Question No. 831 answered with Question No. 764.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (832)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

832. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the status of the plan to provide dentists in private practice with PPE; and if he will consider short-term supports for the sector to meet the increased cost of dental care created by Covid-19. [26584/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I am aware of the difficulties that the current Covid-19 pandemic poses for the dental profession. My Department has worked with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to provide guidance to allow for the resumption of the safe provision of routine care. My Department, in conjunction with the HSE, is examining the issue of the provision of PPE across all parts of the health service, including health service contractors.

The HPSC advises that regular PPE, which has always been used, is generally sufficient for routine dentistry. This is supported by the Dental Council which has indicated that dentists must take a case by case assessment when deciding if additional PPE is warranted.

Mental Health Services

Ceisteanna (833)

Christopher O'Sullivan

Ceist:

833. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if he has considered developing an out-of-hours crisis service to give persons quick and easy access to mental health services in addition to investment in primary care mental health services and talk therapies for early prevention and intervention. [26588/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Paediatric Services

Ceisteanna (834)

Emer Higgins

Ceist:

834. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health when a diabetic nurse in the paediatric ward of the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar, County Westmeath will be appointed (details supplied). [26596/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Ceisteanna (835)

Emer Higgins

Ceist:

835. Deputy Emer Higgins asked the Minister for Health his plans to deal with the extended waiting list for patients awaiting appointments for ear, nose and throat procedures. [26597/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of this year. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

The resumption of services from June onwards has allowed for increased activity, with the HSE utilising innovative methods including telemedicine to facilitate patient appointments. Patient safety remains at the forefront of service resumption. To ensure services are re-introduced in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols which has resulted in reduced capacity and activity

The HSE continues to optimise productivity through alternative work practices such the use of alternative settings including private hospitals, community facilities and alternative outpatient settings.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has also recommenced arranging treatment in both private and public hospitals for clinically suitable patients who have been waiting for long periods on public hospital waiting lists.

In addition to core HSE activity, the NTPF have advised my department that they have also approved 54 ENT initiatives (35 IPDC initiatives and 19 OPD) for funding so far in 2020 which will facilitate treatment for over 21,000 patients. 

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (836)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

836. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the status of an appointment for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26599/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

It is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been impacted as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer most scheduled care activity in March, April, and May of this year. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for Covid-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in accordance with the advice of the World Health Organisation.

The resumption of services from June onwards has allowed for increased activity, with the HSE utilising innovative methods including telemedicine to facilitate patient appointments. Patient safety remains at the forefront of service resumption. To ensure services are re-introduced in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols which has resulted in reduced capacity and activity

The HSE continues to optimise productivity through alternative work practices such the use of alternative settings including private hospitals, community facilities and alternative outpatient settings.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund has also recommenced arranging treatment in both private and public hospitals for clinically suitable patients who have been waiting for long periods on public hospital waiting lists.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy is a standardised approach used by the HSE to manage scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures.  It sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists and was developed in 2014 to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care.

In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (837)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

837. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health the reason teachers are not automatically tested when a student tests positive in a class; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26600/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

There is ongoing consideration given by the Government to policy in relation to the management of Covid-19 in school settings.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published Guidance for Educational Settings relating to the management of Covid-19 in school settings.  This guidance, which includes protocols relating to the management of close contacts, is available at www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/educationguidance/.

In relation to the Deputy's question, the HPSC guidance includes the following:

- A Public Health Risk Assessment should be applied to ascertain the level of exposure and necessary restrictions.

- Children or teachers in the child’s pod in school/childcare facility generally do not need to restrict movements unless the index child tests positive for COVID-19 or unless it is deemed necessary by Public Health Risk Assessment.

The public health risk assessment would take into account testing of close contacts, where applicable.

The Deputy may wish to note that schools must have a Covid-19 Response Plan and a Covid policy in place.  Up-to-date Government advice and resources for schools, parents and students in the context of COVID-19, including advice on Covid-19 planning is published at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (838)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

838. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans to fast track the testing of teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26601/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Following the return of students to primary schools, secondary schools and various after school services at the end of August there is now a demand for testing of groups of students where a detected case has been linked to a school setting.

To cater for this new testing pathway a working and steering group were set up to define a clear and concise process for schools testing.  This group has developed a testing pathway, templates for data collection and communication materials with the Department of Education.

An interim process is currently in operation to support all ongoing schools testing. As of September 22nd, 115 schools have had/ are having some testing completed as a consequence of a Public Health Risk Assessment. From the 115 schools that had mass tests there have been an additional 62 detected cases have been identified over and above original cases. Circa 3,000 students and teachers have been involved in mass testing.

Outside of the mass testing process I've mentioned and any public health risk assessments in schools, since our current testing supply is meeting demand, there is no immediate plan for "fast-tracking" testing of teachers, as referred to by the Deputy.

There is ongoing consideration given by the Government to policy in relation to the management of Covid-19 in school settings.  The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has published Guidance for Educational Settings relating to the management of Covid-19 in school settings.

This guidance, which includes protocols relating to the management of close contacts, is available at www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/educationguidance/.

The Deputy may wish to note that schools must have a Covid-19 Response Plan and a Covid policy in place.  Up-to-date Government advice and resources for schools, parents and students in the context of COVID-19, including advice on Covid-19 planning is published at www.gov.ie/backtoschool.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (839)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

839. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health the number of close contacts contacted via the Covid-19 tracker application since it was launched. [26602/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

In relation to the Deputy's question, regarding the number of close contacts contacted via the Covid-19 tracker application since it was launched, the privacy preserving nature of the app means that health systems like Ireland, who use decentralised COVID Tracker Apps do not have access to the number of alerts issued by the app.

The contact tracing teams in the HSE therefore the number of alerts being issued in two ways:

1. Users of the app who get alerts are advised to call HSE Live and the number of people who call are noted and

2. Users of the app have the option, during registration, to record their mobile number in the app and if/when they receive a close contact, the app 'releases' the number to the public health contact tracing operations, who can then contact the individual. The number of mobile numbers released to contact tracing is also noted.

As of the 22nd September, 2064 people who have received a close contact alert through the app have requested a call back from the Contact Tracing Team either through options 1 or 2 above.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (840)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

840. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans to carry out testing of antibodies in the population to see the percentage that may have had Covid-19 similar to a system in Germany. [26603/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

In June 2020, a seroprevalence study commenced in Ireland using antibody testing, to measure exposure to COVID-19 infection in a representative sample of the population in Dublin (high level of cases) and Sligo (low level of cases). A report on the overall findings of the study was published by the HPSC on its website on 21 August.  It is called “Preliminary report of the results of the Study to Investigate COVID-19 Infection in People Living in Ireland (SCOPI): A national seroprevalence study, June-July 2020”.

Amongst its findings at that time, it stated that :

“…we estimate that 59,500 people in Ireland aged between 12 and 69 years of age have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. This is 3.0 times higher than the number of confirmed cases aged 12-69 years notified in Ireland“.

It went on to state that the vast majority of people living in Ireland are unlikely to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by the time of the study, and are therefore still susceptible to infection. This highlights the continued importance of public health measures, including physical distancing, respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene and the use of face coverings, until a vaccine for COVID-19 is universally available.

There are no immediate plans for a further such study, although NPHET will keep the matter under review.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (841)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

841. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans to carry out rapid testing of arrivals from non-green list countries. [26604/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Ireland supports efforts to find a coordinated approach to balancing free movement and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains the responsibility of each Member State to enact the measures it sees fit for the protection of public health. However, a coordinated approach is necessary in order to limit the spread of the virus while at the same time keeping restrictions to the free movement of persons and goods to the necessary minimum.

We are working closely with the European Commission and other members states of the EU to agree a common approach to international travel. This includes consideration of the need to ensure that the establishment of any travel-related testing is effective in controlling transmission of the disease and does not impact negatively on the testing and tracing of symptomatic patients and serial testing of high-risk groups or workplace environments as recommended by NPHET from time to time.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (842)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

842. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health the reason Covid-19 testing units have not been opened at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26607/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Ireland supports efforts to find a coordinated approach to balancing free movement and travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It remains the responsibility of each Member State to enact the measures it sees fit for the protection of public health. However, a coordinated approach is necessary in order to limit the spread of the virus while at the same time keeping restrictions to the free movement of persons and goods to the necessary minimum.

We are working closely with the European Commission and other members states of the EU to agree a common approach to international travel. This includes consideration of the need to ensure that the establishment of any travel-related testing is effective in controlling transmission of the disease and does not impact negatively on the testing and tracing of symptomatic patients and serial testing of high-risk groups or workplace environments as recommended by NPHET from time to time.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (843)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

843. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Health the reason Irish-produced Covid-19 testing kits with a 99% accuracy rate and a result in ten minutes are not being used in place of the PCR test which is known to produce many false positives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26608/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (844)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

844. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health the reason Covid-19 testers in the Ballymullen test centre, Tralee, County Kerry are not provided with the FFP2 face masks in view of their close contact with potential Covid-19 cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26610/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

HSE Staff

Ceisteanna (845)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

845. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 1031 of 8 September 2020, if the HSE plans to employ more psychology staff; if it has attempted to employ additional staff in the Cork north Lee, south Lee, north Cork and west Cork catchment areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26611/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Hospital Staff

Ceisteanna (846)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

846. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health when up to 500 unfilled consultant posts will be filled; and when the pay inequity in which persons employed after 2012 get paid less will end. [26616/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the filling of posts is a service related matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to reply directly to the Deputy on this, as soon as possible.

At present 'new entrant' consultants recruited since 1 October 2012 are on lower pay scales than those recruited prior to that date. The Programme for Government provides for the finalisation of the new Sláintecare Consultant Contract and the introduction of related legislation to support 'public-only work' in public hospitals. The FEMPI Acts currently prohibit pay increases for serving public servants and will require amendment to enable pay increases for serving consultants who move to the Sláintecare 'public only' Consultant Contract. 

It is envisaged that this legislation will be progressed as a priority in the autumn and that my Department will at the same time engage with the representative bodies on the Contract in conjunction with the HSE and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. 

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (847)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

847. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons who are attending for testing at Covid-19 test centres are recording the testing process and staff with their phones, either of themselves or of family members; if adequate signage has been displayed at testing centres to make persons aware that recording is not prohibited prior to their testing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26621/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (848)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

848. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify the situation that took place in a school (details supplied) on 16 September 2020; and if he will provide a clear explanation in relation to same in view of the fact that the Covid-19 tracker system must have the confidence of the population. [26632/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

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

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (849)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

849. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of protected disclosures made to his Department by nursing home staff in relation to Covid-19 in 2020 [26640/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I can confirm that in 2020 my Department has received 1 Protected Disclosure by a member of staff in a nursing home.  It is the policy of my Department not to comment on the individual circumstance of any protected disclosure in order to protect the identity of the person who made the disclosure”

Nursing Home Accommodation

Ceisteanna (850)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

850. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of public submissions made to the expert panel on nursing homes established by his predecessor earlier in 2020; the progress of the panel to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26641/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I understand from the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel's Report that 60 public submissions were received by the Panel.  The final Report  of the Expert Panel was published on the 19th August 2020. I have now established implementation structures, consisting of an inter-agency Implementation Oversight Team and a stakeholder Reference Group to ensure that the Report’s important recommendations are progressed. These Groups are now operational and have met on a number of occasions in the past month to advance the implementation of the Expert Panel's recommendations.