Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Health): Statements
Simon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
I thank Deputy Browne for raising these matters. It is timely because, yesterday, I spent much of the day meeting, at the request of Deputy Shortall, the Disability Action Coalition, Disability Federation of Ireland and the National Federation of Voluntary Service Providers, which work with and represent people with intellectual disabilities and their service providers. They have done an incredible job in terms of both managing Covid and managing or limiting the spread of infection through their facilities. I had an opportunity to pay tribute to them and their staff, who have really stepped up to the plate. They told me about a new way of working with the HSE. It is unprecedented that they are working in such close partnership and there is a big eagerness on their part not to go backwards and to keep that relationship going. I also got that very strongly from Dr. Cathal Morgan of the HSE.
On the issue of disability and education, I share the Deputy's view that many children and others are out of school settings and other educational settings for a significant period, and perhaps they have not had access to health services or educational services. As the Taoiseach indicated, the Minister, Deputy McHugh, and I are doing some work on supports we might be able to put in place over the summer for that group. I will come back to Deputy Browne very shortly, once the Minister, Deputy McHugh, and I have bottomed that out.
With regard to the issue of isolation, I was very impressed by the use of technology by these organisations in terms of ensuring that even if the person could not go directly into a house, they were still having their Zoom classes or the like, which is something we need to keep up. However, we also need to look at how we can restore the in-reach visits in a safe manner.
When I referenced the non-Covid care plan that the HSE is due to publish within two weeks, I am very clear that it is not just a non-Covid care plan for the hospitals but that it also has to be a non-Covid care plan for communities. Dr. Colm Henry and Anne O'Connor, the chief operations officer of the HSE, are leading on that and I expect some of the answers to the Deputy's questions on how we safely resume those services to feature in it.
With regard to A Vision for Change, it is ready go to Government and it is my view that the new Government should own and embrace that policy. I am open to a discussion across parties in that regard, maybe at a level above my pay grade.
On the issue of the task force, I am looking for clarity in regard to whether the Oireachtas wishes to establish it or whether the Deputy wishes to see a task force established within my Department.