Question No. 911 answered with Question No. 764.

National Children's Hospital

Ceisteanna (912)

Dessie Ellis

Ceist:

912. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Health the length of the delay to the construction of the new children’s hospital due to Covid-19; the amount this delay and halting in construction added to the existing costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26958/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the NPHDB has statutory responsibility for planning, designing, building and equipping the new children's hospital, I have referred your question to the NPHDB for direct reply.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (913)

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

913. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Health if he has sought or will be seeking for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to extend the Covid-19-related pension abatement waiver for HSE rehires beyond 30 September 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26962/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

My Department is currently engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to a further extension beyond 30 September 2020 of the temporary waiver of pension abatement for essential frontline healthcare workers.

The extension requirement is based on the need to retain critical skills within the health sector workforce to address the current public health situation due to COVID 19.

Health Services Provision

Ceisteanna (914)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

914. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if he will include Monasterevin, County Kildare in the courier service for blood samples to Naas Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26969/20]

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.

General Practitioner Services

Ceisteanna (915)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

915. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if he will provide for general practitioners to refer patients directly for MRI scans in public hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26970/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

GP’s ability to refer patients, particularly GMS patients, for diagnostic testing plays a key role in delivering health care in the community.  The COVID pandemic has impacted the level of GP access to certain diagnostic services, including MRIs, which may result in patients being referred into hospital emergency departments (EDs) and outpatient services to access these services. Delays in accessing diagnostic testing imposes an increased burden on GPs who must continue to care for patients awaiting diagnosis rather than treating confirmed health issues.

Recognising these issues, additional access to diagnostics for GPs will be provided as part of the €600 million in funding for the recently published HSE Winter Plan for 2020/2021. This measure will improve timely direct access as a priority to MRI scans and other diagnostic tests for GP’s and Community Specialist Teams for the upcoming winter period and beyond, enabling integrated care delivery in the community and decreasing the numbers attending EDs. Under the Winter Plan, an additional 33,950 diagnostics are proposed in Q4 2020 and an additional 45,267 diagnostics up to April 2021.

Primary Care Centres

Ceisteanna (916)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

916. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if he will make provision for a primary care centre in Monasterevin, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26971/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the HSE has responsibility for the provision, along with the maintenance and operation of Primary Care Centres and other Primary Care facilities, the Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme

Ceisteanna (917)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

917. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if the delivery of the flu vaccine is delayed until 29 September 2020 and that due to quantity issues the number of flu vaccines that can be ordered by general practitioners will be capped; if so, the number that this will be capped at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26972/20]

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, including healthcare workers, and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years.  

Vaccines will be administered via GPs and pharmacists, as in previous 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.

I am aware that, following a delay in the delivery of the first batch of vaccines, the first deliveries of influenza vaccines to all sites (GPs, pharmacists, nursing homes etc.) started on 17th September. For the initial deliveries, the quantities of influenza vaccine delivered to sites are the same as previous years. The quantities of vaccine available to order by sites will be increased in line with the amounts received into the country. All shipments, totalling 1.35 million individual doses, are expected to be delivered before the end of October.  The HSE is in daily contact with the manufacturer in relation to the delivery of the vaccines. Delivery of the nasal vaccine used to be used for children is not affected.

The HSE is satisfied that he number of doses procured is sufficient to vaccinate all in the at-risk groups. The start date of the vaccination programme will be late September or early October, the same as in previous years.  The vaccination programme for children is expected to commence from mid-October.

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

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (918)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

918. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Health if he will establish a Covid-19 testing centre in the south County Kildare that is convenient to persons of north Laois and south Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26973/20]

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.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Question No. 920 answered with Question No. 762.

Ceisteanna (919)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

919. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Health when he expects to bring legislative changes in respect of the nursing home support scheme before Dáil Éireann that will cap contributions based on farm and business assets at three years in which a family successor commits to working the productive asset [26980/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, (NHSS) commonly referred to as Fair Deal, is a system of financial support for people who require long-term residential care. Participants contribute to the cost of their care according to their means while the State pays the balance of the cost. The Scheme aims to ensure that long-term nursing home care is accessible and affordable for everyone and that people are cared for in the most appropriate settings.

The proposed policy change to the NHSS, to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at 3 years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset, has been approved by Government. The Department developed draft Heads of Bill while considering a number of complex ancillary policy and operational matters which may need to be addressed in the proposed legislation.

The stated policy objective of the general scheme of the Bill is to introduce further safeguards in the NHSS to further protect the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses that will be passed down to the next generation of the family to continue to work them as productive assets to provide for them their livelihood.

 The amendment of the scheme will bring certainty to the duration for which a contribution to the cost of care under NHSS will be levied against family farms and businesses. This in turn will support the viability of farms and businesses by increasing the likelihood of access to financing & promoting investment, which will encourage orderly succession planning with family members, encourage young farmers to remain farming and potentially encourage family members that had changed occupation or emigrated to return to the family farm.

 The General Scheme of Bill for the Amendment to the NHSS was approved by Government on 11 June 2019 and subsequently published. The changes to the Scheme will come into effect as soon as the legislative process is successfully complete. The General Scheme was sent to the relevant Joint Committee and the Department participated in pre-legislative scrutiny on 13 November 2019.  Engagement with the Office of the Attorney General began in early 2020 to progress the legislative development process.

This piece of legislation is a priority for the Minister and will be progressed as soon as possible, to support Farm Families and Businesses .

Further progress on the development of the Bill has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with focus entirely on responding to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been and continues to be a national and public health priority.

Question No. 920 answered with Question No. 762.

Dental Services

Ceisteanna (921)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

921. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Health the plans in place to deal with the under-resourcing of the HSE community dental service compounded by the redeployment of dentists from the service to undertake testing and contact tracing as part of the HSE Covid-19 public health response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26987/20]

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 (922)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

922. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans to move to saliva-based testing for Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26989/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The HSE has adopted RNA PCR as the gold standard test for diagnosing Covid-19 cases, as part of the HSE test and trace strategy, consistent with international best practice, and approved by NPHET.  This platform is deployed in acute hospitals, the NVRL and HSE’s commercial partners. Given the volumes required, these operate as batch tests and hence take a number of hours depending on the platform and the volume being processed.

The HSE uses rapid tests in key clinical settings, such as in our hospitals for emergency and surgical care.  These are rapid PCR tests which give results in short timeframes, for example less than an hour. As part of the HSE’s testing and tracing plan, it is trying to increase the number of these available as there is significant international demand and supply challenges. These tests only work in very small numbers so are not appropriate for large scale community testing.

Many of the rapid non-PCR Covid tests reported in the media, which purport to offer a test result in minutes (for example antigen tests) lack the sensitivity and specificity required for healthcare.  However, this issue continues to be monitored by WHO, ECDC, HIQA, and the HSE Laboratory taskforce.

The HSE believes that antigen and other types of testing, such as saliva testing, may well have a role in testing of asymptomatic people. It is constantly monitoring the sensitivity of these tests to ensure that where deployed they will be of appropriate quality and sensitivity. Again, this will not replace the requirement for large scale PCR testing which remains the gold standard for community testing.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Ceisteanna (923)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

923. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Health if he will establish a programme to support nursing and other residential homes which are being impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic to improve ICT facilities to ensure residents have access to video calling facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26993/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The HSE currently have an ICT programme in place to support access to video calling facilities on a nationwide basis.  This includes the upgrade and provision of ICT infrastructure in multiple health settings.  As part of the response to the COVID-19 emergency the HSE are also distributing mobile devices to enable access to video calling.  To date,  419 devices have been delivered into 118 public long stay facilities and 162 devices have been delivered into 101 public mental health facilities.

Diabetes Strategy

Question No. 925 answered with Question No. 764.

Ceisteanna (924)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

924. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Health when the resumption of normal diabetes reviews in hospitals and primary care will recommence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26994/20]

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. 925 answered with Question No. 764.

Addiction Treatment Services

Ceisteanna (926, 927, 928, 929, 931)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

926. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if officials from the drugs policy unit of his Department have met with which addiction recovery support meeting event organisers and stakeholders regarding the reopening of addiction recovery support meetings and if so, if he will provide details of the meetings [27003/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

927. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on engagement between event organisers and stakeholders and the national drugs policy unit on the reopening of addiction recovery support meetings [27004/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

928. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the safe solutions being developed by the drugs policy unit in his Department [27005/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

929. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if there is an addiction or recovery policy unit in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27006/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

931. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health the number of times the working group involving drug and alcohol task forces and providers meet; when it was established; if they will be publishing a report and if so, if he will provide a date for publication [27008/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 926 to 929, inclusive, and 931 together.

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 19th  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, including gambling. The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, TD and I are committed to the restoration of these essential addiction treatment services, as quickly as possible.

Addiction Treatment Services

Ceisteanna (930)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

930. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the development of a framework for the restoration of drug and alcohol services; the estimated publication date of same and if other addictions such as gambling will be included under this framework [27007/20]

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.

The Department has set up a working group with drug and alcohol service providers to develop a 'Framework for the Restoration of Drug and Alcohol Services', in a planned and appropriate manner in line with public health advice. The working group has identified issues on which guidance and supports are required. 

 

I have approved additional funding to support the resumption of drug and alcohol services including the adaptation of services, premises, online meetings and personal protective equipment.

 

I believe drug and alcohol services provide essential supports for people with addiction issues, including gambling. I expect to receive the Framework Document by the end of October.