General Practitioner Services

Ceisteanna (267)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

267. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Health if routine blood tests are covered by the medical card following media reports indicating many general practitioners are charging medical card patients for blood tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13226/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the terms of the current GMS contract, GPs are required to provide eligible patients with ''all proper and necessary treatment of a kind usually undertaken by a general practitioner and not requiring special skill or experience of a degree or kind which general practitioners cannot reasonably be expected to possess." There is no provision under the GMS GP contract for persons who hold a medical card or GP visit card to be charged for routine phlebotomy services provided by their GP which are required to either assist in the diagnosis of illness or the treatment of a condition. The HSE has advised GPs that where a blood test forms part of the investigation or necessary treatment of a patient’s symptoms or conditions, this should be free of charge for patients who hold a medical card or GP visit card. Notwithstanding this, I am aware that some GPs have begun to charge GMS patients for phlebotomy services in some circumstances.

This is a matter of concern for me as it has long been the position, under successive Governments, that no user charges should apply to GP services provided to GMS and GP visit card patients. If a patient who holds a medical card or GP visit card believes he or she has been incorrectly charged for routine phlebotomy services by his or her GP, then that patient may take the matter up with their HSE Local Health Office, who will investigate the complaint.

If the local office determines that the charge was inappropriate, it will inform the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Service who will arrange to refund the cost of the blood test to patient and recoup this amount from the GP. The local office will inform the GP of the decision to deduct the payment.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (268)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

268. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health if the necessary additional resources will be provided for improvement in the delivery of services for children in counties Cavan and Monaghan (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13229/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hare Coursing

Ceisteanna (269)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

269. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans for initiatives to encourage coursing clubs to transition from live coursing to drag coursing (details supplied). [13029/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) has informed me that the coursing-bred greyhound is separate and distinct from track-bred greyhounds and will generally not chase a lure.

On the important issue of animal welfare, under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958 the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club. This is subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon, which is the statutory body with responsibility for the improvement and development of the greyhound industry, greyhound racing and coursing. The ICC has confirmed that it has systems in place to underpin the welfare of animals participating in coursing events. In particular hounds are muzzled to minimise injury.

Regarding controls carried out, the ICC requires that a veterinary surgeon and a control steward are present at all coursing meetings. In addition veterinary officials from my Department and Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) also monitor a number of meetings during the coursing season.

The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue to carefully monitor the situation in order to ensure that live coursing is run in a well controlled manner. I welcome the strong emphasis being placed on welfare issues at coursing meetings.

Weather Events Response

Ceisteanna (270)

James Browne

Ceist:

270. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to introduce a snow damage relief measure in response to the localised severe snow experienced in County Wexford with a view to providing financial assistance to crop growers for direct costs arising from the loss of crops and or structures such as polytunnels, glasshouses and sheds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13017/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Throughout the period of adverse weather conditions caused by storm Emma, my Department was directly involved in a co-ordinated response as a member of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group (NECG), convened by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the lead Government Department on Severe Weather Incidents.

While the South and East of the country bore the brunt of the storm and its after effects, many other areas experienced disruptions to daily life and the business of farming to a greater or lesser degree. Throughout this period and immediately afterwards Department staff, together with Teagasc worked at local level to ensure that the farming community had access to the best advice on how to cope with the numerous issues thrown up by the storm.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the significant assistance the farming community provided within the wider local community at this busy time as they looked in on neighbours, cleared roads and helped to restore access to more remote rural areas.

In the aftermath of the storm as the sector slowly returned to normal it became clear that the main problem centred on damage to horticulture and other on-farm structures. Such structures will principally be insured and it is important that insurance companies respond rapidly and flexibly to the needs of their farmer customers. It is important to emphasise that public support cannot be provided for insurable risks.

In order to respond where possible to the issue of structural damage I believe that it is appropriate to recognise supports already available through current on-farm investment support schemes operated by my Department and I have asked my officials to examine these in the context of Storm Emma as a matter of urgency.

Aquaculture Licence Appeals

Ceisteanna (271)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

271. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of an appeal by a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13056/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Appeals against Ministerial decisions in respect of Aquaculture Licence applications are considered by the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board (ALAB) which is an independent body established by Statute for that purpose.

A number of Aquaculture Licence applications for sites in Lough Swilly were determined by me on 30 November 2017, in accordance with the applicable legislation.

It is understood that appeals against these decisions may have been submitted to ALAB.

In view of the independent status of ALAB it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this stage.

Basic Payment Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (272)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

272. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a further review of the entitlements of a person (details supplied) will be carried out under the basic payment scheme allocated to same in 2015/2016; if an oral hearing will be held if necessary to ensure as thorough a review as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13117/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

On foot of a meeting with the person named and in response to PQ 23222/17, a review of the entitlement details for the person named from the year 2000 to 2017 took place in May 2017. A comprehensive response was issued at that time effectively closing the query.

In the event that the person named is dissatisfied with the response previously given, he may exercise his right to contact the Agriculture Appeals Office regarding the allocation of entitlements. The Appeals Office has the power to conduct oral hearings where necessary.

Departmental Communications

Ceisteanna (273)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

273. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a confidential phone line will be established within his Department for persons with literacy or learning difficulties or that have problems with understanding or interpreting his Department's cross compliance handbook; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13118/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department aims to ensure that the needs of all its customers, including people with disabilities, are met and that the rights of equal treatment are upheld in the delivery of services.

In accordance with Section 26(2) of the Disability Act 2005, I have appointed two Access Officers who are responsible for providing, or arranging for, assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities accessing services provided by my Department and generally to act as a point of contact for people wishing to access such services.

In addition to the Access Officers, Department officials are available in all regions to provide assistance to applicants who have questions or concerns on any scheme operated by the Department.  My officials have a detailed knowledge of the relevant schemes and services and are in a position to respond to customer queries.  

An audio version of the Department’s Explanatory Handbook for Cross Compliance requirements is available on the Department’s website under the Farmer Schemes and Payments/Cross Compliance area. The Department’s website also has the “BrowseAloud” facility to read web pages aloud for people with literacy and visual impairments.

I wish to assure the Deputy that any queries from persons with literacy or learning difficulties relating to access to any schemes and services are handled in a confidential and professional manner. 

Based on the volume of requests for assistance in recent years, I consider the measures in place in my Department are appropriate and adequate to deal with queries of this nature.

Services for People with Disabilities

Ceisteanna (274)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

274. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied that the appointment of two access officers is sufficient in providing assistance to persons with disabilities that contact his Department; if the two access officers have received sufficient training in assisting persons with literacy or learning difficulties that may have problems with understanding or interpreting his Department's rules and regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13119/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

I wish to inform the Deputy that in accordance with Section(2) of the Disability Act 2005, I have appointed two Access Officers in my Department, who are available to deal with any requests to provide assistance and guidance to persons with disabilities in accessing services provided by my Department.

I am satisfied that two Access officers are adequate to deal with the volume of requests from persons with disabilities who contact my Department for assistance. Over the past three years, the total number of requests of this nature is in single figures. The Access officers are experienced members of staff with a wide knowledge of the Department. They engage with the National Disability Authority (NDA) on an ongoing basis and participate in seminars and workshops appropriate to their role and have completed the NDA on line E-learning Disability Equality Training course.

Knowledge Transfer Programme

Ceisteanna (275)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

275. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of applicants under the knowledge transfer scheme; the payments to date; the timeframe for certain payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13124/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Knowledge Transfer is one of a suite of measures included under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 and involves the formation of knowledge transfer groups across the beef, dairy, equine, sheep, tillage and poultry sectors.

Out of approximately 20,200 applicants almost 19,100 farmers were approved and have actively participated in Year One of the Programme attending a range of Knowledge Transfer Group Meetings, Knowledge Transfer approved National Events and completing Farm Improvement Plans and Animal Health Measures.

Facilitators who complete all of the requirements of the programme receive a payment of €500 per participant for each year of the three year programme and farmer participants who complete all of the requirements of the programme receive a payment of €750 per annum.

To date, in excess of €10 million has been paid to over 14,200 participants across the six sectors. In addition, in excess of €6.7 million has been paid to date to approved Knowledge Transfer facilitators across six sectors. 

Payments are ongoing with payments in respect of participants and facilitators who did not fully complete their scheme commitments in Year 1 due to issue shortly.

Ministerial Staff Data

Ceisteanna (276)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

276. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13151/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the Appointment of Special Adviser (Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine) Orders, 2016 and 2018 the following special advisers have been appointed since I became Minister: Ms. Áine Kilroy (re-appointment), Mr. Jonathan Hoare (re-appointment) and Mr. Ultan Waldron.  Two advisers, Mr. Hoare and Mr. Waldron are currently serving, in line with Section 11 of the Public Service Management Act, 1997.

Mr. Hoare is the Political Adviser, while Mr. Waldron is the Policy Adviser.  Additional information relating to the appointment of advisers is provided to the Oireachtas upon their appointment.  The current salary scale for Ministerial Advisers is: Special Adviser (Principal Officer) €80,852 - €99,408 p/a.

Since my appointment as Minister four Civilian Drivers have been appointed, with two drivers assigned to Minister of State Doyle and two to myself.

 The current salary rate for Civilian Drivers is €657.43 p/w.