Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (851)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

851. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the process for Covid-19 testing specifically for routine testing in nursing homes; the location swabs are sent; the average wait time; and the longest wait time for processing and return of results [26642/20]

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 Tests

Ceisteanna (852)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

852. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health if routine Covid-19 testing in nursing homes has proven sustainable; if staff and residents in nursing homes are still being tested every two weeks; and if delays have been incurred specifically in County Meath [26643/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) requested the continuation of the planned programme of serial testing of all staff in residential care facilities (RCFs) for older people over the past  weeks.  This second cycle of the programme ran from 10 August to 4 September 2020.  This programme involved testing of all staff in RCFs for COVID-19 once a fortnight, for four consecutive weeks. 

In answer to the Deputy's question, it has proven both sustainable and valuable to date.  As part of our overall testing and tracing strategy, rigorous contact tracing and automatic testing of close contacts, large-scale testing in outbreak situations and other serial testing programmes means we are finding more cases than we would have previously. 

Cycle 3 commenced on 16 September on the same fortnightly basis. As of 22 September, there have been 12,165 tests carried out in Cycle 3 with 30 cases detected. This represents a positivity rate of 0.25%.

A further schedule has been developed for serial testing of staff in Residential Care Facilities for older persons.  This is a 2 week cycle with swabbing over 7 days.  The majority of RCFs have identified staff who are now swabbing their peers in the RCF. This training has been facilitated by HSE.   

In relation to delays in County Meath, the only instance identified by the HSE, relates to Heatherfield Nursing Home, Dunshaughlin, which has not yet identified staff to carry out swabbing and as a result required support of National Ambulance Service (NAS) to carry out swabbing.  The NAS did not have capacity to carry out swabbing on the original scheduled date Saturday 19 September, so it was scheduled for Monday 21 September, and had to then be rescheduled to Thursday 24 September.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (853)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

853. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Health the number of false positives for the PCR Covid-19 test; and the percentage of the results of these tests are as a result of Covid-19 material that is older than two weeks or is non-infectious [26644/20]

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 Tests

Ceisteanna (854)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

854. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health the contracts and services that have been put in place with the network of 46 laboratories contracted by the State or by its agents to provide Covid-19 testing services; the names and addresses of the laboratories; if they are public or private; the amount expended to date on the contracts; the estimated amount that will be spent on same; the services that will be provided under the contracts; the duration of same; the indemnity arrangements that have been made in respect of the laboratories; if there is one template contract or more in use; and if a copy of the contracts will be released [26645/20]

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 Tests

Question No. 856 answered with Question No. 764.

Ceisteanna (855)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

855. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Health the logistics provider whose contract has been extended to include Covid-19 testing; the address of the company; the testing services the company has been contracted to provide; the identity of the contracting party; the duration of the contract; the amount expended to date on the contract; the estimated amount to be spent on same; and the indemnity arrangements that have been made in this regard [26646/20]

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.

Question No. 856 answered with Question No. 764.

Medical Cards

Ceisteanna (857)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

857. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Health the changes made to the criteria of medical card applications; when the change will be commenced and introduced for new applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26649/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Health (General Practitioner Service and Alteration of Criteria for Eligibility) Bill 2020, enacted on 2nd August 2020, provided for an increase to the gross medical card income limits for those aged 70 and over to €550 per week for a single person and to €1,050 per week for a couple.

Although it had been originally intended that this measure would be implemented from July this year, it was not possible to legislate for the necessary amendments to the 1970 Health Act to provide for this measure until there was a fully constituted Dáil and Seanad.

While the relevant section providing for the increased limits has not yet been commenced, decisions on the associated funding requirements and potential implementation date are being actively considered.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (858)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

858. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health if drug and alcohol support groups will be exempt from the ban on indoor gatherings under level 3 of restrictions as an essential service which can operate in a socially distant and safe manner [26686/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a time of uncertainty and anxiety for everyone and particularly for those who are affected by drug and alcohol addiction. The restructuring of services, social distancing measures and self-isolation can be particularly difficult for those who are trying to remain drug or alcohol free and for those who are in recovery.

The Government plan for living with Covid-19 details how non-Covid health and social care services will be resumed, especially during the challenging winter months. This includes planning for the safe resumption of drug and alcohol services, including community-based services, residential programmes and recovery support groups.

 As you are aware Dublin moved to level 3 from midnight on 19 September for a period of three weeks. Under the Plan no organised indoor gatherings can take place while level 3 restrictions are in place. This level 3 restriction applies to all indoor meetings. However, organised outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people are still permitted. 

It is important that addiction services take place in a safe environment to safeguard the health of service users and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when level 3 restrictions are in place. 

I recently met with representatives of drug and alcohol task forces to discuss the restoration of drug and alcohol services. Officials from my Department have also engaged with Alcoholics Anonymous on the provision of guidance for their local group meetings.

I believe drug and alcohol services provide essential supports for people with addiction issues. The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, TD and I are committed to the restoration of addiction treatment services, as quickly as possible.  

Health Services Charges

Ceisteanna (859)

Michael McNamara

Ceist:

859. Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Health when persons (details supplied) in County Clare will be reimbursed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26690/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy.

Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (860)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

860. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Health the status of the reimbursement of teduglutide for children with short bowel syndrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26691/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The HSE has statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines under the community drugs schemes, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013.  

In line with the 2013 Health Act and the national framework agreed with industry, a company must submit an application to the HSE to have a new medicine added to the reimbursement list.

Reimbursement is for licenced indications which have been granted market authorisation by the European Medicines Agency or the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

In making a relevant reimbursement decision, the HSE is required under the Act to have regard to a number of criteria including efficacy, the health needs of the public, cost effectiveness  and potential or actual budget impact.

HSE decisions on which medicines are reimbursed by the taxpayer are made on objective, scientific and economic grounds, on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).

The HSE has advised that in March 2017 an application was received for the reimbursement of teduglutide (Revestive®) indicated for the treatment of patients aged 1 year and above with short bowel syndrome. In April 2017, the HSE commissioned a full pharmacoeconomic assessment with respect to this indication. In July 2017, the NCPE received the applicant’s submission for this assessment. In March 2018, the NCPE completed its assessment and recommended that teduglutide not be considered for reimbursement at the submitted price.

The final HTA report concerning teduglutide was reviewed by the HSE Drugs Group, along with the outputs of commercial negotiations which took place in May 2018. In May 2018, the Drugs Group agreed to request patient and clinician engagement input via the Rare Diseases Technology Review Committee (RDTRC) to assist the Group in making its recommendation.  The RDTRC report on this indication was received by the Drugs Group in May 2019.

In November 2019, the HSE Drugs Group considered all the evidence, including the RDTRC report and further commercial negotiations which took place in May 2019, and gave a recommendation to the HSE Executive Management Team (EMT) supporting reimbursement of teduglutide for the treatment of patients aged 1 year and above with short bowel syndrome.

The final decision-making authority in the HSE is the HSE Executive Management Team (EMT). Teduglutide remains under consideration with the HSE EMT and a final decision will be made in line with the 2013 Health Act.

Vaccination Programme

Ceisteanna (861)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

861. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Health if the flu vaccine for children aged two to twelve will be made available for free for the 2021 winter period and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26692/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Given the potential for the winter flu season in 2020/2021 to coincide with a resurgence of COVID, and the importance of minimising hospital attendance, the Government is expanding the provision of vaccination without charge to all of those in the at-risk groups aged from 6 months up, including healthcare workers. In addition, vaccination for 2 - 12 year olds is being introduced this year in the context of the COVID pandemic; this will be kept under review for future years. 

The expanded programme will ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of influenza will have access to vaccination without charges. By providing vaccination to those most at-risk, and those most likely to require hospitalisation if they contract influenza, it is anticipated that the programme will see a reduction in the number of influenza-related hospital admissions, as well as a reduction in the overall spread of influenza in the community.

The vaccination campaign will be accompanied by a comprehensive communications campaign to encourage the greatest possible take-up.

Healthcare Infrastructure Provision

Ceisteanna (862)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

862. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Health when the construction of a new acute mental health unit at Sligo University Hospital will be completed; the estimated cost of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26693/20]

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.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (863)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

863. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health his views on the actions of an employer (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26694/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Close consideration has been given by Government to Ireland's policy approach on overseas travel.  An electronic passenger locator form was launched on 26 August, which supports an enhanced system of engagement with arriving passengers including the issuing of targeted public health messages by text and email.

I am supportive of work towards a coordinated approach on intra-EU travel and have welcomed the publication of the EU Commission proposal as an important first step. Discussions at EU level are ongoing to ensure the proposal in order to achieves the right balance between coordination on travel and the public health concerns of Member States.

Until a common EU approach is in place, the Government Green List will continue to be published and updated weekly to ensure that the appropriate public health measures apply based on the assessed level of risk in the country a person has travelled from.

The current public advice for business travellers is published on www.gov.ie as follows:

 If you are travelling for essential business or work purposes from a location that is not on the green list

You may need to travel here for essential work, if this expertise is not available locally. You are still asked to follow public health advice and restrict your movements when you're not working.

You may need to travel overseas from Ireland for essential work. If you do, you are asked to restrict your movements when you return.

I would ask that businesses and individuals follow this advice, and indeed all public health advice, as closely as they can.

Covid-19 Tests

Question No. 865 answered with Question No. 764.

Ceisteanna (864)

Neasa Hourigan

Ceist:

864. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Health the number of staff from mental health services that have been seconded to work in the Covid-19 testing and tracing regime; and the number of community mental health staff that have been seconded to work in the Covid-19 testing and tracing regime. [26700/20]

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.

Question No. 865 answered with Question No. 764.

General Practitioner Services

Ceisteanna (866, 867, 868, 869)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

866. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) cannot access a family general practitioner in their locality [26743/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

867. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) cannot access a family general practitioner in their locality [26744/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

868. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) cannot access a family general practitioner in their locality [26745/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

869. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the way in which he plans to address the shortage of general practitioner places in Killimer, County Clare (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26746/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 866 to 869, inclusive, together.

Where a GMS patient experiences difficulty in finding a GP to accept him/her as a patient, the HSE has the power to assign that person to a GP's GMS patient list where the person has unsuccessfully applied to at least three GPs in the area who hold GMS contracts.

People who do not hold a medical card or GP visit card access GP services on a private basis and can make enquiries directly to any GP practice they wish to register with. 

As private contractors, it is a matter for each individual GP to decide whether to accept additional private patients.  In some instances, GP practices have a full list of patients and cannot take on new patients.  If this happens, patients should contact other GP practices in their area. While I have no role in relation to such matters, I would expect clinicians to consider the importance of patients having access to a GP service close to home when deciding whether or not to accept private patients. 

The Government is aware of the workforce issues currently facing general practice, including the increased demand for GP services, and is committed to the continued development of GP capacity to ensure that patients across the country have access to GP services. A range of measures have been implemented in recent years to improve recruitment and retention in general practice, including the recent GP Agreement which will increase Government investment in general practice by approximately 40% (or €210 million) over a 4 year period, and the ongoing expansion in the number of training places on GP training programmes. These new measures will help make general practice a more attractive career option for doctors and will increase the number of GPs across the country, to the benefit of both GPs and patients.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (870)

Violet-Anne Wynne

Ceist:

870. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Health the reason persons in County Clare are being forced to travel to Limerick city to access testing for Covid-19 when there is a testing centre in Cusack Park, Ennis, County Clare (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26747/20]

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.