited eligibility (all others). Entitlement to a medical card is determined mainly by reference to means, with provision for discretion to grant a card in cases of ‘undue hardship' where the income guidelines are exceeded. All persons aged over 70 years have full eligibility regardless of means.

Medical card holders are entitled to a full range of services including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultants services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultants services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service. Determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

As the Deputy will be aware, the current legislation has been in place for many years and there is a need now to have a clear set of statutory provisions that ensure equity and transparency and to bring the system up to date with developments in service delivery and technology that have occurred since the Health Act 1970. Accordingly, work is under way in the Department on a new legislative framework to provide for clear statutory provisions on eligibility and entitlement for health and personal social services. The legislation will define specific health and personal social services more clearly; set out who should be eligible for what services, as well as criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. As the Deputy will appreciate, this is a very complex undertaking as the current legislation has been in place since 1970, and there have been significant developments in services since then, with a growing emphasis on delivery of care in a community rather than institutional setting. Given the complexities around this area, it will be necessary to obtain comprehensive legal advice in relation to the proposed legislation.

Question No. 197 answered with Question No. 47.

Tobacco-Related Diseases.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

198 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of education carried out by her Department on the dangers of cigarettes among the youth here; her views on whether she is taking sufficient action in this regard, in view of the report from the Office of Tobacco Control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12468/08]

The prevalence of smoking among young people continues to be a cause of concern. Multiple strategies are required to reduce smoking prevalence, including education, enforcing legislation, health promotion campaigns, pricing and further controls on the sale and advertising of tobacco.

My Department and the Department of Education and Science work in partnership in relation to the promotion and protection of the health of children and young people in the school setting in the context of curriculum development, teacher education and related policy development. The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum, and the context in which it is delivered, is recognised as a significant commitment to health promotion in schools. The SPHE programme contains a specific module on smoking which is delivered to students as part of their curriculum up to Junior Certificate level.

The Health Service Executive also provides support for other education and awareness initiatives in relation to smoking. This work is undertaken through media campaigns, in the development of the Health Promoting Schools programme, through the "Smokers Quitline" service and through the smoking cessation services.

Hospital Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

199 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive is downgrading the level of service at Mallow General Hospital; if her attention has been drawn to the large geographical catchment area served by this hospital who will be obliged to travel longer distances to avail of specific hospital based health services; and if she will intervene to ensure the retention of the current level of service at the hospital. [16413/08]

It is essential that every health care provider and facility is fully cognisant of patient safety issues and takes account of these in the organisation, management and delivery of services.

In this context the HSE has indicated that it intends to undertake a systems and risk management review of surgical services at Mallow General Hospital. Draft terms of reference are being drawn up and will be discussed with the relevant parties before they are finalised. To ensure that surgical services continue to be delivered safely in the meantime, the hospital management met recently with the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and consultants at Mallow General Hospital and they have agreed arrangements for consultant surgeon cover at Mallow General Hospital, which will apply until 31 May 2008. The parties have also agreed to meet and discuss arrangements for surgical services after this period. The HSE will continue to work closely with all involved to ensure that a high quality service is available to all patients at Mallow General Hospital.

Care of the Elderly.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

200 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the alternative arrangements she has made to replace the provision of a respite care for elderly patients at Leopardstown Park Hospital in view of the fact that this hospital was providing approximately 30 hard-pressed carers a month with a break; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16418/08]

I understand that the HSE met with the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Leopardstown Park Hospital on Friday 25th April. It was possible through this meeting to draft a mechanism that would allow the hospital to continue respite care. It was agreed that the CEO and Chairman would contact the members of the Board of the hospital with a view to having this draft mechanism endorsed. In the interim it was agreed that no respite services would be curtailed in advance of the Board's consideration of the plan.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

201 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [16421/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

202 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are Health Service Executive employees working outside the State; if so, the number and the locations in which they work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16434/08]

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

203 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason persons (details supplied) in Dublin 12 were refused a respite care grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16435/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 204 answered with Question No. 118.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

205 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a grant made available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16459/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

206 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a project (details supplied). [16480/08]

Beaumont Hospital operates as a regional centre in providing services to adults with cystic fibrosis. In the 2008 Budget, a special allocation of €2.5m was provided to enable the hospital to provide out patient facilities for cystic fibrosis patients. The HSE advises that patients with cystic fibrosis will also benefit from additional single room capacity in the new medical admissions unit at the hospital which is due to open in December.

My Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to revert directly to the Deputy on the progress to date in advancing the project.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

207 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it is the intention of the Health Service Executive to close the pre-discharge unit at Kilcreene Hospital, Kilkenny for the months of June, July and August 2008; if she will take steps to reverse this decision on a facility which has been acclaimed as one of the best in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16488/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

208 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children when her Department will abolish the mandatory retirement of GMS doctors on age grounds solely as advocated by the Irish Medical Council at its recent congress and outlined recently (details supplied); and if she will put a moratorium on implementing this outdated regulation in the interim. [16489/08]

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme general practitioners hold one of two contract types, i.e. the Fee per Item contract (first introduced in 1972) or the Capitation contract (effective from 1989). These contracts reflect the agreed outcome of negotiations between my Department and the GP representative body, the Irish Medical Organisation. Both contract types contain provisions relating to the retirement age. The Capitation contract provides that GPs who entered into contracts on the date of its commencement could hold the contract up to age 70 and that all subsequent GP contractors could hold the contract up to age 65. The Fee per Item contract terminates upon the GP reaching 70 years of age.

In the context of a review of the contractual arrangements for the provision of services under the GMS Scheme and other publicly funded schemes, I have asked my Department, in conjunction with the HSE, to examine provisions relating to the age at which GPs must cease to hold contracts.

Hospital Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

209 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided for provision of a day procedure unit at Mallow General Hospital; the state of development of these proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16499/08]

Michael Creed

Ceist:

210 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the Health Service Executive has sufficient funds for staffing to commission the CT scanner that has been provided by local fund-raising to Mallow hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16501/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 211 answered with Question No. 173.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

212 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of cancer services for the north west; if she has met her Northern counterpart recently to discuss the matter; her views on whether removing vital services from Sligo hospital will have serious implications for patients all across the north west, who have to travel to either Galway or Dublin to receive treatment; the overall future plan for radiotherapy services in the north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16508/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has designated University College Hospital Galway and Limerick Regional Hospital as the two cancer centres in the Managed Cancer Control Network for the HSE Western Region, which includes Sligo. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate.

Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multi-disciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in local hospitals, such as Sligo General Hospital. In this context, chemotherapy and support services will continue to be delivered locally. Cancer day care units, including at Sligo General Hospital, will continue to have an important role in delivering services to patients as close to home as possible.

The National Plan for Radiation Oncology, which was approved by Government in July 2005, is an integral part of the HSE National Cancer Control Programme. The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to (i) facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital (BCH) and (ii) progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to BCH.

Cancer patients in the North West requiring radiation oncology treatment are referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or University College Hospital Galway. A Service Level Agreement is also in place for the referral of radiation oncology patients from Donegal to BCH.

I met with Minister Michael McGimpsey of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSS&PS), Northern Ireland on 28 November last. We discussed the potential for further cross-border collaboration in relation to cancer care, and specifically, provision of a satellite centre for radiation oncology in the North West, linked to Belfast City Hospital. I welcome Minister McGimpsey's announcement earlier this month, of the provision of a satellite centre (linked to Belfast City Hospital) to be located in Altnagelvin. It will provide the additional radiotherapy capacity needed to meet an anticipated increase in cancer in Northern Ireland and recognises the potential for cross border co-operation in the development of this resource. Officials from my Department and the DHSS&PS will hold further discussions in this regard.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

213 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are changes in the qualifying conditions relating to the National Treatment Purchase Fund; if it is still the case that when a person is three months on a public hospital waiting list that he or she can then avail of the NTPF; if there are cut backs proposed for this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16514/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

221 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the average waiting time for patients accepted for treatment on the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16614/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

222 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if it is the case that private individuals may make a direct application to the National Treatment Purchase Fund when they have been waiting for three months for a medical procedure on a public hospital waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16615/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213, 221 and 222 together.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was established to treat patients who are longest waiting on public hospital waiting lists. In February this year, the NTPF marked the milestone of having treated over 100,000 people since 2002. These comprised 77,000 in-patients and 23,000 out-patients.

Access to treatment under the auspices of the NTPF is open to patients who are waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list and who may qualify for treatment through it. In general, non-surgical treatment does not qualify for consideration under the Fund. It is open to the patient, or anyone acting on his/her behalf, to contact the Fund directly in relation to each case. The NTPF operate a nationwide lo-call line for this purpose. A person may also be referred to the Fund through the NTPF Liaison Officer attached to the hospital. In common with other publicly funded bodies, the Fund is required to manage within the financial allocation it receives each year.

The NTPF has made significant inroads into lowering waiting times for hospital treatment. For the most common procedures, the median waiting time is now down to 2 to 4 months for adults and 2 to 5 months for children. The overall median wait time for all specialties is 3.5 months.

Health Services.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

214 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the guidelines with regard to the seeking of parental consent for procedures, investigations and interventions carried out by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16521/08]

The Medical Council makes provision for guidance on parental consent in the current edition of "A Guide to Ethical Conduct and Behaviour — 6th Edition 2004".

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The Executive is therefore the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

215 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, she has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16533/08]

I have held meeting with various Heads of States, Government Ministers and other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries over the past three years, and details of these meetings are set out in the following table for the information of the Deputy.

Date

Met with

Location

27/07/2005

Chinese Ambassador to Ireland

Hawkins House

27/07/2005

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Lesotho

Hawkins House

14/10/2005

Minister for Health of Malaysia

Leinster House

30/01/2006

Ambassador of India

Hawkins House

11/03/2006-14/03/2006

Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, Minister for Health of Bahrain, Minister for Electricity and Water of Bahrain

Bahrain

18/03/2006

Deputy President of South Africa, Ambassador of South Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa, Minister for Health of South Africa,

South Africa

15/11/2006

Minister for Health of Grenada

Leinster House

23/11/2006

Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia

Hawkins House

12/12/2007

Ambassador of Saudi Arabia

Leinster House

17/01/2008

Ambassador of South Africa

Hawkins House

29/01/2008

Ambassador of Egypt

Hawkins House

01/04/2008

Ambassador of Chile

Hawkins House

Services for People with Disabilities.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

216 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the intellectual disability database does not specifically record the incidence of autism which reduces the knowledge of its prevalence and accordingly, the ability to address issues for those with the condition. [16578/08]

The National Intellectual Disability Database was established in 1995 to ensure that information is available to enable the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive and the voluntary agencies in Ireland to provide appropriate services designed to meet the changing needs of people with intellectual disability and those with autism and their families. The Database incorporates three basic elements of information: demographic details, current service provision and future service requirements. The objective is to obtain this information for every individual known to have an intellectual disability and/or autism and assessed as being in receipt of, or in need of, an appropriate service. There is no compulsory requirement on a person with an intellectual disability and or autism to register with the data base.

Information pertaining to diagnosis is specifically excluded, as the database is not designed as a medical epidemiological tool. Accordingly the database does not record the incidence of autism or any other disability.

My Department and the HSE are committed to reviewing existing information management systems within the disability services, including the databases, in order to provide the most effective method of collecting data to meet the requirements of the Disability Act, 2005 and for the purposes of planing services to meet the needs of people with a disability.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

217 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedure employed in long-stay institutions for the acceptance or rejection of offers under the nursing home repayment scheme; the number of applicants in long-stay institutions who applied under the scheme; the number who have received an offer; the number who have sought a review of the offer made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16586/08]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 provides for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to make applications on behalf of living persons who are unable to make an application under the Scheme due to physical or mental incapacity. The HSE has informed my Department that following the launch of the Health Repayment Scheme, HSE Officials, in institutions approved under the Repayment Scheme, identified living persons who would not be capable of making an application and submitted applications on their behalf. Where the HSE claimant receives a letter of offer for a living person for whom they have submitted a claim, the HSE claimant examines the offer and if correct accepts the offer promptly to ensure early repayment into the Patient's Private Property Account. Where the HSE claimant has a query on the amount offered to the living person or where the offer does not include repayment for all previous periods of care covered by the scheme an appeal is made to the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office. The Appeals Office has indicated that as of 25 April 2008, it has received 796 notices of intention to appeal from HSE claimants.

The HSE has indicated that approximately 8,500 claims were submitted on behalf of living persons either by the HSE (as outlined above), by the Wards of Courts Office or by personal representatives. The vast majority of valid claims for living persons are for those currently in long stay institutions. Letters of Offer have issued in respect of over 5,600 living persons under the Scheme.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

218 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the procedure employed in long-stay institutions for use of funds in patients’ personal accounts; the audit procedures on the spending of such funds; the frequency of such audits; the independent audit procedures on the spending of such funds; the frequency of such audits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16587/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has informed my Department that it operates client Patient Private Property (PPP) Accounts as provided for in the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. The relevant sections of this Act allows the HSE to operate PPP accounts on behalf of clients, to invest client funds, use client funds for their benefit and requires the HSE to seek the direction of the Circuit Court if spending in excess of €5,000 per annum for the benefit of any one client.

The HSE National PPP Guidelines provide direction for staff on how client PPP funds are to be used for the benefit of the client and outline what use can be made of such funds. Each Care Centre also operates PPP a/c's in line with HSE Financial Procedures. Patients' Private Property is included as part of the ongoing audit programme delivered by the HSE's Internal Audit Directorate nationally.

The HSE produces a set of national PPP accounts annually, which are prepared and audited by External Auditors, appointed after a national tender process to choose same. This audit involves the audit firms visiting annually every HSE Care Centre that administers PPP a/c's and undertaking audit work at each location. On completion, the National PPP accounts are then submitted to the HSE Audit Committee and to the HSE Board for approval. These accounts are then submitted to the Comptroller & Auditor General for audit, as required by Section 18 (2) (b) of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will receive payment on their claim under the health repayment scheme. [16591/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

220 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received under the nursing home repayment scheme; the number of applicants issued offers to date; the number that have reviewed the offer made by the scheme; the number of reviews decided; the number of which reviews have received an increased offer; the number of payments made to date; the number of applications to be decided upon; the average waiting time to process an application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16613/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE have informed my Department that over 39,000 applications for living and deceased patients have been received under the Health Repayment Scheme. Over 23,500 of the claims received by the Scheme Administrator have been concluded, which includes over 13,000 offers of repayment totalling more than €235 million. Further offers continue to be issued every week. Of the 12,976 offers made, almost 9,400 payments in the sum of €185m have been made to date.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has indicated that the Scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to settle claims and make repayments. A very high number of deficiencies have appeared on claim forms which must each be rectified before they can be processed. It is estimated that approximately two thirds of all claim forms were submitted without some critical piece of information which meant that the claim could not be processed until the Scheme Administrator had written to the potential claimant and received the information required.

The Scheme Administrator has given assurances to the HSE that the vast majority of claims submitted by the public will be dealt with within the 2 year time frame allotted for the scheme which is due to end in June 2008. If there are any outstanding claims at the end of June 2008, such claims will be kept to an absolute minimum and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. The Appeals Office has informed my Department that up to 25 April 2008 the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office had received 2,831 completed appeal forms. Decisions have issued in 1,147 cases and 272 of these decisions will result in an increased offer to the claimant.

Questions Nos. 221 and 222 answered with Question No. 213.

Health Services.

John Deasy

Ceist:

223 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the report into the death of a person (details supplied) has been finalised by the Health Service Executive; when this report will be made public; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16617/08]

The Health Service Executive commissioned an external expert to undertake a review of the Health Service Executive's involvement in this case and to prepare a report on the matter. Work on the formal report has commenced. The review commenced in April 2007 and all interviews with relevant Health Service Executive staff and relevant staff from the external agencies involved have been completed. Due to unforeseen circumstances external to the HSE the timeline for completion has been extended. The Health Service Executive is satisfied that the process being undertaken by the external expert is very comprehensive and look forward to receiving the report as early as possible. The HSE has further advised that a decision on whether the report will be made public will be taken upon receipt of the final report.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

224 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [16664/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Incidence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

225 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she has studied the incidence of the various forms of cancer, on a county, city or regional basis throughout the country; if specific action is required arising from discernible trends; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16669/08]

Statistics in relation to cancer incidence are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the Director of the Registry to examine these matters and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

226 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the degree to which the strength of the ambulance service personnel, vehicles and equipment is adequate to meet or expected requirements; her proposals to address any issues arising; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16671/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

227 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the clean air theatre at Naas Hospital, Naas, County Kildare is expected to become operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16672/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

228 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients treated at Naas Hospital, Naas, County Kildare in each of the past five years; the rate of bed occupancy in the same period; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16673/08]

Information in relation to the number of patients treated for the years 2003 to 2005 at Naas Hospital is set out in the following table:

Year

% Occupancy

Inpatient Cases

Day Cases

A&E Attendances

Outpatient Attendances

2003

94.5%

7,245

1,267

21,721

16,655

2004

104.1%

7,974

1,808

22,703

25,744

2005

102.4%

7,964

2,055

24,461

19,876

Source Activity: Integrated Management Returns (IMRs) to DoHC.

Figures for subsequent years are collected and collated by the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this additional information collated to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

229 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that the network of health centres here could be further utilised in the delivery of primary or community care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16674/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans she or the Health Service Executive have to enhance or upgrade the network of health centres throughout County Kildare with the objective of improving the extent of community or primary health care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16685/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 238 together.

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Care Associated Infections.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

230 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of incidents of MRSA or other hospital based infections reported in each of the past three years to date in 2008; the degree to which such infections are under control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16675/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that the monitoring and control of Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) is a priority for this Government and the HSE.

A HCAI is an infection that someone may get after a stay in hospital or after receiving medical treatment. Such infections are most often linked to treatment in hospitals but can happen after treatment in outpatient clinics, nursing homes and other health care settings. The more medical care a person requires, the more likely they are to develop an infection and HCAIs are most common in people with serious illnesses or risk factors, such as patients who require a long period of stay in a health care setting or patients with weakened immune systems.

HCAIs include such infections as MRSA and Clostridium Difficile (C Difficile). Since 2002 MRSA cases have been collated by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre — Ireland's specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases — via the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (EARSS). In 2007, 44 Irish laboratories serving 65 acute hospitals (public and private) participated in EARSS. The total number of MRSA cases recorded over the last six years was 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005, 588 cases in 2006 and 533 cases in 2007. There are no statistics available yet for the first quarter of 2008.

A new National Surveillance System has recently been established by the HSE to collect data and provide information on a quarterly basis on four key areas, to monitor HCAIs in our health system:

1. Staphylococcus bacteraemia (blood stream infections);

2. Antibiotic consumption;

3. Alcohol gel use;

4. MRSA Surveillance in Intensive Care Units.

The HSE intend to publish available data on the above for 2006 and 2007 in the near future and then quarterly thereafter. However, as the total data on surveillance in Intensive Care Units is new, the historical information for 2006 and 2007 will not include data under this heading.

Clostridium Difficile (C Difficile) was not, up to now, a notifiable disease and, as a result, it is difficult to quantify the extent of infection in the health care system. However, it was examined in the Third Prevalence Survey of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) in acute hospitals in 2006. The survey found that thirty-six patients had C. difficile representing 0.5% of patients studied. In March 2008, I instructed the HSE to make C. Difficile a notifiable disease and from May 4th all cases will have to be notified to the relevant Department of Public Health.

The HSE launched a National Infection Control Action Plan in March 2007. An Infection Control Steering Group, chaired by Dr. Pat Doorley, National Director (Population Health) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan. Over the next three to five years, the HSE aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%. Achievement of these targets will benefit all patients who are at risk. These targets will be achieved through the development of national and local level action plans to reduce the potential for spread of infections between persons in health care settings, and, in addition, will focus on reducing antibiotic use in Ireland. The Steering Group is supported by eight Local Implementation Teams which will ensure that all local facilities are focused on achieving the national targets.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

231 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans or proposals to ensure the appointment of sufficient nurses to meet requirements throughout the health services over the next five to 10 years; the way it is proposed to meet such targets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16676/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of nurses currently employed in the delivery of health services; the number who are permanent, temporary or agency nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16677/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act, 2004. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

233 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital beds currently available throughout the health service; the number required at any one time; the number currently out of commission; the action proposed to address any shortfalls; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16678/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

234 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel at all levels required by the Health Service Executive to provide a comprehensive health service; the number of such posts unfilled at present; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16679/08]

The Health Service Executive National Service Plan (NSP) for 2008 has been approved by me and laid before the Oireachtas. It outlines the type and volume of health and personal services to be provided by the Executive in 2008 on the basis of the funding provided by Government. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement.

At the end of 2007, a total of 111,505 whole time equivalents were employed in the health services (110,597 adjusted for student nurses).

Numbers employed in the Public Health Service, Dec 2007 (Quarter 4) all figures expressed as whole-time equivalents — excludes those on career break

HSE

NHO Vol. Hosp.

Voluntary Disability (PCCC)

Other PCCC Voluntary Agencies

Total

Medical/Dental

5,104

2,707

52

142

8,005

Nursing

26,185

9,192

2,855

775

39,006

Health and Social Care Professionals

9,671

3,159

2,523

352

15,705

Management /Admin

12,835

3,872

1,002

334

18,043

General Support Staff

8,267

2,955

1,243

435

12,900

Other Patient and Client Care

11,399

1,269

4,547

630

17,846

Total

73,461

23,153

12,221

2,669

111,505

Notes

1 Excludes Home Helps

2 Management/Administrative includes staff who are of direct service to the public and include Consultant's Secretaries, Out-Patient Departmental Personnel, Medical Records Personnel, Telephonists and other staff who are engaged in front-line duties together with staff in the following categories Payroll, Human Resource Management (including training), Service Managers, IT Staff, General Management Support and Legislative and Information requirements.

3 Agencies are classified as follows: Health Service Executive, Voluntary Hospitals (aligned to NHO), Disability Services (voluntary disability services aligned to PCCC) and Others (voluntary services other disability services than aligned to PCCC).

4 Student nurses are included in the 2007 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The December 2007 employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,597 wte.

An overall employment ceiling of 112,560 whole time equivalents has been set for the public health services for 2008 (111,650 adjusted for student nurses). This level of employment provides for 1,050 additional new posts arising from development funding provided by the Government in the Budget Day package for 2008. Following consideration of the requirements to deliver the priorities identified by Government in the Budget package, 1,050 posts have been approved for 2008. A breakdown of these development posts is provided as follows.

Service

2008 Development Funding

No of Development posts to be filled in 2008

€m

Older People

22.00

100

Palliative Care

3.00

50

Disability

49.96

710

Cancer

15.00

90

Population Health

17.96

100

Total

1,050

The filling of the above development posts are to be managed by the HSE within the employment control framework for the health services and its own circular issued in January 2008 which sets out revised arrangements for the filling of all posts, including development posts in 2008. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the number of posts unfilled at present and the reason for this. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent to which she or her Department have input into the formation of health policy and strategy for the health services or if the Health Service Executive has autonomous status in this regard; if policy is initiated by her Department or the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16680/08]

As Minister for Health & Children, I am politically accountable for developing and articulating Government policy on health and personal social services, and for the overall performance of the health service. My Department's mandate is to support me and the four Ministers of State by advising on policy development and implementation, evaluating the performance of existing policies and service delivery, preparing legislation, and working with other Government Departments, the social partners and international organisations.

The Health Act 2004 requires the Health Service Executive (HSE) to use the resources available to it in the most beneficial, efficient and effective manner, to improve, promote and protect the health and welfare of the public. The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is responsible for setting and monitoring standards on safety and quality of health care services in the public sector. The legislation establishing the HSE and HIQA specifically requires them to have regard to the policies and objectives of the Government or any Minister of the Government to the extent that those policies and objectives may affect or relate to their functions.

My Department does not exist in a vacuum from the rest of the health services, the political system or society generally. My Department and I work on a continuous basis with the HSE, HIQA and other agencies throughout the health sector, to develop and implement policy and strategy in the health sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients treated by the health services in each of the past 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16683/08]

Information on health and health service activity, including patient numbers, for the past decade has recently been published by my Department in the booklet, Health in Ireland, Key Trends, 2007. The following table summarises data from the booklet on patients treated in publicly funded acute hospitals for the ten year period 1997 to 2006 inclusive. Significant increases are evident and, in particular, for day case treatments which have more than doubled over the period. It should be noted that hospital data refers to total treatments (i.e. inpatient, day case and outpatient) rather than to individual patients.

Patients Treated in Publicly Funded Acute Hospitals 1997 to 2006.

Activity

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

% Change 1997-2006

Acute Hospital Inpatients

525,495

527,057

521,399

541,327

552,493

550,991

561,623

570,885

573,834

591,766

12.6

Acute Hospital Day Cases

243,019

263,534

289,413

318,149

357,290

402,671

447,697

483,210

509,831

555,204

128.5

Acute Hospital Out-Patient Attendances

1,885,419

1,917,776

1,911,720

1,996,474

2,057,989

2,185,028

2,255,998

2,363,821

2,453,000

2,769,655

46.9

Source: Health in Ireland — Key Trends 2007.

The Key Trends report also includes information on a range of other health services including district and psychiatric hospitals, and community-based services such as mental health and intellectual disability day centres. Mental health day attendees increased by 84% between 1997 and 2005 while intellectual disability day attendees rose by 10.8% from 1997 to 2007 (most recent intellectual disability national database figures). For many community services, information on total patients treated is not routinely compiled. This is true, for example, of General Practitioner services. However, estimates put total numbers of GP visits at between 15 and 20 million per year. The results of a new health survey module carried out by the Central Statistics Office as part of the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) will become available in the coming weeks. This is a large scale survey which has a focus on service utilisation and is expected to provide comprehensive estimates of access to and use of services across community, primary and secondary care.

Health Service Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of personnel employed in the delivery of the health services; the extent to which this number has fluctuated in each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16684/08]

The main source of employment data in the health services is the Health Service Executive's Health Services Personnel Census which is derived from payroll history in each agency. The census collects data on actual staffing level for each staff grade in each health agency at a given point in time. Up to and including 2002 the census was conducted annually. Since 2003 the census has been carried out quarterly at the end of March, June, September and December each year.

The data referred to in the question is set out in the following table (source: Health Service Personnel Census):

Numbers employed in the Public Health Service (all figures expressed as whole-time equivalents — excludes those on career break)

Year end

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total

69,640

72,793

80,070

90,302

95,679

96,501

98,723

101,978

106,273

111,505

% Increase on previous year

2.65

4.53

9.99

12.78

5.95

0.86

2.30

3.30

4.21

4.92

Notes

1 Excludes Home Helps

2 Student nurses are included in the 2007 employment ceiling on the basis of 3.5 students equating to 1 wholetime equivalent. The December 2007 employment level adjusted for student nurses on the above basis is 110,597 wte.

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 229.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

239 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons penalised to date under the penalty points system; the number who have exceeded the various categories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15937/08]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

240 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he has sought a report on the funding base of the pension fund for airline and aviation workers in the public sector; if they are in a position to award pension increases in 2008; and if his Department has issued policy guidelines in terms of pension fund gaps or contributions. [16010/08]

The majority of the Dublin Airport Authority's employees are members of the Irish Airlines (General Employees) Superannuation Scheme (the IAS Scheme). The IAS scheme is operated in conjunction with Aer Lingus and SR Technics.

Pension entitlements under this scheme are primarily matters for the Trustees, the members of the scheme and the companies participating in the scheme. An actuarial valuation is carried out by the Scheme's actuary generally every three years. The most recent completed actuarial valuation of the IAS scheme was carried out as of 31st March 2005. This showed that on an ongoing basis the actuarial valuation of the assets of the IAS was sufficient to cover the accrued liabilities under the actuarial assumptions made at that time. The IAS scheme also satisfied the statutory and funding standard at that time.

An actuarial valuation of the IAS scheme is currently being carried out and is due to be published in a number of months. I understand that the Trustees of the IAS scheme recently deferred a decision to pay a discretionary inflation related increase in pensions and that the Trustees have indicated that the position will be reviewed when the results of the 2008 actuarial valuation become available.

I have not issued policy guidelines in relation to pension fund gaps or contributions.

Proposed Legislation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

241 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if his Department provided briefings to date on the recently published Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008; if so, the persons to whom they were provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16137/08]

I briefed the chairpersons of CIE and the Dublin Transportation Office, the Commissioner for Taxi Regulation and the Dublin City Manager on the Dublin Transport Authority Bill 2008. In addition my officials have provided briefings on the Bill to the Deputy and his colleague Senator Paschal Donohoe, to Deputy Tommy Broughan and to the Steering Committee of the Dublin Transportation Office.

Departmental Legislation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

242 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the number of days, in respect of every Bill and Act produced by his Department since 1997 to date in 2008, between their publication and their introduction into either Seanad or Dáil Éireann with the name of the sponsoring Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16138/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply on 22 April to Parliamentary Question No. 220. The position remains unchanged.

Road Network.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

243 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if he will appoint a senior executive engineer from Donegal County Council to sit on the technical group dealing with the route selection between Derry and Aughnacloy which has recently been allocated €580 million by the Department of Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16202/08]

The management and oversight arrangements for the A5 Derry — Aughnacloy road project have been agreed in the North-South Ministerial Council and are now operational. The Technical Group is comprised of senior expert officials from the National Roads Authority and Road Services Northern Ireland. It is not my intention to seek any expansion in the membership of the Group.

Damien English

Ceist:

244 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the average cost to the State per kilometre of road resurfacing works on regional routes to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16397/08]

Damien English

Ceist:

245 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the average cost to the State per kilometre of road resurfacing works on county routes to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16398/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.

Surface dressing operations on regional and local roads are undertaken mid year (generally during the May to August period) when weather conditions permit. An estimate of the cost per kilometre of the surface dressing operations to be funded under the 2008 State funded Restoration Maintenance Programme is currently being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Michael Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

246 Deputy Michael Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Kildare County Council plans to cul-de-sac Carbury Village, County Kildare against the wishes of all the residents and the majority of the public representatives; and if he will intervene to ensure the village remains open to light traffic in the interest of health and safety and the prosperity and enjoyment of the village. [16414/08]

Michael Fitzpatrick

Ceist:

247 Deputy Michael Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that Kildare County Council will be in a position to spend its 2008 allocation of €2.5 million on upgrading the Johnstownbridge/Edenderry road in 2008; if the issues with roadside land holders have been resolved in relation to the land purchase and fencing; and if not the reason for the delay in the process. [16415/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 and 247 together.

The upgrade of the Edenderry to Enfield road is being undertaken by Kildare County Council with grant assistance provided by my Department. The design of the route is primarily a matter for the local authority.

Before works of this nature may proceed, the local authority is obliged to comply with requirements of planning legislation. I understand that those requirements, which include extensive public consultation, were complied with in respect of this project and that the works were approved by the elected members of Kildare County Council in December 2006. My Department has no function in that process.

The acquisition of land for the project is also a matter for the local authority. Expenditure by Kildare County Council on foot of the 2008 road grant allocation of €2.5 million will be influenced by progress by the council in respect of acquisition of land and the appointment of a contractor.

Road Signage.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

248 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport his plans in relation to improving road markings throughout the country in view of the fact that better quality road markings on roads here would reduce road traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16427/08]

The road authorities are responsible for the provision and maintenance of traffic sign road markings. Statutory directions regarding the provision and use of road markings are set out in the Traffic Signs Manual. A comprehensive review of the Manual is nearing completion and it is proposed that an updated Manual will be published later this year.

Port Development.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

249 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Transport the investment in ports here for each year since 2000 to date in 2008. [16429/08]

The data requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

250 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if the Bremore plan will go ahead. [16487/08]

Drogheda Port Company has for a number of years been developing a proposal for a new port facility at Bremore in Fingal County in the context of a joint venture arrangement.

Subject to the necessary further feasibility, commercial and regulatory work, it also presents an opportunity to provide significant additional port capacity in a prime location on the east coast. The joint venture intends to develop the new facility in a number of phases.

Amendment of the Harbours Act 1996 will be necessary to enable formal legal consent to be given to the joint venture. In January the Government approved the Scheme of a Harbours (Amendment) Bill, which will inter alia provide for this. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and my department are currently engaged in the drafting process.

In the meantime, I understand that the joint venture is engaged in the necessary feasibility and planning work for the proposal.

Coast Guard Service.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

251 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a 60 year old agreement signed by the British and Irish Governments insisting that Malin Head Coastguard Station must always remain open for the safety of seafarers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16509/08]

The Coast Guard Radio Station at Malin Head is not being closed, and therefore, no issue would arise in relation to an agreement as outlined above.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

252 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16537/08]

The information requested is contained in the following table.

Meetings from April 2005 to date

Date

Location

Details

12 December 2005

Department of Transport

Visit by Bulgarian Minister for Transport to discuss transport issues.

16 January 2006

Singapore

Meeting with representatives of Singapore Civil Aviation Authority to discuss aviation matters.

17 January2006

Singapore

Meeting with Singapore International Airlines to discuss aviation matters

18 January 2006

Thailand

Meeting with Thai Minister for Transport to discuss aviation matters.

20 January 2006

Singapore

Meeting with Singapore Transport Minister to discuss transport matters.

30 March 2006

Department of Transport

Meeting with representatives of the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority, representatives of the Chinese Embassy & the Chinese Vice Minister for Transport to discuss aviation matters.

17 May 2006

Burlington Hotel Dublin

Individual Bilateral Meetings with Ministers for Transport from Serbia-Montenegro, Russia, Latvia & Belarus as part of European Conference of Ministers of Transport which Ireland was hosting.

27 September 2006

Department of Transport

Presentation on Gallileo by Slovenian Ambassador and delegation.

17 April 2007

Department of Transport

Meeting with Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Dr. Zion Evrony and Colin Sheena, Commercial Trade Officer, Israeli Embassy to discuss aviation matters.

15 January 2008

Department of Transport

Courtesy visit by the Iranian Ambassador to Ireland

Passport Applications.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

253 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will review regulations preventing foster parents obtaining passports for their Irish born foster children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16101/08]

An application for the issue of a passport may be made on behalf of a child by his or her parent or guardian, or by a person authorised by an order of a court in the State to give consent to the issue of a passport. Where a child has been in foster care pursuant to a statutory care order for a period of less than five years, an application for a passport for that child must be made by the Health Service Executive under section 18(3)(3) of the Childcare Act 1991 as amended. A foster parent or a relative who has had a child in their care for a continuous period of five years, the child having been placed with them by the Health Service Executive, may apply for a court order for increased autonomy in relation to the care of the child including the matter of consenting to the issue of a passport.

In processing applications in respect of children in foster care, the Passport Office complies with legislative requirements set out in the Childcare Act and other relevant legislation. Responsibility for legislative change in this area lies with the Department of Health and Children. The application process in relation to children in care will be kept under review by the Passport Office to reflect any legislative change in this area.

Departmental Funding.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

254 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of discretionary funds allocated to the US-Ireland Alliance group by any of the four Irish consulates in the United States of America, as well as the Irish Embassy in Washington; the matters on which these funds were expended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16047/08]

The financial resources allocated to Irish Missions abroad, including the Embassy of Ireland in Washington and the Consulates in the United States of America, are primarily for administrative costs, allocated in line with normal budgetary arrangements, and do not involve significant discretionary funding.

Any funding decisions are taken by the Minister on the basis of careful consideration of the applications from relevant groups. No funds are allocated to the US-Ireland Alliance by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Departmental Legislation.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

255 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of days in relation to every Bill and Act produced by his Department since 1997 to date in 2008; the number of days which elapsed between their publication and their introduction into either Seanad or Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16157/08]

All Bills brought forward by my Department since 1997, together with the dates they were presented to the Oireachtas and the dates they were introduced to either the Dáil or Seanad Éireann in Second Stage, are listed in tabular form. For ease of reference, the names of the corresponding Acts are also listed.

I understand that all Bills are published on the Oireachtas website upon presentation, in addition to their distribution to all Oireachtas Members.

As the Deputy will be aware, more detailed information on the progress of all pieces of legislation since 1997 is available on the Oireachtas website. This website www.oireachtas.ie provides chronological information on the presentation and consideration by the Dáil and Seanad of all Bills, including those introduced by my Department from 1997 to date.

Title of Bill

Presented to, and Published by, Oireachtas

Introduction to Dáil/Seanad (Second Stage)

Title of Act (if applicable)

Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2008

06/03/2008

2/4/2008 (Dáil)

n/a

Passports Bill 2007

05/04/2007

18/10/07 (Dáil)

Passports Act 2008

European Communities Bill 2006

01/12/2006

07/12/06 (Seanad)

European Communities Act 2007

European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2006

20/04/2006

10/5/2006 (Dáil)

European Communities(Amendment) Act 2006

British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2006*

23/11/2006

29/11/06 (Seanad)

British–Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act 2006

Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Bill 2005

29/06/2005

29/09/05 (Dáil)

Diplomatic Relations and Immunities (Amendment) Act 2006

Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2005

26/05/2005

n/a

n/a (lapsed)

European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2003

30/10/2003

06/11/03 (Seanad)

European Communities (Amendment) Act 2003

European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2002

13/11/2002

20/11/02(Seanad)

European Communities (Amendment) Act 2002

British-Irish Agreement (Amendment) Bill 2002*

19/11/2002

26/11/02(Dáil)

British–Irish Agreement (Amendment) Act 2002

Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 2002

26/06/2002

04/09/02 (Dáil)

Twenty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 2002

European Communities and Swiss Confederation Bill, 2001

13/11/2001

21/11/01(Seanad)

European Communities and Swiss Confederation Act 2001

Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998

22/01/1998

3/3/1998 (Dáil)

Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1998

European Communities (Amendment) Bill 1998

03/06/1998

11/6/1998 (Seanad)

European Communities (Amendment) Act 1998

Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill, 1997

7/4/1997

12/3/1998(Dáil)

Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1998

*The British-Irish Agreement Bill 1999 (British-Irish Agreement Act 1999) was presented by the Taoiseach. British-Irish (Amendment) Agreement Bill 1999 (British-Irish (Amendment) Agreement Act 1999) was presented by the Minister for Finance.

Human Rights Issues.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

256 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the Government of China and its representatives following the criticism by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government of the Chinese Government’s policy towards Tibet at the recent Green Party national convention; if he has offered an apology or dissociated the Government from the Minister’s comments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16168/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

258 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he views Tibet as a country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16522/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 258 together.

As I made clear in my reply to the Deputy's question on 22 April, when my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government expressed his serious concern about the situation in Tibet and appealed for dialogue between the Chinese authorities and representatives of the Dalai Lama, he was reflecting Government policy.

The question of an apology has not arisen, nor indeed would it be appropriate. However, I was happy to respond positively to the Chinese Ambassador's request for a meeting. At this meeting, which took place on 16 April, in a positive atmosphere, I set out Government policy on the situation in Tibet, as well as on our relations with China as a whole, including of course our commitment to the "one China" policy.

In addressing events in Tibet, the Government has sought to:

urge all sides to exercise the maximum restraint, and to underline the importance Ireland attaches to the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest;

urge the Chinese authorities to allow greater access by the media and independent observers to Tibet in order to facilitate an assessment of what has been happening there;

establish from the Chinese authorities what has happened to the protesters, including those who had surrendered to the authorities, as well as seeking assurances of their well-being and the release of imprisoned peaceful protesters; and

encourage dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, which I believe remains the only sustainable way of ensuring the preservation of Tibetan religious and cultural identity, as well as addressing Chinese concerns regarding its territorial integrity.

I am pleased that the Chinese government has indicated its intention to meet representatives of the Dalai Lama in the coming period.

In seeking dialogue with the Chinese authorities, the Dalai Lama has made clear that he is seeking ‘genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the framework of the Chinese constitution'. I should add that the Dalai Lama has also consistently and publicly opposed a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Overseas Development Aid.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

257 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount of foreign aid Ireland contributes overseas with a breakdown on that aid; the amount of the aid used for education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16432/08]

In 2008 Ireland's spending on Official Development Assistance (ODA) will reach €914 million. This level of expenditure, the highest in the history of the programme, represents 0.54 % of GNP. It will ensure that Ireland remains one of the most generous donors in the world on a per capita basis.

€814 million of this aid expenditure is delivered by my Department, through Irish Aid. The additional €100 million will be spent by other Government Departments and through Ireland's allocation to the EU Development Cooperation Budget.

In 2008 we will spend in excess of €200 million directly in our Programme Countries in Africa and Asia. These Programme Countries are Ethiopia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Vietnam and Timor Leste. This funding will assist those countries in delivering basic services, promoting economic growth and in building good governance.

We will spend over €130 million on combating HIV/AIDS and other very serious communicable diseases that kill so many. We will provide funding of over €140 million to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), missionaries and other civil society organisations to support their very important development and humanitarian assistance work. Almost €100million will be directed towards the area of emergency response, humanitarian assistance and the Rapid Response Corps.

Education, which remains an integral component of the aid programme, will benefit from expenditure of the order of €70 million. There is a particular focus on primary education and gender equity.

The 2007 Irish Aid Annual Report, which will be available shortly, will provide a comprehensive breakdown of the activities and expenditure under the programme for last year.

Question No. 258 answered with Question No. 256.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

259 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16532/08]

I understand that the Deputy has confirmed that the information he is seeking from my Department relates to the period of the current Government. The information requested is provided in tabular format.

As the Deputy will be aware, not all Member States of the European Union are members of the OECD. Therefore, in addition to the meetings detailed below, in the course of my regular contacts with my EU colleagues, in Brussels and elsewhere, I meet with representatives of non-OECD countries on a regular basis.

Further, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have regular contact with Ambassadors from both OECD and non-OECD member countries, in their capacity as representatives of those countries.

Date

Location

Representing Country

Individual

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

South Africa

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

Moldova

Foreign Minister Andrei Stratan

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

Uganda

Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

Iran

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

Indonesia

Foreign Minister Noer Hasan Wirajuda

1/2 October 2007

United Nations, New York

Sudan

Foreign Minister Lam Akol

25 October 2007

Dublin

Burma

Prime Minister- in-exile, Dr. Sein Win

6/7 November 2007

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Prime Minister Nicola Spiric; Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj

8 November 2007

Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia

President Boris Tadic

8 November 2007

Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica

8 November 2007

Belgrade, Serbia

Serbia

Deputy Minister for Kosovo Alender

9 November 2007

Pristina, Kosovo

Kosovo

President Fatmir Sejdiu;

9 November 2007

Pristina, Kosovo

Kosovo

Prime Minister Agim Ceku

14 November 2007

Khartoum

Sudan

President Bashir

14 November 2007

Khartoum

Sudan

Acting Foreign Minister Ali Karti

15 November 2007

N’Djamena

Chad

Prime Minister Coumakoye

15 November 2007

N’Djamena

Chad

Foreign Minister Allam-Mi

15 November 2007

N’Djamena

Chad

Defence Minister Nour

29 January 2008

Dublin

Russia

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Titov

20 February 2008

Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste

Dr Emilia Pires, Minister of Finance and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Timor-Leste

20 February 2008

Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste

Mr Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister, Timor-Leste

21 February 2008

Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste

Mr Fernando La Sama de Araujo, President of Parliament and Acting President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste

4 March 2008

Dublin

Rwanda

Minister for Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda

18 March 2008

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina

Nilda Garre, Minister for Defence of Argentina,

19 March 2008

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina

Mr Jorge Taiana, Minster for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship

8 April 2008

Dublin

Algeria

President of the Algerian Council of the Nation.

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

Prime Minister Odinga

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

Foreign Minister, Moses Wetangula

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

President Kibaki

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

Minister for Trade

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

Minister for Education

24 April 2008

Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya

Minister for Science and Technology

Citizenship Status.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

260 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will provide an estimate of the number of individuals in South Africa and in Argentina who are eligible for, but do not currently hold, Irish citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16538/08]

There are significant numbers of people in Argentina and South Africa of Irish background but, unless they actually applied for Irish citizenship, it would not be possible to estimate the numbers who would meet the criteria to qualify under our legislation.

Citizenship Applications.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

261 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Libyans who hold Irish citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16540/08]

Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, 1956 to 2004, the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform has primary responsibility for matters relating to the granting of Irish citizenship. Applications for citizenship through naturalisation, including marriage to an Irish citizen, are processed by that Department. My Department does not, therefore, retain statistics for the number of Libyan nationals who have obtained Irish citizenship through naturalisation. However, my Department is responsible for processing applications for Irish citizenship through Foreign Births Registration, i.e. citizenship by descent. A search of our Foreign Births Register indicates that three such applications in respect of Libyan nationals have been processed since 2003. It has not been possible in the time available to provide the Deputy with statistics prior to that date.

Emigrant Support Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

262 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the funding available to the next of kin of a person (details supplied) who was an Irish citizen but had emigrated to England 40 years ago and has died, to assist with their burial here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16542/08]

My Department, through our Embassy in London and the Consular Division, have been providing a range of practical assistance to the family of the deceased since first becoming aware of the case on 21 April. The Embassy is in contact with the Royal London Hospital and St Catherine Sheltered Housing to try to assist the family in locating the documentation necessary to ensure that his remains are released as quickly as possible and repatriated to Ireland. While there are no funds available from State expense to cover the cost of repatriation in this case, I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to the family concerned.

Work Permits.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

263 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a decision has been made on the appeal which has been lodged by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin against the decision of his Department not to grant them a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16042/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that an application was received in respect of the above named on the 20/09/2007. This application was refused on the grounds that new employment permit applications are normally only considered where the starting salary on offer is over €30,000 and no newspaper advertisements were submitted in support of the application. Having heard an appeal the Appeals Officer upheld the original decision in this case.

A subsequent application was received in respect of the above named on the 15/4/2008. This application was also refused on the grounds that no newspaper advertisements were submitted in support of the application and the FÁS vacancy submitted was out of date as a permit must be applied for within 60 days of the vacancy being posted by FÁS. The employer was notified of this decision in writing by letter dated 25/4/2008 and of their right to appeal within 21 days from this date.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

264 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has considered, or will consider, the level of risk of displaying CFLs in retail outlets; the potential risk to employees and to the public in the event of breakage; and the advice his Department will provide to retailers to enable them to safely display and deal with the release of toxic mercury in the event of breakage. [16483/08]

The safety or otherwise of CFLs in a retail setting are matters of environmental and public health and as such are more appropriate to my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government. I have considered the Deputy's question from the viewpoint of occupational safety and health and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. That Act requires that employers and those who control workplaces must identify hazards in those workplaces, assess the risks to safety and health at work presented by those hazards and provide for appropriate preventive control measures in the safety statements related to that workplace. Risk identification and assessment means that anything in the workplace that could cause harm to employees, and other people (including customers, visitors and members of the public) must be carefully examined and where necessary protective measures should be put in place.

National Science Museum.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

265 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are proposals for a science museum in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16577/08]

In January of this year Science Gallery, located in the Naughton Institute in Trinity College Dublin, opened to the public. The Gallery, which provides a venue for a variety of science exhibitions and events, aims to present science in new and stimulating ways. While open to all, the primary target audience for Science Gallery is young adults in the 15-25 age bracket. It aims to present science and engineering as attractive educational and career options to young people at a stage when critical decisions about subject choice, third level options and future careers are being made. In 2007, my Department provided €4.454 million on a once-off basis to assist with the setting up of the Science Gallery, as it is ideally suited to supporting the science awareness goals of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013. Under this Strategy, the Government has set a goal for Ireland to be a leader in research and development and innovation and has committed a budget of €8.2 billion under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 towards achieving this goal.

In addition, Exploration Station, a purpose built interactive learning centre designed specifically for Ireland and dedicated to providing a hands-on learning and discovery experience focused predominately on Science and Technology, is planned as part of the Heuston Gate development in Dublin. This centre will be aimed primarily at younger children. The Office of Public Works will provide the building for the centre. My Department, in recognising that this centre will also help to realise the awareness goals of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, has committed to providing €4.5 million over the period 2007- 2010 for the fit-out and design element of the project. Separately, a total of €100,000 has been provided by Discover Science and Engineering, the science awareness programme run under the aegis of Forfás, to support the exhibition planning stage for Exploration Station.

Departmental Expenditure.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

266 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the total sum spent to date in each year of the €3.8 billion Government allocation under the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006 to 2013; and if he will give details of the €2.7 billion due to have been allocated and spent by 2008. [15982/08]

The Government, when approving the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation in 2006, agreed that the full implementation of the Strategy had been costed at €3.8 billion over existing levels of service. In accepting the overall costings of the Strategy, the Government also agreed that decisions on the provision of funds for the Strategy would have to be taken in the context of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013. The Science, Technology and Innovation Sub Programme of the NDP 2007-2013 provides for a total investment of €6.1 billion in the programme areas below:

Cost

World Class Research STI

€3.46 billion

Enterprise STI

€1.29 billion

Agri-Food Research

€641.00 million

Energy Research

€149.00 million

Marine Research

€141.00 million

Geo-science

€33.00 million

Health research

€301.00 million

Environment Research

€93.00 million

Total

€6.10 billion

This investment in human capital, physical infrastructure and commercialisation of research is complemented by investment in other Sub Programmes in the Plan relating to R&D conducted by the Higher Education sector and the IDA. Taking account of these amounts, the total committed expenditure in Science, Technology and Innovation over the period of the NDP is €8.2 billion. As part of the NDP Monitoring System, information on progress and outturns is provided by Departments to the Department of Finance about the Science, Technology and Innovation Programme of the NDP. Work is ongoing on the preparation of the 2007 NDP progress report which will be submitted later this year to the Oireachtas and which will set out expenditure, including expenditure on the NDP STI Programme, in the first operational year of the NDP.

Consumer Protection.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

267 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views in relation to the recommendation directed to him by the Consumer Strategy Group to commission research into small claims enforcement procedures currently available to consumers with a view to establishing whether a more streamlined and effective process can be put in place; if this research has been commissioned; the status of this research; if it has been published; if this research has not been commissioned, the reason for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16076/08]

Whilst the Consumer Strategy Group directed its recommendation in relation to small claims court enforcement procedures to my Department, the responsibility for the administration of the Small Claims Court lies with the Courts Service. In so far as the Small Claims Court procedure is concerned, the Deputy may be aware that the limit for processing claims in the Small Claims Court was raised to €2,000 with effect from 7 February 2006. I would also advise the Deputy that an on-line small claims process has recently been introduced on a pilot basis. A further development in the small claims area was the adoption last year of an EU Regulation establishing a European Small Claims Procedure. The Regulation will effectively enable a judgment given in a Member State in the European Small Claims Procedure to be recognised and enforced in another Member State.

I am aware that the matter of consumer redress is one in which the National Consumer Agency is particularly interested. I understand that the Agency is planning to conduct research later this year around the area of arbitration and redress. As part of that research project, the Agency, in consultation with the Courts Service, will address the area of the Small Claims Court and will pay particular attention to the question of the enforcement of judgements of the Court. I understand that the Agency expects to commence this research study some time in the autumn of this year.

I fully support the operation of the Small Claims Court procedure as an inexpensive way of consumers enforcing their legal rights. I welcome the recent innovations to the procedure brought about by my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in conjunction with the Courts Service. I look forward to hearing the results of the National Consumer Agency's research in relation to redress and arbitration, including in relation to its consultations with the Courts Service regarding the enforcement of small claims court judgements.

Industrial Development.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

268 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the Industrial Development Authority will transfer lands in its ownership in Gorey, County Wexford to the local chamber of commerce to allow it to develop business start up facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16092/08]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas and not a matter in which the Minister of the day has a function. However, I did meet with local T.D.'s and a delegation from Gorey Town Council in February 2005 to discuss the development of the 2.5 hectares held by IDA Ireland on the outskirts of the town. Consequent upon that meeting, I am informed that IDA has been engaging with both Gorey Town Council and Wexford County Council with a view to appropriate development on the site. However, in the absence of any suitable proposal for the development of this site, IDA is now in the process of reviewing its options for the future use of the lands and it is expected that this review will be concluded over the coming months.

Company Closures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

269 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 169 of 5 December 2007, if a company (details supplied) has honoured or will honour the tribunal’s decision of 24 October 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16183/08]

Following the voluntary liquidation of P.S.K. Construction Ltd (PSK), and the receipt of claims on behalf of the employees under the Insolvency Payments Scheme, the question arose as to whether a transfer of undertakings under the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) might have taken place between P.S.K. Construction Ltd (PSK) and P.L.K. Plant & Equipment Hire Ltd (PLK) — the employees' new employer. This was referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal in June 2006 under Section 9(3) of the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act 1984 for a decision in the matter. The Employment Appeal's Tribunal decision of 24 October 2007 found that there was a transfer of undertakings between P.S.K. Construction Ltd (PSK) and P.L.K. Plant & Equipment Hire Ltd (PLK). The liability for the employees' unpaid entitlements therefore transferred to the new employer, PLK.

The Tribunal notified its decision to all relevant parties. The Department then wrote to the liquidator formally refusing the claims. These claims were in respect of arrears of wages, holiday pay and minimum notice under the Insolvency Payments Scheme which had been submitted by the liquidator on behalf of one hundred and forty-six employees. The Department advised the liquidator that the employees should pursue their claims against PLK. They were informed that if PLK refused to pay the outstanding entitlements, the employees could pursue claims directly against PLK by submitting complaints to a Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 (for arrears of wages) and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (for arrears of holiday pay), and to the Employment Appeals Tribunal under the Minimum Notice & Terms of Employment Act (for any minimum notice entitlement), as appropriate.

I understand that PLK has now gone into liquidation. Claims under the Insolvency Payments Scheme are made through the person legally appointed to wind up the business, normally the liquidator, who will certify them from the records available, then send them to the Insolvency Payments Section to be processed. While the liquidator has had some informal contact with my Department, to date no claims have been made under the Insolvency Payments Scheme.

Work Permits.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

270 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will reassess an application for a work permit for a person (details supplied). [16187/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that they have re-accessed this application in light of the additional information received and that a work permit has now issued in this case.

Job Creation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

271 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the net new jobs position produced by both the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in the first quarter of 2008; and the expected impact of the severe credit, construction and energy downturn on these organisations’ performance projections for 2008. [16213/08]

Ireland has experienced a prolonged period of exuberant economic growth. However, we now face a more challenging and uncertain environment. Forfás and the National Competitiveness Council believe that this is not a time for pessimism about the outlook for the Irish economy. We have significant capacity — a skilled workforce, a strong enterprise base and a healthy fiscal position. These are supported by a range of important policy strategies in areas such as education, research and innovation and infrastructural investment. The NCC believe that if we behave sensibly and pursue the necessary policies with determination we can come through the current international economic difficulties in good shape and lay the foundations for future economic growth.

The NCC believes that the following are three priority areas for attention in order to overcome the challenges that our economy currently faces:

Restoring cost competitiveness: Ireland is a high cost location and costs continue to increase. The NCC believes that Ireland needs to develop a national programme for cost competitiveness.

Stimulating vigorous productivity growth: Productivity growth rates have weakened in recent years. Re-invigorating productivity growth requires a number of actions including adopting policies that enhance competition and reduce barriers to market entry.

Necessary strategies for encouraging the growth of innovative businesses include equipping people with the skills through life long learning and developing high performing higher level educational institutions. Transformational changes are needed in many businesses to enhance their ability to innovate and to translate knowledge and ideas into marketable goods and services.

Such transformational changes are being stimulated by Enterprise Ireland in their client companies and are embedded in the EI strategy for 2008-2010. EI offers a wide range of services to client companies and ensures that suitable supports are available across those areas critical to business functions to enable companies adapt and grow dynamically. Enterprise Ireland (EI) gathers data on an annual basis on new jobs created by client companies but not on a monthly or quarterly basis. Total employment in EI supported companies was 153,670 in 2007. Client companies created 14,615 new jobs. Overall this resulted in a net increase in employment amongst EI client companies of 1,321 in 2007.

Since the beginning of 2008 there have been 5 announcements relating to new multinational, greenfield start-ups with a potential to create 595 new jobs with IDA support, while in the same period, 9 companies have announced expansions with a potential to create an additional 1,016 jobs. It should be noted, however, that jobs announced may take three to five years to come on stream.

Community Employment Schemes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

272 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on launching a new jobs scheme in close liaison with business with the objectives of reintegrating graduates of community employment schemes into full or part-time jobs in the economy; and his further views on pilot programmes in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in this regard. [16214/08]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. The programme helps unemployed people to progress to the open labour market by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine and assists them in enhancing/developing both their technical and personal skills. The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment.

This Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review. I have no plans to launch a new pilot or other employment programme.

Job Losses.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

273 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the estimated net jobs gains or losses in the economy in the first quarter of 2008; the special measures he is putting in place to retrain and re-employ workers who have lost jobs in the construction sector; the special measures he is taking to retrain or re-employ workers who have lost jobs in the manufacturing downturn; and if he is finalising a package of proactive measures to minimise job losses and prevent a full scale recession. [16215/08]

Employment/unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey, collated and published by the Central Statistics Office. The most recent Quarterly National Household Survey, Quarter 4, 2007, which covers the period September-November 2007, indicates that employment has increased by 66,800 in the year. Data for Quarter 1 2008 (December-February) will not be available until May/June 2008. The range of services provided by FÁS, which involves information sessions, skills analysis, training/retraining courses and job placement will be available for those who become redundant because of company restructuring or closures. There is also active engagement with the unemployed after 3 months on the live register to assist them to progress towards employment, training or active labour market programmes.

FÁS is also placing particular emphasis on the training of low skilled workers in vulnerable industries. This is to ensure that in the event of becoming unemployed, they will have the skills necessary to make the transition to other employment. FÁS is currently developing a strategy in response to the current slowdown in the construction sector. This strategy will contain a range of initiatives such as working in close collaboration with the Construction Industry Federation and other key stakeholders to encourage redundant construction workers to seek re-training in skills which are in short supply in the economy. FÁS also works closely with the development agencies to identify and support individuals who wish to start their own business. The development agencies, including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards will continue to promote job creation through the delivery of programmes to assist the enterprise sector to develop thereby creating new jobs.

Economic Competitiveness.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

274 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he propose to take to address the issue of competitiveness in the economy, thereby protecting jobs and inward investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15632/08]

There are a number of key policies which the Government is implementing to maintain and enhance our competitiveness and to invest for the future. The Government has made a major commitment, through the substantial investment set out in the Strategy for Science, Technology & Innovation (SSTI) and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2007-2013, to making the transition to a knowledge-economy by funding world-class research in Ireland. Through the NDP and SSTI we are committed to providing €8.2 billion to ensure Ireland remains a key location for leading edge research and development, and the quality jobs it can deliver. Ireland is now a global competitor for research and Innovation investment from multinational companies and leading research institutions.

The National Development Plan provides over €2.8 billion for upskilling the workforce. The focus of Government has also been on training up those in employment and giving particular attention to those with lowest educational/training attainments in that grouping. FÁS and Skillnets are particularly active in this regard. The public budget for training those in employment has increased more than nine fold in the last four years. This year €510 million is being provided through my Department for all forms of training, including the very significant financial commitment of the Government to the training of apprentices. FÁS and Skillnets have been directed to increase their focus on the provision of management training and those in low skilled employment.

In our endeavour to up-skill workers we have also been working cooperatively with representative employer and trades union interests. Here also, significant public funds have been provided through FÁS to ICTU and associated unions to allow then to train and install a corps of leaders whose job will centre on identifying the education, training and personal development needs of members. Productivity and innovation are key to the competitiveness of firms. The Government's major policy initiatives, as set out in the NDP and Towards 2016, will enhance the economy's productivity potential. Active measures are being taken by our Development Agencies to improve the capabilities of indigenous firms in meeting global competition by greater investment in innovation, productivity improvements and other value enhancing activities.

Developing an innovation intensive economy is essential to enable Ireland to succeed in the face of growing global competition. Developing successful entrepreneurs and world-class enterprises are important ingredients in any economy based on innovation. Consequently, innovation is at the core of all Government Policy. Enterprise Ireland has set ambitious targets to help Irish industry make that transformation. An Innovation Policy Statement will be published shortly, highlighting progress made on a broad range of innovation policy areas, both technological and non-technological, and emphasising how innovative policies will be advanced in the coming years. The Statement complements and provides a wider context for the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation launched in 2006.

The services sector plays a major role in the Irish economy and is assuming even greater importance in international trade. Driving and supporting internationally traded services growth, both in emerging and existing sectors and through the internationalisation of locally traded services are core objectives. In that regard we will continue to map the way forward for services innovation through the Forfás Services Strategy Group and I look forward to the Group building on these good foundations. Enterprise Ireland aims to grow Irish presence in a number of niche services sectors, positioning services as a major export growth platform. While there has been some recent slippage in our relative competitiveness rankings, Ireland still remains amongst the most competitive countries in the world. Creating the best framework conditions to enable innovation to flourish which in turn leads to increased productivity and competitiveness will continue to guide our overall policy approach to tackling the competitiveness challenges ahead.

Industrial Development.

James Bannon

Ceist:

275 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures he is taking in view of the recent job losses in the midlands to encourage initiative and innovation in attracting investment to bring about a vibrant economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16366/08]

In regard to the Midlands Region, IDA Ireland is working to develop the knowledge economy in order that it can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment. Over the past 5 years the Agency has been promoting the Midlands as part of an integrated Midlands Region with access to a population base of 310,127. The Midlands has traditionally been a centre of manufacturing for foreign direct investment, but, as in other areas, they have seen a number of closures within the multinational sector as global investment shifts to lower cost destinations.

In order to respond to this situation, as part of the transition and re-positioning of the Region to a more knowledge based economy, IDA is marketing the Midlands Gateways of Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar as key locations for investment in Medical Technologies, International Financial Services and ICT — in line with IDA policy and with the National Spatial Strategy. Some progress is evident with companies like Kinetic Concepts, Teleflex Medical, Georgia Tech Research Institute, AXA Assistance, Elan Corporation, Cameron Ireland Ltd, Integra Lifescience and Alienware Corporation establishing or expanding their operations.

The Government is investing in the physical infrastructure required to attract today's FDI to the Midlands. This includes investing €3.5m in a quality flagship Business Park in Athlone, which is now an integral part of the agency's international marketing programme. The IDA has also purchased 70 acres of land at Ardmore, Mullingar. The site has been master planned and phase I construction is complete. Enterprise Ireland also has a number of programmes in place to assist indigenous companies in the Region to grow and export. The Agency has invested heavily in the Athlone Institute of Technology, which is a key piece of infrastructure for the attraction and development of enterprise.

In February, I announced a €50m boost to regional economic development. Athlone IT is set to benefit directly from this investment, which will support enterprise- focused activity in the Midlands in three ways:

Funding the purchase of industry-relevant research equipment

Providing more incubation space for start-up companies, and

Establishing additional market-focused research groups.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the State Development agencies will continue to support enterprise development and job creation in the area. I want to reaffirm that the State agencies will continue to work closely with each other and with local interests, pursuing an integrated approach to investment and enterprise development in the Midlands.

Job Losses.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

276 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he is taking to prevent the further loss of manufacturing jobs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16426/08]

The manufacturing sector in Ireland has evolved noticeably since 2000, in terms of the composition of industry and the nature of activities, and is likely to continue to do so. Manufacturing continues to be a significant employer accounting directly for 11% of total employment and a significant amount of associated services employment. In order to sustain and grow the sector, the Irish based manufacturing enterprises will have to continue the progression to high value added sectors and activities, and continue to increase productivity through investments in human capital, technology and innovation.

The latest available data on manufacturing employment is that compiled by the Central Statistics Office in their Earnings and Labour Costs Release published in March 2008. This release indicates that at Quarter 3 2007, there were 227,300 persons employed in the manufacturing sector which represents a small decrease of 700 on the numbers employed in the corresponding period in 2006. It is important to keep this in perspective both in terms of global economic conditions and the continued strength of the euro. Our manufacturing sector continues to perform strongly and 2007 represented a very good year with production growing by 7.5 per cent, the highest annual change since 2002.

Over the last number of years there has been churn in employment as is typical of a developed, open, and dynamic economy such as Ireland's. Ireland is no longer a low cost economy and manufacturers in particular are facing increased competition from producers in lower cost economies. Nevertheless Ireland continues to attract high value manufacturing activity as evidenced by recent announcements such as Zimmer, Green Isle Foods, Thermo King and others, to establish or expand their facilities in Ireland.

As part of the commitments included under the partnership agreement ‘Towards 2016', I established the High-Level Manufacturing Group, to review the challenges facing the manufacturing sector and to identify further measures to meet those challenges. Earlier this month I launched the Group's report. The report contains some 27 recommendations directed at key areas of innovation and productivity leading to transformational change, reskilling and management development for the innovative firm, increasing awareness and take up of existing supports. In addition, the group recommend the establishment of a Manufacturing Forum to take responsibility to progress the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the report and to act as a strong advocate and champion for the manufacturing sector to ensure that manufacturing remains central to current and future industrial policy. Action on the Report and its recommendations will be considered by the Government and Social Partners as part of the review of Towards 2016.

The Programme for Government contains a range of commitments focussed on maintaining and enhancing our framework competitive conditions, and promoting new areas of competitive advantage, including developing our R&D base, investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures, and promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning. Over the period of the National Development Plan the Government will provide total investment of over €25bn with €8.2 billion on the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) 2006-2013 towards achieving our goal to become a leader in Research & Development and Innovation, €3.3bn investment specifically to support the development of the indigenous and FDI enterprise base and €13.7bn on skills development.

Industrial Development.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

277 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the investment by the Industrial Development Authority in County Wicklow and County Carlow by location by year since 2000 to date in 2008; the number employed in each investment by location by year since 2000 to date in 2008; the further investment made in each location, by year since 2000 to date in 2008; and the closures of these investments by location by year since 2000 to date in 2008. [16455/08]

In the period 2000 to 2006 Total Capital (Fixed Asset) Investment in job creation projects supported by IDA Ireland in Counties Wicklow and Carlow amounted €15,725,000. Details of these payments in respect of each county in respect of each of those years is set out in the following Tabular Statement 1. Figures for 2007 will not be available until publication of the Agency's 2007 Annual Report in mid 2008, while figures for 2008 will not be available until 2009.

The total numbers in permanent employment in IDA supported companies in Counties Carlow and Wicklow in each year 2000 to 2007 are laid out in the following Tabular Statement 2.

Between 2000 to 2008, seven new investment projects and one expansion project, with a potential to create up to almost 1,900 jobs over a period of three to five years were announced by IDA Ireland for Counties Wicklow and Carlow. The names of the companies are set out in the following Tabular Statement 3.

During the same period, there was one closure, namely Nabi Pharmaceuticals in Bray.

Table 1: Grant expenditure by IDA Ireland in Counties Wicklow and Carlow over the period 2000-2007

IDA Ireland — Grants Paid 2000-2006

Co. Wicklow

Co. Carlow

2000

2,348,000

238,000

2001

1,107,000

19,000

2002

874,000

0

2003

7,309,000

0

2004

1,829,000

0

2005

1,236,000

468,000

2006

297,000

0

Table 2: Numbers in Permanent Employment in Counties Carlow and Wicklow between 2000-2006

Year

Co. Carlow

Co. Wicklow

2000

1,144

2,844

2001

1,120

2,635

2002

1,073

2,749

2003

1,031

3,508

2004

771

3,281

2005

782

2,518

2006

692

2,408

2007

435

2,532

Table 3: Projects Announced by IDA Ireland 2000-2008

Announcement Year

Company

County

Origin

Jobs Announced

2000

Euroconex Technologies Ltd

Wicklow

United States

880

2002

Servier

Wicklow

France

100

2002

Takeda

Wicklow

Japan

60

2003

Inamed Corporation

Wicklow

US

200

2005

NABI Pharmaceuticals

Wicklow

US

35

2006

Servier

Wicklow

France

227

2007

Merck

Carlow

US

170

2008

UNUM

Carlow

US

200

Decentralisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

278 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide in tabular form, details regarding the numbers of civil servants awaiting transfer to locations within the Laois-Offaly area, including Nenagh, Athlone and Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16492/08]

My Department does not have offices located within the areas mentioned. However, my Department is aware of 12 civil servants within the Department awaiting transfers to these areas, as per the table.

Athlone

Nenagh

Mullingar

Portlaoise

Laois

Total

3

1

4

3

1

12

Job Losses.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

279 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the information available to his Department on the closing down of a hotel (details supplied) in Dublin 9, and the subsequent loss of 60 jobs; the assistance his Department will provide to these employees in respect of their entitlements; and the assistance which is available to these employees in respect of securing alternative employment. [16511/08]

There is no information currently available to me in relation to the closure of the hotel mentioned. If the hotel has closed, with the loss of all jobs a redundancy situation may exist and the employees may be entitled to statutory redundancy payments.

Statutory Redundancy is an employment right, and is available to any employee over the age of 16 who is a class A contributor in insurable employment for two years prior to the date of termination. It is the responsibility of the employer in the first instance to pay statutory redundancy to each eligible employee. When an employer pays the statutory redundancy lump sums to those eligible employees, he is entitled to claim a rebate of 60% from the Social Insurance Fund by submitting completed forms RP50 in respect of each redundant employee to my Department for processing.

In general, a redundant employee with the required 2 years service in an employment is entitled to receive 2 weeks pay per year of service, plus a bonus week at the gross rate of pay up to a ceiling of €600 per week. Further information and an online calculator to assist in calculating entitlements is available on the Redundancy Payments Section of my Department's website www.entemp.ie. Further information may be obtained by telephone at 016313051.

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) can provide information to employers and employees on entitlement to annual leave or minimum notice of cessation of employment. NERA may be contacted by telephone at 1890 808090.

The employees concerned would have the assistance of their local FAS offices in securing alternative employment/up-skilling and/ or re- training in the event that their current employer is not in a position to offer work.

Job Creation.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

280 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will detail those announcements made by his Department for each of the past five years in relation to new multinational greenfield start ups; the number of jobs to be created in each case; the location of the greenfield start up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16517/08]

Details in relation to announcements of multinational greenfield projects for each of the past 5 years are set out in the following Tabular Statement 1. Since the beginning of 2008 there have been a further 5 announcements relating to new multinational, greenfield start-ups with approximately 595 jobs announced. The names of these companies are set out in the following Tabular Statement 2.

It should be noted, however, that jobs announced are typically created over a period of up to three to five years and that an announcement may not be made in relation to every new investment.

The 2007 business environment ranking of the Economist Intelligence Unit placed Ireland 10th globally out of 82 countries, naming it as one of the most attractive business locations in the world. To ensure that Ireland remains an attractive place to do business we work to maintain and enhance our competitive conditions, and to promote new areas of competitive advantage.

In line with the NDP and the Programme for Government, we are developing our R&D base and investing in critical physical and communications infrastructures. In addition, we are promoting tertiary education and lifelong learning as well as up-skilling to improve labour market flexibility. Consequently, Ireland is very well positioned to win further leading Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2008 and future years.

Table 1: IDA Ireland

Greenfield Company Announcements 2003-2007

Date Announced

Company

Location

Product / Activity

No. Jobs Announced

Type

16-Jan-03

Pfizer Inc

Dublin

Pharmaceutical

200

Greenfield

28-Jan-03

Recordati S.p.A

Cork

Pharmaceutical

60

Greenfield

12-Feb-03

Trend Micro

Cork

Anti-Virus Software & Content Security Software & Services

100

Greenfield

04-Mar-03

Abbott Laboratories

Longford

Diagnostic manufacturing

600

Greenfield

12-Mar-03

Google

Dublin

Internet Search Operations Centre

200

Greenfield

28-Mar-03

Schlumberger

Little Island, Cork

Shared Services Centre

150

Greenfield

28-Mar-03

ALTANA Pharma AG

Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork

pharmaceutical manufacturing

150

Greenfield

01-Apr-03

SAP

Galway

Global Technical Support and Customer Interaction Centre

350

Greenfield

02-Apr-03

Guehring oHG Albstadt

Waterford

Coating of Metal Tools

50

Greenfield

14-Apr-03

Overture Services Inc

Dublin

Internet Search Operations Centre

200

Greenfield

07-Jul-03

BuiPin GmbH

Waterford

Paint Manufacture

20

Greenfield

09-Sep-03

TR-Electronic GmbH

Cork

Software development

30

Greenfield

15-Sep-03

Pepsi-Cola

Cork

Soft Drinks Manufacture

250

Greenfield & Expansion

16-Sep-03

eBay & PayPal

Dublin 15

Secure online payments

800

Greenfield

13-Oct-03

MAPICS Incorporated

Athlone

Software Development Centre

55

Greenfield

14-Oct-03

Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (ACS)

Cork

Information technology outsourcing services

100

Greenfield

04-Dec-03

Transas Ltd

Cork

Manufacture & supply software information technology solutions

30

Greenfield

20-Jan-04

Comprehensive Sports Information (CSI)

Galway

On-line sports news and statistics

31

Greenfield

24-Feb-04

TKO Software

Dublin

Software development & services

40

Greenfield

23-Mar-04

Monster Cable

Co. Clare

Cable Manufacture

50

Greenfield

05-Apr-04

Ubiqus SA

Waterford

Centre for report writing

69

Greenfield

20-Apr-04

Merck & Co. Inc

Dublin

Pharmaceutical

80

Greenfield

21-Jun-04

Ecora Software

Cork

Software dev, research, sales and marketing

60

Greenfield

28-Jun-04

ECC

Dublin

Web Learning Centre

30

Greenfield

27-Jul-04

Centocor

Cork

Biopharmaceutical Manufacturer

330

Greenfield

05-Aug-04

Altera Corporation

Cork

Logic devices

60

Greenfield

Table 1: IDA Ireland

Greenfield Company Announcements 2003-2007— continued

Date Announced

Company

Location

Product / Activity

No. Jobs Announced

Type

08-Oct-04

AK Pharmaceuticals

Cork

Pharmaceutical

220

Greenfield

12-Oct-04

Business Objects

Dublin

Business Intelligence Software Solutions

350

Greenfield

28-Oct-04

McAfee Incorporated

Cork

Security Software

152

Greenfield

29-Nov-04

Innocoll Inc

Roscommon

Healthcare R&D & Manufacturing

60

Greenfield

29-Nov-04

Innocoll Inc

Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Healthcare R&D & Manufacturing

16

Greenfield

29-Nov-04

Conor Medsystems Inc

Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Drug Delivery Sector

40

Greenfield

29-Nov-04

Cooper Cameron Corporation

Longford

Manufacture of oil & gas exploration products

57

Greenfield

03-Feb-05

Hartford Financial Services

Dublin

Financial Services

130

Greenfield

03-Feb-05

AutoEurpoe

Dublin

Car rental Call Centre

60

Greenfield

03-Feb-05

MarketBoomer

Dublin

eProcurement Service Provider

35

Greenfield

15-Feb-05

Yahoo!

Dublin

Online product & service providers

400

Greenfield

25-Feb-05

Resprionics Inc

Galway

Medical technology

105

Greenfield

25-Feb-05

Labcoat Ltd

Galway

Drug applications technologies

68

Greenfield

25-Feb-05

Ulbrich Stainless Steels & Special Metals Inc

Galway

Manufacture & distribute wire products for medical sector

40

Greenfield

31-Mar-05

Toucan

Sligo

Consumer Telecoms

300

Greenfield

11-Apr-05

Engenoi Information Technologies

Cork

Information Storage Systems

95

Greenfield

12-Apr-05

DC Studios

Dublin

Video game development

50

Greenfield

09-May-05

Ellison

Clonakilty, Co. Cork

Manufacture Dies & Die Cutting Equipment

34

Greenfield

07-Jun-05

Qlogic Corporation

Dublin

Storage Area Network Infrastructure Component Providers

100

Greenfield

22-Aug-05

BISYS Hedge Fund Services

Waterford

Financial Services

250

Greenfield

21-Sep-05

Axa Assistance SA

Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Assistance service centre

300

Greenfield

22-Sep-05

Zeus Industrial Products

Letterkenny, Co. Donegal

Produce and distribute medical tubing products

150

Greenfield

28-Oct-05

Palm

Dublin

Mobile computing & provider of smartphones

35

Greenfield

12-Jan-06

USCI Ireland

Galway

Medical Technology

125

Greenfield

Table 1: IDA Ireland

Greenfield Company Announcements 2003-2007— continued

Date Announced

Company

Location

Product / Activity

No. Jobs Announced

Type

12-Jan-06

Amgen

Cork

Biotechnology

1100

Greenfield

25-Jan-06

Citco

Cork

Financial Services

250

Greenfield

09-Feb-06

Vesta Corporation

Dundalk

Financial Services

350

Greenfield

22-Feb-06

Sage Technologies

Dublin

Software

40

Greenfield

01-Mar-06

Amazon.Com Inc

Cork

Multi-lingual Customer Service Centre

450

Greenfield

20-Mar-06

Actel

Dublin

European IC Development Centre

20

Greenfield

21-Mar-06

Abbott Laboratories

Donegal

Healthcare Products

155

Greenfield

30-Mar-06

Pillar Data Systems

Drogheda

Computer Data Storage Systems

200

Greenfield

25-Apr-06

Sandisk Intl

Dublin

EMEA HQ

125

Greenfield

12-Jun-06

Netgear

Cork

Intl HQ

100

Greenfield

25-Jul-06

Cordis

Cashel

Development & Manufacturing Centre

450

Greenfield

07-Sep-06

Northern Trust

Limerick

Fund Administration

300

Greenfield

27-Oct-06

Servier

Belview

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Facility

155

Greenfield

21-Nov-06

Cisco

Galway

R&D Communications Technology

200

Greenfield

04-Dec-06

Eli Lilly

Cork

Biopharmaceutical Manufacturer

200

Greenfield

22/01/2007

Daiwa Securities

Dundalk

Hedge Fund Administration

300

Greenfield

02-Apr-07

Integra

Offaly

Medical Technology

65

Greenfield

12-Apr-07

Paragon Global Resources

Dublin

International Services

100

Greenfield

17-Apr-07

ACI Worldwide

Limerick

Software

100

Greenfield

17-Apr-07

Rovsing A/S

Limerick

Software

30

Greenfield

17-Apr-07

AR Europe Limited

Limerick

ICT

21

Greenfield

17-Apr-07

Gala Inc

Dublin

On-Line Games

32

Greenfield

11-Jul-07

Teleflex

Athlone

Customer Service

150

Greenfield

10-Sep-07

Solar Winds

Cork

EMEA HQ

75

Greenfield

10-Sep-07

Apex Funds

Cork

European HQ

40

Greenfield

19-Sep-07

Blizzard

Cork

European Customer Centre

50

Greenfield

19-Sep-07

KCI

Westmeath

Global Manufacturing Operation

50

Greenfield

27-Nov-07

FINCAD

Dublin

EMEA HQ

30

Greenfield

Table 2: Announcements since the beginning of 2008 in relation to new multinational greenfield start-ups.

Month of Announcement

Company Name

Location

Jobs

February 2008

Zimmer

Shannon

250

February 2008

Channel Advisor,

Limerick

15

February 2008

Unum

Carlow

200

March 2008

EyeWonder

Dublin

30

April 2008

Lancaster Labs

Waterford

100

Industrial Properties.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

281 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA factories which are vacant for longer than one year, for longer than two years, for longer than three years, for longer than four years, for longer than five years and for longer than ten years. [16518/08]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the Agency, as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas and it is not a matter in which I have a function.

The IDA's building portfolio currently consists of 144 units, of which 82 are leased from private landlords, and are referred to as Private Finance [PF] units. The following tabular statement sets out the number of vacant units.

Vacant IDA factories

Years Unoccupied

IDA Owned Units

PF Units

Totals

Over 1 < 2 Years Unoccupied

2

5

7

Over 2 < 3 Years Unoccupied

5

5

10

Over 3 < 4 Years Unoccupied

6

4

10

Over 4 < 5 Years Unoccupied

3

1

4

Over 5 < 10 Years Unoccupied

7

20

27

Over 10 Years Unoccupied

2

1

3

25

36

61

Sports Funding.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

282 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when an application for funding under the sports capital grant will be finalised for club (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [16376/08]

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

283 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will be in a position to allocate the funding required to a club (details supplied) in County Kerry to help this very progressive club upgrade and expand their facilities, to carry on and improve the huge voluntary contribution to society they provide to the young, the not so young and the male and female members of their ever expending community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16402/08]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

284 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will support a project (details supplied). [16424/08]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

288 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received a grant application from a club (details supplied) in Dublin 16, for funding from the National Lottery funded 2008 sports capital programme for a Prunty pitch; if he will grant the request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16583/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

289 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve funding for an application from a committee (details supplied) in County Galway under the sports capital grant 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16611/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 to 284, inclusive, and 288 and 289 together.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for online applications.

All applications received before the deadline, including the ones in question, will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Natural History Museum.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

285 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress made on displaying some on the artefacts on display in the Natural History Museum in alternate locations for the duration of the redevelopment of the museum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16449/08]

Since the National Museum of Ireland became an autonomous statutory body under the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 on 3rd May 2005, the Board of the National Museum is statutorily responsible for operational matters concerning its collections.

The National Museum has carried out an assessment of possible locations within its own premises to house a selection of exhibits from the Natural History Museum. It has decided to display some of the Natural History collection in the Riding School, Collins Barracks from the end of January 2009, when other exhibitions taking place in or already scheduled for the Riding School will have ended. The intention is that the proposed exhibition of Natural History material will also include a display of the scheme for the refurbishment and additional public spaces planned for the redeveloped Natural History Museum. It is envisaged that this exhibition will run for about a year, until such time as works under the Phase II Development of Collins Barracks, which will impact on the Riding School, will commence.

Sports Funding.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

286 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the support or grant aid available for a swimming pool and sports complex in a town (details supplied) in County Monaghan; when the application period closes; if there are restrictions on the person who should carry out the feasibility study as some of the committee members have been advised that only eight companies are recognised for carrying out such studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16458/08]

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department, provides grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of an existing pool. However, the current round of the Programme closed to applicants on 31 July 2000. No application was received on behalf of Carrickmacross swimming pool by that date.

A provision of €184m has been provided in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for supporting existing projects under the current round of the Programme and for new projects to be selected following the launch of a new round of the Programme which will take place shortly. The terms and conditions of the new round will be devised taking into account the recommendation of the Value for Money and Policy Review report on the existing Programme, which has been completed by my Department. Following the launch of the new Programme it will be up to all Local Authorities, including Monaghan County Council on behalf of Carrickmacross, to submit applications under the terms that will apply. It is a matter for the relevant Local Authority to decide who will carry out a Feasibility Study on their behalf.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

287 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of States, Government Ministers or other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16524/08]

Since taking up my appointment as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in June 2007, I have not met in an official capacity, with any Heads of State, Government Ministers or representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries.

Questions Nos. 288 and 289 answered with Question No. 282.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

290 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will establish a review of the treatment of people who are working and renting privately on low income, who currently are deemed to have insufficient income to purchase an affordable house, but who are excluded from the rent supplement and rental accommodation scheme and for whom family income supplement means test takes no account of their obligations, leaving them with little opportunity to better themselves. [16009/08]

The position of people on low income who are working and who are renting their home in the private rented residential sector is a significant issue for Government. The Government's overall objective is to enable every household to have available an affordable dwelling of good quality, suited to its needs, in a good environment and as far as possible at the tenure of its choice. To this end, my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides a range of supports within the overall housing system, to meet the long-term housing needs of people in various different circumstances. These supports include traditional social housing and the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), both of which provide tenants with the considerable benefit of Differential Rent. They also include shared ownership and affordable housing schemes, which enable people to enter into home ownership in cases where commercial mortgage providers would not be prepared to provide the necessary long-term finance because of the income position of the people concerned.

The Affordable Homes Partnership, which operates under the aegis of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has recently considered how the range of existing affordable housing mechanisms might be enhanced. A public consultation on their report is currently underway and there will also be a structured engagement with the social partners, housing practitioners and financiers on the findings and recommendations of this report, including the need for affordable renting.

My own Department plays a role in providing income maintenance support where required in particular circumstances by tenants in the private rented residential sector. Rent supplement is administered on my behalf by the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The purpose of rent supplement is to provideshort-term income support to assist with reasonable accommodation costs of eligible people living in private rented accommodation who are unable to provide for their accommodation costs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source. The scheme works well in assisting tenants who experience a change in their financial circumstances, for example as a result of becoming ill or unemployed. It is not designed to meet long-term ongoing housing need.

Significant changes to the means test were implemented in 2007 specifically to facilitate people returning to work. Where a person has additional income in excess of the standard weekly rate of supplementary welfare allowance, the first €75 of such additional income together with 25% of any additional income above €75 is disregarded for means assessment purposes.

This improvement in the assessment of means for those with income from employment, applies to all rent supplement recipients who are engaged in employment of less than 30 hours per week. It also applies to those returning to fulltime employment and who are accepted as eligible for accommodation under the rental accommodation scheme (RAS). These measures ensure that those returning to work or participating in training schemes are better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity.

Family Income Supplement (FIS) is a weekly tax-free payment for families, including one-parent families, at work on low pay. The payment provides an incentive for people to take up or remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if s/he were claiming other social welfare payments. FIS can be paid with some other social welfare payments in certain defined circumstances. Rent payments are not disregarded in the assessment of means for FIS purposes. Assessable earnings are gross pay minus tax, employee PRSI and superannuation contributions.

I do not propose to change the means testing arrangements for FIS to take account of housing costs because I consider that a long-term housing solution is what the families affected require, not an income supplement in lieu of long-term housing. Overall I consider that the current range of housing supports, together with the enhancements that may emerge from the current public consultation being undertaken by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to affordable housing, provides that potential for the families concerned. Should additional financing become available to address their needs, I consider that it would be preferable to deploy that finance directly in the housing support system rather than through the social welfare system.

Pension Provisions.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

291 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to increase the permitted part-time earnings ceiling of €38 a week for a person to quality for a State transition pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16078/08]

The state pension (transition) was introduced in 1970 when it was known as the retirement pension. It was designed to bridge the gap between the standard social welfare pension age, which at that time was 70 years of age, and retirement at age 65. The social welfare pension age was reduced over a period of years until it reached 66 years of age. A key qualifying condition for the scheme is that a person has to be retired in order to qualify for a payment. Retirement was de fined as not engaging in insurable employment, which today means earning less than €38 per week. I consider it important that those who wish to continue in employment after normal retirement age should, as far as is possible, be facilitated and supported.

The retirement condition associated with the state pension (transition) is only one aspect of a much broader agenda which will need to be addressed if we are to create the conditions where people can continue in employment past what we now regard as normal retirement age.

As you are aware, I published the Green Paper on Pensions on 17 th October and this includes an examination of all the issues surrounding retirement age, the barriers faced by older workers who wish to remain in employment and the incentives in this regard which can be considered. A consultation process on the Green Paper is now underway and will remain open until 31 May 2008. Once the consultation process is completed, work on developing the framework for future policy will commence, and proposals submitted to Government for consideration by the end of 2008.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

292 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason, when a child is placed in foster care their child benefit and child care allowance remains payable to the natural parents for the first six months in view of the fact that in many cases the natural parents have addiction problems and these allowances may be used for a purpose other than what it is intended for; if he will put changes in place to ensure that the benefit and allowance follow the child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16113/08]

Prior to this month, child benefit continued to be paid to the birth parent where the child was placed in foster care, regardless of the duration of foster care and even where the level of support provided by the birth parent was only marginal or occasional in nature. However, as the purpose of child benefit is to assist toward the ongoing cost of child rearing, I made provision for payment of child benefit to transfer to foster parents from the 7 th month of foster care.

In introducing this change, it was considered inappropriate to withdraw child benefit from a parent in respect of short periods of foster care, such as during a period of recuperation from illness in the case of a single parent without family or other supports. As it would not be feasible to legislate for all possible scenarios and in consideration of the difficulties in administering short term changes, it was considered that payment should remain with the birth parent for the first six months of foster care.

These arrangements were introduced following discussions with the Health Service Executive and the Irish Foster Care Association.

Data Protection.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

293 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps he will take in his Department to protect computer systems from theft and from the release of sensitive personal information which is held on these computer systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16143/08]

This Department administers some fifty schemes and makes payments to one million people each week. Because of the nature, scale and diversity of its work, the Department holds detailed information about its customers and takes its responsibilities to safeguard this data extremely seriously.

All electronic data is stored in the Department's primary computer site. The site itself has rigorous control procedures. Our systems are subject to standard physical security measures and, in the case of laptops, it is our policy not to hold sensitive personal data on them. Should we decide that we need such data on these devices, it will be encrypted. Industry standard security protocols, such as password protection and security software, are deployed to protect all departmentally-supplied devices and preserve the confidentiality of data.

Every effort is made by the Department to ensure that personal customer data is used solely for business purposes and that it is not compromised in any way. Over the last number of years, the Department has continuously strengthened security and data protection protocols. Policies and procedures governing the use of systems and data have been developed and communicated to the staff. These policies and procedures are under constant review, and are updated as appropriate. Staff are regularly reminded of their obligations under data protection and security policies and of the penalties applicable in respect of any breach of these policies.

In order to preserve public confidence in the operations of the Department, there has been, and will continue to be, considerable focus on the issue of data confidentiality. I can assure the Deputy that the Department recognises that security measures must continually evolve and it will continue to reflect this in its systems and procedures.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Ceist:

294 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will introduce a national waste services waiver scheme for old age pensioners and other social welfare recipients; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a large variation of such schemes being operated by local authorities and that some authorities have no scheme at all; his views on whether there should be equality of treatment in all local authority areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16172/08]

The setting of waste management charges and the introduction of waivers in respect of waste charges is, as has been stated in this House on many occasions, a matter for each local authority. Local authorities operate under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

The introduction of a national social welfare scheme to address the issue would not be feasible given the wide range of charging regimes and cost structures that exist in respect of waste management throughout the State. Charges vary across local authorities and within local authorities where there is more than one provider. In addition, some local authorities and private operators already operate waiver schemes but the qualifying conditions for these schemes also vary. Any system put in place to assist people with waste collection charges would have to take account of the different local arrangements.

My officials have discussed this issue with their counterparts in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I understand that they do not have any plans at present to introduce a national waiver scheme.

Customer Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

295 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his Department intends using voice recording for all telephone queries to it by members of the public as a tool for quality control and staff training; his Department’s policy on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16380/08]

My Department is committed to delivering a high quality customer service for customers, including those who prefer to contact us by telephone. Calls are dealt with in our local office network as well as in our headquarter offices. In recent years investments in telephone technology, along with continued emphasis on staff training, has facilitated the introduction of enhanced LoCall telephone services for customers.

At present, telephone calls from customers to offices of the Department are not recorded. However, the Department intends to follow industry best practice in both customer services and in staff training and development, and is currently investigating the introduction of call recording for quality control and training purposes.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Damien English

Ceist:

296 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of outstanding applications for child benefit that require processing with a breakdown of this figure on a county basis; the average length of time for an application to be processed for same; if he is satisfied with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16381/08]

The majority of Child Benefit awards are processed either automatically or in a partially automated fashion for children born in Ireland once their birth details are registered with the General Registrar's Office. As a result there is no backlog in these claims (for children born in Ireland) and parents are in general contacted by the Child Benefit office within two days of the registration of their child's birth. The Early Child care Supplement is paid automatically when Child Benefit is awarded. Payments on behalf of some 65,000 children were made in this way in 2007.

Currently there are arrears of claims in the Child Benefit section in respect of two groups of customers: those who have come to live in Ireland with their children and the children are resident here (children resident in Ireland); and those where a parent is working in Ireland but the children remain in their home country (children resident abroad). EU nationals who come to work in Ireland, but whose families remain in their home country may have an entitlement to Family Benefits in Ireland under EU Regulation 1408/71.

In relation to EU nationals with their children resident abroad, there are just over 20,000 claims at various stages of processing with the majority of these claims pending further necessary information and/or clarification from the authorities in the country of residence of the children i.e. before payment of Child Benefit is made for non-resident children it is necessary to contact the authorities in the country of residence (of the children) to confirm details and establish what, if any, family benefits are payable in the home country as this will determine entitlement to Irish payments. The length of time to process claims for non-resident children can vary depending on how quickly all relevant information can be obtained.

There is a total of 8,400 claims for non-Irish born children resident in Ireland on hand to be processed. These cases tend to be slower to process as the customer must satisfy the Habitual Residency condition test and this may entail contacting employers, Department of Justice and other relevant bodies to confirm their status in the state. The processing time for these claims at present is close to 9 months.

Measures are being taken to speed up processing times, including deployment of temporary staff, overtime work, and other process improvement measures. These measures will result in an improvement during the remainder of 2008. A breakdown of these claims on a county basis is not held.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

297 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if it is possible to allow rent supplement be paid to support accommodation for a person with a disability where the rental charge was above his Department’s guideline in order that the family could contribute towards accommodation that would meet all the persons needs. [16408/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, provides for the payment of a rent supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. Setting maximum rent limits higher than are justified by the open market would have a distorting effect on the rental market, leading to a more general rise in rent levels and in landlord income. This in turn would worsen the affordability of rental accommodation unnecessarily, with particular negative impact for those tenants on lower incomes.

Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, exceed the rent levels as an exceptional measure, for example where there are special housing needs for a disabled person in specially-adapted accommodation. This discretionary power is only used in special cases, but it ensures that individuals with particular needs can be accommodated within the scheme. Rent supplement is subject to a means test and any contributions made by family members towards an individual's accommodation costs would be treated as income for the purposes of the assessment of means.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

298 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of State, Government Ministers or other representatives of governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16535/08]

On 17 March 2005 my predecessor Minister Séamus Brennan met the Estonian Minister for Social Affairs, Mr Marko Pomerants, in Tallinn. On 6th April 2005 Minister Brennan met Assistant Minister Zdenka Ninic, of the Croatian Ministry of Family, Veteran's Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity on the occasion of a conference on family matters in Dublin. No meetings have taken place since between Minister Brennan or myself as Minister for Social and Family Affairs and a Head of State, Minister or Government representative from a non-OECD country.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

299 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will be assisted. [16665/08]

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE), provides for the payment of a rent supplement to assist eligible people who are unable to provide for their immediate accommodation needs from their own resources and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

Maintenance payments in respect of a spouse and/or dependent children are assessable as means for rent supplement purposes. Up to €95.23 a week is assessable in full. This amount is already disregarded in the assessment of means for a primary social welfare payment, including One Parent Family payment. The first €75 a week of maintenance in excess of €95.23 can be disregarded in full in the assessment of means for rent supplement purposes with a further disregard of 25% of any additional maintenance.

The Executive has advised that following a routine review of the rent supplement claim of the person concerned, it became aware that she is in receipt of maintenance payments of €75 per week. The Executive has requested that the person concerned provide documentary evidence to indicate the amount and duration of this maintenance payment. No adjustment has been made to the rent supplement in payment pending a response. The person concerned will be advised of the decision of the community welfare officer in due course and of her right of appeal against that decision to a designated appeals officer of the Executive.

Community Employment Schemes.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

300 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on launching a new jobs scheme in close liaison with the community and commercial sectors with the objective of reintegrating graduates of community employment schemes into full or part-time jobs in the social or mainstream economy; and his further views on pilot programmes in conjunction with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in this regard. [16212/08]

My Department manages the Community Services Programme which provides local employment opportunities for people from the following target groups — people with disabilities; long-term unemployed; members of the travelling community; lone parents and recovering drug misusers. The Programme provides funding to 380 established community services or businesses and supports local community activity to address disadvantage. The activities of the projects funded under the programme are varied and include, for example, community child care services, services for the elderly or for people with disabilities, rural transport projects, projects to operate community halls and facilities, community radio, rural tourism, recycling and environmental projects.

While maintaining its priority focus on providing employment opportunities for vulnerable target groups, my Department are considering opportunities for co-operating with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (D/ET&E) in relation to assisting individuals leaving community employment schemes. Discussions on the matter between my Department and the D/ET&E are ongoing.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

301 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding from the Dormant Accounts Fund for the purchase of a mini bus by a voluntary organisation (details supplied) is ready to be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16403/08]

The group concerned applied for assistance from the Dormant Accounts Fund under the disability category. The organisation has been approved funding and the payment is currently being processed by Pobal and will issue to them shortly.

Official Engagements.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

302 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the meetings, in Ireland or abroad, he has had for each of the past three years in an official capacity with Heads of State, Government Ministers or other representatives of governments from non-OECD countries; the date and location of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16526/08]

In both 2005 and 2006 I held no meetings with the Heads of State, with Government Ministers or with or with other representatives of Governments from non-OECD countries. In 2007 I met with a delegation of Government officials from Azerbaijan on the 19th September 2007 in my Departmental offices in Dublin. In 2008 I met with a representative of the Indian Government Mr. Shri Anand Sharma, honourable Minister of State for External Affairs on the 17th March 2008 in Delhi as part of my trip to India for St. Patrick's Day. I was also the Government Minister officiating at a farewell ceremony for the President of Estonia Mr. Toomas Ilves on the 17th April 2008 in Farmleigh House.

Proposed Legislation.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

303 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she has proposals to reform the Foreshore Act 1933; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16066/08]

My Department is currently responsible for the administration of the Foreshore Act 1933, which regulates activity on or affecting the State's foreshore. The Government decided on 2 October 2007 that responsibility for foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933 in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade, and for all energy developments (including oil, gas, wave, wind and tidal energy) and aggregate and mineral extraction developments on the foreshore would transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

My Department is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure the efficient and effective transfer of the appropriate legislation and associated functions. My Department will carry forward responsibility for all other foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933, including in respect of all aquaculture developments and piers and harbours, other than in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will clearly assume a critical role in relation to the future management of the foreshore including any legislative developments. My Department will continue to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in that respect.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

304 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food his plans to combine all animal welfare legislation under one Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16191/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

315 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she will publish the new animal health bill; the reason for the delay in its publication; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16190/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 304 and 315 together.

A good deal of work has already been undertaken and significant progress has been made on drafting the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill and I intend to initiate a process of public consultation by publishing a consultation paper and inviting submissions from interested parties and other stakeholders. The Bill will be a comprehensive piece of legislation, for the purpose of giving effect to a number of important commitments, in the area of animal health and welfare, contained in the Programme for Government. It is intended that it will amend and consolidate previous legislation to reflect the changed disease status of our nation's animals and update existing legislation, to ensure that the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) is properly protected and that penalties for offenders are increased significantly as well as replacing and repealing a long list of outdated legislation. Drafting of the Bill will continue after the consultation process, having regard to the various submissions received.

Turbary Rights.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

305 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if lands in County Mayo taken from a person (details supplied) in order that people could turf, will be given back to the owner in view of the turf-cutting restrictions. [15984/08]

In 1961 the former Irish Land Commission purchased some 96 acres of land from the person named. The fee simple of this land was subsequently given back to him for a nominal sum. Turbary rights over the land were disposed of, over time, to 41 individuals who now have legitimate title to these rights. The resolution of any turbary issues is a private matter between the parties involved.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

306 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the remaining grant aid will be paid to beet producers; the rate of payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16080/08]

The total package negotiated in the context of the reform of the EU sugar regime was worth in excess of €310m to Ireland. The first element is the compensation for the reduction in the minimum price of beet which is worth approximately €123m to Irish beet growers over seven years. It has been already incorporated in the Single Payment with effect from 2006.

The second element is the EU restructuring aid which, at the outset, was worth €145m to Ireland. Three parties benefit from this aid: the sugar processor, former beet growers and machinery contractors. The first instalment of 40% (€58m) was paid to the beneficiaries in June 2007 and the balance of €87m was paid in February 2008. However, an amending EU regulation in October 2007 had the effect of increasing the overall amount of restructuring aid available to Ireland and this increase, the amount of which has yet to be confirmed by the EU Commission, will be paid retroactively to the growers in June 2008.

The third and final element of the package is the diversification aid worth almost €44m to the former beet growers. The first tranche of 50% (€22m) was paid in September 2007 and payment of the balance to the growers got under way last month.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

307 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme 4 payment. [16140/08]

The person named submitted a REPS 4 application in November 2007. His REPS 4 plan will commence on 1 December 2007 and payment in respect of 2007 will therefore be for one month. It will be paid as soon as possible following some necessary changes to my Department's computer system which are currently under way. As all REPS 4 contracts will in future have an anniversary date of 1 January, my Department will adjust the length of this contract so that the anniversary date will become 1 January 2008 and the contract will be valid for a further 5 years from that date.

In 2008 the person named will receive 75% of a full year's REPS payment when all administrative checks for REPS and the 2008 Single Payment Scheme are completed. The remaining 25% payment will go out when the last of the year's REPS on-farm inspections has taken place. To receive his REPS 4 payment for 2008, the person named must also submit his Single Payment application by 15 May 2008.

Afforestation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

308 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the criteria for farmers to plant trees on their land; the planning involved in same; the locations where this has to be advertised for the general public to see; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16147/08]

The criteria for planting are based on the Forestry Schemes Manual, a comprehensive suite of environmental guidelines including fisheries, landscape, archaeology, biodiversity, harvesting and forest protection, and the Code of Best Forest Practice (all available on the Department's website). The criteria vary from site to site and each application is examined by the Forest Service for environmental and silvicultural suitability. The initial assessment of a site takes place by a registered forester who is listed on the Forest Service Register of Foresters and Forestry Companies.

Proposed sites in environmentally sensitive areas are advertised in the local paper and referral letters are sent the relevant competent authority and An Taisce. All public consultation notices are advertised in the relevant local newspaper and placed on the Department's website under the heading of ‘Proposals for Afforestation in Environmentally Sensitive Areas'. All other notifications for sites over 2.5 hectares are placed on the Department's website.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

309 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason recipients of the early retirement scheme payment (details supplied) in County Wexford are unable to receive their payment to credit unions; when she will rectify this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16162/08]

Under EU rules, my Department is obliged to make all payments under EU funded or co-funded schemes, including pension payments under the Early Retirement Scheme, directly by electronic fund transfer into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries as and from 16 October 2008, the commencement of the 2009 EU financial year. The existing situation in which payments may issue by cheque will continue until 16 October. As the designated paying agency for EU funds, my Department is obliged to adhere to these arrangements and has notified the new requirement to farmers on several occasions, including in the last week or so.

I understand that only a limited number of Credit Unions are currently in a position to handle direct payments by electronic fund transfer to customer accounts. For this reason, farmers who have notified my Department of a Credit Union Account may not be in a position to receive electronic payments. The introduction of this facility is a matter for each Credit Union and my Department will issue electronic payments to every Credit Union which has the arrangements in place to accept them. Banks and building societies also accept electronic payments and I understand that Postbank will facilitate the electronic transfer of funds to accounts held with it through the Post Office branch network in the very near future.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

310 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their REP scheme payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16163/08]

The person named applied for REPS 4 in February 2008. Farmers who submitted valid applications in February will start their REPS 4 contracts on 1 March 2008. They will receive 75% of a payment in respect of ten months when all administrative checks for REPS and the 2008 Single Payment Scheme are completed. The remaining 25% payment will go out when the last of the year's REPS on-farm inspections has taken place.

To receive his REPS 4 payment, the person named must also submit his Single Payment application by 15 May 2008.

Coastal Protection.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

311 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to a previous Parliamentary Question regarding the re-instatement of the sea bank at Cromane and recently released information regarding the construction of the new pier at Cromane being delayed for a considerable amount of time, if she will agree to providing funding to re-instate the bank before much more of it is washed away, putting private houses at risk from flooding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16164/08]

My Department's position with regard to Cromane remains as outlined in my reply to PQ No. 162 dated 3rd April, 2008 which is set out as follows.

The Glasha embankments near Cromane Lower were the responsibility of The Land Commissioners until the implementation of the Irish land Commission (Dissolution) Act, 1992.

My Department has, however, agreed to provide funding for the development of the pier at Cromane and agreement was reached between Kerry County Council and my Department's Engineering Division that should the dredging section of the Cromane Main Development Project proceed in 2007, my Engineering Division would consider using the waste material from the dredging to secure the embankments.

Kerry County Council are involved in the securing of a compulsory purchase order in order to progress the project, but unfortunately were unable to secure the necessary compulsory purchase order in 2007 and the Cromane project failed to progress in that year.

€750,000 has been allocated by my Department to this project in 2008 and Kerry County Council are hopeful of securing the necessary compulsory purchase order this year which will enable works to proceed. Subject to satisfactory progress being made by Kerry County Council, consideration can then be given to stabilising the embankments in 2008.

Harbours and Piers.

John Deasy

Ceist:

312 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason funding has been refused in 2008 for essential work on Helvick Pier, County Waterford; when such funding will be made available to Waterford County Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16169/08]

The pier at Helvick is owned by Waterford County Council and responsibility for its maintenance and development is a matter for the Local Authority in the first instance.

My Department received an application for funding from Waterford County Council for inclusion in the 2008 Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme. This application together with all others received was considered based on available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities. Unfortunately, the funding application for the above location was unsuccessful on this occasion.

Any application by Waterford County Council for funding under the programme in future years will be given due consideration based on available Exchequer funding and overall national priorities.

John Deasy

Ceist:

313 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the status of the project for the redevelopment of Dunmore East Harbour, County Waterford which is expected to cost over €50 million; the amount of funding she is providing for this project under the 2008 harbours programme; the planned commencement and completion dates for the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16170/08]

Work at Dunmore East is ongoing with site investigation work, surveys and examination of dredging issues in the vicinity of the Synchrolift having continued in 2007.

Due to the scale of the investment required for the redevelopment of Dunmore East Fishery Harbour Centre, my Department was required to commission a Cost Benefit Analysis of the proposed development. This has been completed and the results are currently under consideration by my officials.

I hope to be in a position to announce a decision with regard to the future development of Dunmore East Fishery Harbour Centre in due course.

In the meantime, my Department has allocated funding of €470,000 towards works at Dunmore East under the Fishery Harbour and Coastal Infrastructure Development Programme for 2008.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

314 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will extend the deadline of 16 May 2008 for the submission of REP scheme four plans. [16186/08]

The arrangements for REPS 4 are derived from a new Commission Regulation. In discussions with the Commission, my officials secured a special transitional arrangement for farmers in REPS 2 finishing their contracts during 2008. As long as these farmers have submitted an application for REPS by the new closing date of 15 May this year, they can submit their farm plans after that date and still receive payment during the year. My officials sought a similar transitional arrangement for all farmers in 2008 but the Commission were not prepared to allow this. I believe that there is no prospect of securing any further concession.

Question No. 315 answered with Question No. 304.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

316 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will approve the top up grant on the farm waste management grant for a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16218/08]

The person concerned is not an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. He has, however, taken over the herd number of an applicant under the Scheme. In such cases, the terms of the original grant of approval are, of course, applicable where the proposed works are completed to the required standards.

World Trade Negotiations.