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Gnáthamharc

Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020

Written Answers Nos. 119-138

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (119)

Jim O'Callaghan

Ceist:

119. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Health if churches can be reopened to enable parishioners that wish to attend mass to do so whilst observing social distance guidelines under level 5 restrictions as mass to many is an essential service and conducive to their mental health and wellbeing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33962/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Deputy is aware, the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 which was published by the Government sets out Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

The Plan sets out five levels of response, each with a number of measures designed to help us all lower COVID-19 transmission and setting out what is permitted at that moment in time. It aims to allow society and businesses to be able to operate as normally as possible, while continuing to suppress the virus. The Plan is framed to account for periods during which there is a low incidence of the disease, with isolated clusters and low community transmission, through to situations where there is a high or rapidly increasing incidence, widespread community transmission and the pandemic is escalating rapidly in Ireland and globally. It recognises the need for society and business to be allowed to continue as normally as possible and is designed so that either national or county level restrictions can be applied. Each level outlines what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services.

As I am sure the Deputy can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. For this reason, we are all asked to be extra careful when socialising and working with others. For now, we must act like we have the virus to protect those around us from infection.

The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.

It is advised to socialise safely and within the capacity limits. These various limits in the Levels are all designed to reduce the number of households mixing with each other and cut down the virus’s chances of spreading into more homes.

The Deputies should note, that the numbers should not be considered a target - they are the maximum recommended number. It’s always safer to meet less people, less often, for less time. If we do this, we have a better chance of keeping to the lower Levels in the Framework, and continuing to keep businesses, schools, and healthcare services open, while also protecting the most vulnerable.

The ‘Framework for Restrictive Measures in Response to COVID-19’ in the Living with Covid Plan provides for restrictions on gatherings of people indoors given the higher risk associated with these types of activities and sets out when it is considered that religious services can take place with protective measures (Levels 1 and 2) and when they must move online (Levels 3,4 and 5). Weddings and funerals are exceptions and can continue at every level with limited numbers.

Churches and other places of worship can remain open for private prayer. It is also important to note that at all levels, Ministers of Religion are permitted to travel to perform a service on-line, to minister to the sick, and conduct a funeral or wedding ceremony. The relevant regulations relating to Level 5 restrictions are S.I. 448 of 2020 (Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (NO. 8) Regulations 2020).

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has sought to implement these measures on the basis of guidance as opposed to regulations wherever possible. It should be noted that holding a religious gathering is not a penal offence.

I and my Cabinet colleagues recognise the immense sacrifices that are being made be people across the country at this difficult time. I know that that includes many people who are affected by their inability to attend church in the way they have been used to. However, there has been significant engagement and solidarity from the Catholic Church and other Faiths at all stages throughout this pandemic to ensure the protection of individuals and communities from COVID-19. Indeed, as the Deputies will be aware, the Taoiseach met with the leaders of the Catholic Church last week to consider the range of issues relating this matter.

Finally, the Deputies will wish to note that comprehensive guidelines are in place to ensure that religious services can take place safely when they recommence: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/religioussettingsguidance/COVID_religious%20settings.pdf

Mental Health Services

Ceisteanna (120)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

120. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Health the funding available for community mental health services that do not receive funding through the HSE or other Government Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33967/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

There are several mechanisms whereby community voluntary organisations can seek funding. Organisations can apply to HSE Mental Health Services for national lottery grant funding through the relevant local Community Health Organisation. Details can be found at: https://www2.hse.ie/services/national-lottery-grants/national-lottery-grants.html.

In addition, organisations provide mental health services to or on behalf of the HSE at both local and national level, under a variety of supply arrangements, such as section 39 funding. Under Section 39 of the Health Act 2004, the HSE may support any person or body that provides or proposes to provide a service similar or ancillary to a service that the HSE may provide. Details can be found at: https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/publications/non-statutory-sector/section-39-documentation.html

The Government Covid Stability Fund was launched in May this year. It provided €35 million to assist community and voluntary organisations, charity and social enterprises which are experiencing financial difficulties due to a reduction in their fundraising or trading income as a direct result of Covid-19. Mental health organisations have been granted approximately €400,000 so far from the fund. Budget 2021 announced an additional €10m to be made available for the fund. Allocation of this has yet to be decided, but it will be dispersed by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Pobal administers a number of funds on behalf of other Departments. Details of these can be found at: https://www.pobal.ie/programmes/

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (121)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

121. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will be called for an appointment with a doctor (details supplied) at the Midland Regional Hospital Mullingar. [33970/20]

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.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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.

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 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (122)

Carol Nolan

Ceist:

122. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Health if there is provision for healthcare workers that have had to temporarily leave employment to reclaim medical expenses incurred as a result of contracting Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33973/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

In line with the Guidance and FAQs document for Public Service Employers in relation to working arrangements during Covid-19 prepared and circulated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, provision is made for public health sector employees to receive Special Leave with Pay should they contract Covid-19 and need to remain absent from the workplace.

According to the HSE website, Covid-19 tests and GP assessments are free of charge. This includes GP out-of-hours services.

National Carers' Strategy

Ceisteanna (123)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

123. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Health the supports in place for grandparents of children with special needs in circumstances in which the grandparents are the primary guardian of the children. [33983/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As reflected by the National Carers' Strategy, the needs of family carers encompass a wide range of areas and involve a number of Government departments.

In relation to my own role as Minister for Health, I am committed to listening to family carers including grandparents who are carers together with their representative organisations. I am therefore working with my Government colleagues to ensure that we are providing the most appropriate supports to help sustain carers in their caring role. To this end, my colleague Minister Butler in her capacity as Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, held a roundtable with family carers on 15th September to hear about their experience as carers and how we can best support them in their caring role, in particular, given the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It should be noted that under the existing National Carers' Strategy, a range of measures have been introduced or extended by my Department to support family carers in recent years. Since September 2018, free GP visit cards have been extended to persons in receipt of the Carer’s Allowance. The Programme for Government commits to further extending this service to recipients of the Carer's Support Grant.

The Programme for Government also commits to delivering a ‘Carers Guarantee’ that will provide a core basket of services to carers across the country, regardless of where they live. This commitment is consistent with the National Carers' Strategy, which seeks to support family carers to care with confidence through the provision of adequate information, training, services and supports. In line with this commitment, €2 million has been allocated in Budget 2021 to provide a more standard package of supports to family carers in every region. The specific measures to be introduced will be determined through service level agreements between the HSE and relevant service providers.

Financial supports for family carers such as Carer's Allowance fall under the remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. In the region of €1.2 billion is expected to be provided to family carers in 2020 through Carer's Allowance, Carer's Benefit, Carer's Support Grant and Domiciliary Care Allowance payments.

The HSE and disability representative bodies recognise that people with disabilities want their services resumed as quickly as possible. However, it may not be possible to restore services in exactly the same way as they operated previously, because of the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and the need to continue to protect people from infection risk. The HSE’s A Safe Return to Health Services outlines a three phased approach to the return of health and social care services. This plan has ensured that short-stay residential and emergency/residential respite have begun to re-open since July and August. Activity will increase further in the next two phases, i.e., September – November and December 2020 to February 2021.

In line with the Governments Resilience & Recovery Framework (2020 – 2021), the HSE regards the provision of disability services as essential to maintaining a response to people with a disability, in the same way that schools and creches are. It is important to note that Government’s intention is that disability services will remain open at each level of the Resilience and Recovery Framework, subject to public health guidance.

The additional funding secured by my Department for disability specialist services in Budget 2021 will include provision for additional respite services for people with a disability and their families next year, which will be of assistance to grandparents who are carers of children with special needs.

To address the health-specific needs of family carers themselves, the HSE has developed a family carer’s support page on its website at https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/3/carerssupport/. In addition, Family Carers Ireland, which receives funding from the State, operates a freephone helpline for family carers (1800 24 07 24).

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (124)

Steven Matthews

Ceist:

124. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Health if he will provide clarity regarding the most recent update to the Covid-19 tracker application in relation to the new feature that allows users to pause contact tracing; the reason for this feature; and the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to pause the functionality of the application. [33988/20]

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.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (125)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

125. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Health if a venue has been sourced in Thurles, County Tipperary for the recommencement of podiatry and physiotherapy services for older persons in Thurles and its hinterland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33995/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is an operational matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (126)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

126. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) will be allowed to trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34000/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Firstly, I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to ensuring a balanced and proportionate response to COVID-19 by finding ways to implement public health measures in response to the pandemic in a way that is fair, reasonable and proportionate.

As you will be aware, in response to the rapidly deteriorating epidemiological situation across the country, Ireland has moved to level 5 of the Government’s medium-term strategy for dealing with COVID-19, Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19

This 5 level Framework reflects a careful consideration of the impact of the introduction of restrictions on employment and livelihoods, keeping as many businesses open as possible at different stages, while acknowledging that some businesses and services are critical.

Any measures introduced at any level of the Plan are aimed at limiting the spread and damage of COVID-19, and are necessary to protect our key priorities of supporting and maintaining health and social care services, keeping education and childcare services open and protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.

As I'm sure you can appreciate, COVID-19 spreads when individuals and groups come into close contact with one another, enabling the virus to move from one person to another. COVID-19 is infectious in a person with no symptoms, or for the period of time before they develop symptoms. The number of people allowed to gather in different scenarios in the Government's Framework are based on a review of international practice and the judgment of public health experts. It seeks to balance the risks of different types of gatherings against the desire to allow normal activities to proceed in so far as possible.

At level 5 of the Plan, unfortunately, this means closing many businesses and amenities to reduce the person-to-person contacts which allow the virus to spread. At Level 5 essential retail and essential services will remain open. Further information on essential retail and essential services at Level 5 can be found at:https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2dc71-level-5/#retail-and-services-for-example-hairdressers-beauticians-barbers

Further information on all levels of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 is available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/.

The Deputy should note that the Christmas trees are not a matter for my Department and are under the remit of the Minister for Agriculture Food and Marine.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (127)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

127. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health when a child (details supplied) will be allocated a bed for an MRI. [34002/20]

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.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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.

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 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (128, 129)

Richard O'Donoghue

Ceist:

128. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Health the position regarding dancing at weddings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34015/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard O'Donoghue

Ceist:

129. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Health the position regarding hair and make-up professionals services for wedding parties only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34016/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 129 together.

The Government's medium-term strategy Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19, sets out Ireland's approach to managing and living with COVID-19 in a range of areas over the next 6 - 9 months.

The Plan sets out five levels of response, each with a number of measures designed to help us all lower COVID-19 transmission and setting out what is permitted at that moment in time. It aims to allow society and businesses to be able to operate as normally as possible, while continuing to suppress the virus. Each level outlines what is permitted for social or family gatherings, work and public transport, bars, hotels and restaurants, exercise activities and religious services.

The Government has provided guidelines for weddings taking place at Level 5 of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.

25 guests may attend the wedding ceremony and wedding reception and this 25 does not include the persons getting married or persons attending in a professional capacity.

Guests are permitted to travel to attend the wedding and a minister of religion or priest is permitted to travel to conduct wedding services.

Hotel accommodation may be provided for 25 guests and the persons getting married.

Personal services such as hair and make-up services are not permitted at Level 5 in any setting and wedding dress shops are closed to the public.

It is permitted to have a baker provide a cake and it is permitted to have a photographer provide their services.

Live music and dancing are not permitted at Level 5 and the wedding reception must be fully seated. Novelty supplies and acts are also not permitted.

The wedding guidelines are available here: https://covid19.failteireland.ie/industry-updates/government-update-on-wedding-guidelines-october-21-2020/

The Government's guidelines for weddings at all levels of the Plan are available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/resilience-recovery-2020-2021-plan-for-living-with-covid-19/ .

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (130)

John Brady

Ceist:

130. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Health the measure the HSE management have taken in the past eight months to increase the hospital capacity for Covid-19 patients both in terms of ICU and regular care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34030/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, commits to continuing investment in our health care services in line with the recommendations of the Health Service Capacity Review and the commitments in Project Ireland 2040.

The Health Service Capacity Review 2018 found that the net requirement in combination with health system reform is for an additional 2,590 hospital beds by 2031 (2,100 inpatient, 300 day case and 190 critical care). The National Development Plan provides for the addition of the full 2,590 beds by 2027.

In the context of the current COVID-19 Pandemic response, the HSE advised on 22 June 2020 that an additional 324 acute beds have opened since March, bringing the current total of acute beds in the system to 11,597.

In addition, the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) agreed to support the marginal costs of funding additional beds to the end of December 2020 at a cost of €24 million. The HSE confirmed 197 of those beds had opened as planned.

This winter is expected to be particularly challenging due to the presence of Covid-19 and the uncertainty around the level of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 healthcare demands. The Department of Health is working with the HSE to increase acute capacity in hospitals throughout the country to meet this and other health demands. Government allocated €236 million revenue and €40 million capital expenditure as part of Budget 2021 to fund additional acute beds on a permanent basis. This funding will provide, by the end of 2021, an additional 1,146 acute beds.

A proportion of these beds will be funded as part of the HSE’s Winter Plan 2020/21. The Winter Plan aims to provide additional health service capacity across a range of services. Initiatives comprise additional acute and community beds to increase acute capacity, help reduce admissions and facilitate egress.

At the start of the year, permanent adult critical care capacity in Ireland stood at 255 beds, according to the National Office of Clinical Audit. This included 204 Level 3 ICU beds and 51 Level 2 HDU beds. As part of the initial response to the pandemic, funding was provided for an additional 40 adult critical care beds in March 2020 as well as two paediatric beds. The HSE has advised that between 280 and 285 critical care beds are currently open, with the number open any given day subject to fluctuation in respect of available staff and other operational considerations.

Where necessary, the number of critical care beds can surge beyond the baseline of 280-285 as part of an emergency response. However, it is essential to understand that the use of surge capacity for critical care is necessarily tied to a reduction of services in other areas of the hospital. Moreover, the clinical advice is clear that the greater the reliance on surge ICU capacity, the greater the clinical risk with potential impact on patient outcomes.

Our critical care units have coped well so far, largely due to the fact that the curve was flattened successfully in early stages. As a result, our outcomes for Covid patients in ICU have compared well with other jurisdictions including the UK.

Budget 2021 will allocate funding totalling €52m in 2021 to critical care. This will retain, on a permanent basis, the 42 critical care beds put in place on a temporary basis this year and add significant new capacity. Funded adult critical care beds will increase to 321 by end 2021, an increase of 66 over the baseline number of 255 funded beds in 2020. Funding for 2021 will also include money to allow for the development of a workforce plan as well as education initiatives to grow the critical care workforce.

This represents a significant step towards achieving the recommendations in the 2018 Health Service Capacity Review which found that an additional 2,100 inpatient acute beds were required, in a reform scenario, by 2031.

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 (131)

John Brady

Ceist:

131. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Health the measures the HSE has established for testing and tracing in relation to Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34031/20]

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 (132, 133)

John Brady

Ceist:

132. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Health if targets have been established for the provision of ICU care for Covid-19 infection cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34032/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

133. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Health the metrics established in order to measure the progress and performance of the HSE towards achieving targets for the provision of ICU care for Covid-19 infection cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34033/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 133 together.

Critical Care occupancy, particularly regarding Covid-19 patients, is closely monitored by the Department of Health and the HSE, with reports published on a daily basis on the HSE's website.

At the start of the year permanent adult critical care capacity in Ireland stood at 255 beds, according to the National Office of Clinical Audit. This included 204 Level 3 ICU beds and 51 Level 2 HDU beds. As part of the initial response to the pandemic, funding was provided for an additional 40 adult critical care beds in March 2020 as well as two paediatric beds. The HSE has advised that between 280 and 285 critical care beds are currently open, with the number open any given day subject to fluctuation in respect of available staff and other operational considerations.

Our critical care units have coped well so far, largely due to the fact that the curve was flattened successfully in early stages. As a result, our outcomes for Covid patients in ICU have compared well with other jurisdictions including the UK.

Budget 2021 will allocate funding totalling €52m in 2021 to critical care. This will retain, on a permanent basis, the 42 critical care beds put in place on a temporary basis this year and add significant new capacity. Funded adult critical care beds will increase to 321 by end 2021, an increase of 66 over the baseline number of 255 funded beds in 2020.

In relation to specific metrics and targets for the monitoring of intensive care units, this is a service matter and so I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Services

Ceisteanna (134)

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

134. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Health the status of the male unit within the Ballina District Hospital; the planned actions the HSE are undertaking to avoid closure of this male unit; and the recruitment campaign being undertaken to get more nursing staff. [34034/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is an operational matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Appointments Status

Ceisteanna (135)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

135. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if an urgent appointment will be expedited for a person (details supplied). [34035/20]

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.

Patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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.

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.

Vaccination Programme

Ceisteanna (136)

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Ceist:

136. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked the Minister for Health the measures in place to ensure all that need the flu vaccination can receive it; the way in which it is being distributed, the level of supply and supports available if pharmacies or general practitioners have low supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34038/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Government has expanded the provision of seasonal influenza vaccination without charge to all of those in the HSE-defined at-risk groups and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years. Vaccines are being administered via GPs and pharmacists, as in previous years.

This season, 1.95 million doses of influenza vaccine have been purchased, double the amount administered last season. The HSE has procured 1.35 million doses of the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV), made available to all persons in an at-risk group and aged from 6 months up. In addition, the HSE has purchased 600,000 doses of the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV), which is delivered via nasal drops rather than by injection and is being made available to all children aged from 2 to 12 years old inclusive.

This expanded programme will ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of influenza will have access without charges. This is in line with the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and represents a significant step forward in providing vaccination without charges.

International markets for influenza vaccine are extremely tight this year, and in Ireland this resulted in deliveries from the manufacturer taking longer than intended. However, the full quantity of vaccine ordered has now been received. Vaccines are distributed in two-week cycles. 950,000 doses of the injected vaccine have already been distributed to GPs, pharmacists, and healthcare settings. This is 10% more than the amount distributed at the same time in 2019 and is equal to almost the full amount administered in the 2019/20 season. The quantities distributed to GPs and pharmacists has been based on the orders from the same sources last year, in order to ensure an equitable distribution. The remaining 400,000 doses will be distributed to GPs and pharmacists in the coming weeks.

Given the difficult international market for flu vaccines this year, it is unlikely that any further increase in supply will be possible. Demand for vaccination this year is unprecedented. This is the case across Europe and beyond. Given the finite supply available, it is important that even the increased quantities available in Ireland are targeted where they will have the greatest impact.

The new nasal (LAIV) influenza vaccine programme for children is well underway across the country. A high uptake of the vaccine in children has been shown to reduce the spread of influenza, helping to protect others in the community. The full quantity of LAIV ordered has also now been received and is being distributed to GPs and pharmacists.

Given the importance of increasing the level of uptake of the flu vaccine this year, GPs and pharmacists are incentivised not only to deliver vaccination to the expanded groups, but to actively seek out relevant patients and deliver vaccinations in a programmatic way, such as through dedicated flu vaccination clinics. The fees payable by the HSE to GPs and pharmacists for vaccine administration have been set in recognition of logistical challenges and possible need to establish vaccination clinics.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (137)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

137. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an activity (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34048/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Deputy is aware, Ireland is currently at Level 5 of Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 - the Plan for Living with COVID-19. At Level 5, only essential retail outlets and essential services are allowed to open to the public.

The list of essential services that can remain open during Level 5 includes therapy services provided by a member of a designated profession within the meaning of section 3 of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (No. 27 of 2005). There are seventeen professions designated under the 2005 Act, which are encompassed in the list of essential services. These are: Dietitians, Dispensing Opticians, Medical Scientists, Occupational Therapists, Optometrists, Physiotherapists (which includes Physical Therapists), Radiographers, Radiation Therapists, Social Workers, Speech and Language Therapists, Clinical Biochemists, Counsellors, Orthoptists, Podiatrists, Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Social Care Workers.

Mental Health Services

Ceisteanna (138)

Steven Matthews

Ceist:

138. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Health his plans to extend the funding streams that are available for trainee clinical psychologists to include those that choose to study counselling and educational psychology in view of the fact that at present the latter receive no payment during their traineeship or assistance with the cost of their studies. [34052/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible

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