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Wednesday, 4 Nov 2020

Written Answers Nos. 139-158

Vaccination Programme

Ceisteanna (139)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

139. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding the flu vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34059/20]

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, including healthcare workers, and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years. Vaccines are being administered via GPs and pharmacists, as in previous years.

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.

This season, 1.95 million doses of influenza vaccine have been purchased, which is approximately double the amount administered last season. The HSE has procured 1.35 million doses of the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV) for the forthcoming winter. This vaccine is being 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.

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. 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.

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 in the community. Maximising uptake of LAIV in children will also help protect others against influenza in the community. The full quantity of LAIV ordered has also now been received and is being distributed to GPs and pharmacists.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (140)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

140. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding continuous glucose monitoring equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34071/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Ceisteanna (141)

Matt Shanahan

Ceist:

141. Deputy Matt Shanahan asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding funding for medical devices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34072/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Under the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013, the HSE has statutory responsibility for the administration of the community drug schemes; therefore, the matter has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (142)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

142. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Health the number of complaints made to SouthDoc in counties Cork and Kerry in each of the years 2015 to 2019 and to date in 2020, by year. [34077/20]

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 (143)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

143. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Health if he will open testing centres in north and east County Cork in view of the fact that two centres are operating in Cork city. [34079/20]

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 Charges

Ceisteanna (144)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

144. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if he will remove the venesection charge of €80 per treatment for haemochromatosis patients charged by some hospital groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34108/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

Where venesection is classed as a day case procedure and is not carried out in an out-patient setting, the public in-patient charge applies.

The issue of the provision of therapeutic phlebotomy services for hereditary haemochromatosis patients, including the issue of charges, is under consideration by my Department and the HSE.

It is agreed that such services should be provided at the lowest level of complexity that is clinically and operationally feasible. In time it is envisaged that the majority of this work will be done in a primary care setting.

Meanwhile, the Irish Blood Transfusion Service is now accepting hereditary haemochromatosis patients who are eligible to donate blood at their fixed and mobile donation clinics nationwide.

Patients can attend a maximum of four times a year with a minimum of ninety days between phlebotomies. The patient's hereditary haemochromatosis will continue to be managed by their physician, including the monitoring of ferritin levels.

Hospital Procedures

Ceisteanna (145)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

145. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the procedures in place for haemochromatosis patients that cannot access their essential venesection treatments in hospitals in view of the fact that many patients have had their venesection treatments cancelled or postponed indefinitely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34109/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The treatment for the management of Hereditary Haemochromatosis is therapeutic phlebotomy (i.e. having your blood taken). It is agreed that such services should be provided at the lowest level of complexity that is clinically and operationally feasible. In time it is envisaged that the majority of this work will be done in a primary care setting.

Hereditary haemochromatosis patients can attend their GP. Under the 2019 GP Agreement on Contract Reform and Service Development, and since the beginning of 2020, GPs are paid by the HSE to provide venesection for GMS patients, patients that hold a medical or GP visit card with haemochromatosis. This means that GMS patients with this condition can now be managed locally by their GP and no longer have to attend hospitals for therapeutic phlebotomy.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service accepts hereditary haemochromatosis patients who are eligible to donate blood at their fixed and mobile donation clinics nationwide. Patients can attend, free of charge, a maximum of four times a year with a minimum of ninety days between phlebotomies. The patient's hereditary haemochromatosis will continue to be managed by their physician, including the monitoring of ferritin levels.

As the provision of venesection treatment is hospitals is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible in relation to the cancellation of treatments.

General Practitioner Services

Ceisteanna (146)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

146. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if he will provide a full list of general practitioners that provide venesection services for haemochromatosis patients in view of the fact that haemochromatosis patients that have had their treatment cancelled or postponed in hospitals may have difficulty in accessing a list of general practitioners that provide these services (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34110/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this is an operational matter, I have asked the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services

Ceisteanna (147)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

147. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if population screening for haemochromatosis will be implemented in Ireland (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34111/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The National Screening Advisory Committee (NSAC) was established in 2019 and has held four meetings to date. The Committee’s role is to undertake an independent assessment of the evidence for screening for a particular condition against internationally accepted criteria and make recommendations accordingly.

As part of its body of work the Committee will implement an agreed methodology for accepting applications to consider new, or revisions to, existing population-based screening programmes in Ireland.

Ireland, has always evaluated the case for commencing a national screening programme against international accepted criteria – collectively known as the Wilson Jungner criteria. The evidence bar for commencing a screening programme should and must remain high. This ensures that we can be confident that the programme is effective, quality assured and operating to safe standards.

The addition of any new population-based screening programmes, or modifications to existing programmes, will be incorporated as part of the Committee's work programme following a robust, methodologically sound and detailed analysis of the evidence in each and every case against internationally accepted screening criteria.

Updates in relation to screening will be posted on the NSAC website (https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/nsac/)

Chronic Disease Management Programme

Ceisteanna (148)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

148. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if haemochromatosis will be added to the list of chronic illnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34112/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Long Term Illness Scheme was established under Section 59(3) of the Health Act 1970 (as amended). The conditions covered by the LTI are: acute leukaemia; mental handicap; cerebral palsy; mental illness (in a person under 16); cystic fibrosis; multiple sclerosis; diabetes insipidus; muscular dystrophies; diabetes mellitus; parkinsonism; epilepsy; phenylketonuria; haemophilia; spina bifida; hydrocephalus; and conditions arising from the use of Thalidomide. Under the scheme, patients receive drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances directly related to the treatment of their illness, free of charge.

Haemochromatosis was not included on the above list and there are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the scheme at this time. However, a review of the current eligibility framework, including the basis for existing hospital and medication charges, will be carried out under commitments given in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy.

For people who are not eligible for the LTI Scheme, there are other arrangements which protect them from excessive medicine costs.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €114 a month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals with ongoing expenditure on medicines.

People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the HSE can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family.

People who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of GP consultations.

Programme for Government

Ceisteanna (149, 150, 151, 152)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

149. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health when work on the establishment of the national medicines agency is due to commence as committed to in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34113/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Colm Burke

Ceist:

150. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the details of the design of the national medicines agency as committed to in the programme for Government; the person or body that will be tasked with establishing and running it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34114/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Colm Burke

Ceist:

151. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the remit and function of the national medicines agency as committed to in the programme for Government; the way in which this will be distinct from existing agencies such as the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics and the medicines management programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34115/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Colm Burke

Ceist:

152. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the way in which the national medicines agency, as committed to in the programme for Government, will engage with key stakeholders such as patient groups and the pharmaceutical industry to improve access to medicines for patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34116/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 152, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to establish a National Medicines Agency, promoting national prescribing to reduce the cost of medicines, including via generic prescription, where appropriate, and to set a fair price for drug reimbursement.

The establishment of a National Medicines Agency would require a significant body of work to be undertaken, to map out an integrated pharmaceutical policy function for the Agency and to consider the resources necessary for its establishment.

That work has yet to commence, with the priority and focus on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (153)

Colm Burke

Ceist:

153. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health the status of a review (details supplied) into the medicines access programme as outlined in the Sláintecare Action Plan; when it will be published; the actions that will arise from its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34117/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

In 2019, following a tender by the Office of Government Procurement, Mazars conducted a review of the governance structures around the HSE's drug reimbursement process. The report was submitted to my Department in January 2020.

The review made recommendations in respect of the HSE’s systems, structures, processes, governance arrangements and use of specialist resources in respect of the drug reimbursement process.

The report was under consideration by officials earlier this year, however the focus of the Department of Health changed to the immediate public health considerations of the COVID-19 pandemic and the preservation of life. This meant that this work stream was temporarily suspended to reallocate resources to support essential services.

My Department aims to complete its consideration of the report’s recommendations in the near future.

Covid-19 Tests

Ceisteanna (154)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

154. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Health the number of amplification cycles being used for PCR testing; if this is a static number used for every test; and if the number has remained constant from March to October 2020. [34126/20]

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 (155)

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

155. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Health the standard the PCR tests are being compared against; the person or body that set the standard; and the way in which it was decided that the chosen genetic sequence was definitively from SARS-CoV-2 and could not be confused with another coronavirus. [34127/20]

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 Staff

Ceisteanna (156)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

156. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding employment opportunities for psychiatric nurses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34128/20]

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.

Community Intervention Teams

Ceisteanna (157)

Verona Murphy

Ceist:

157. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Health the progress made on the provision for community intervention team services for County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34135/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As this question relates to a service issue, the Health Service Executive has been asked to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Ceisteanna (158)

Verona Murphy

Ceist:

158. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for Health the current status of the recruitment of a child psychologist to the CAMHS unit in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34136/20]

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.

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