Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Covid-19 (Health): Statements


4:00 pm

Photo of Louise O'ReillyLouise O'Reilly (Dublin Fingal, Sinn Fein)

I want to ask the Minister about smear testing, not specifically about screening but about women who are symptomatic and who have come forward. I have been contacted by a number of them in the past week. They did as the Minister has previously advised. They were symptomatic, they were concerned and they went to their GPs. Their GPs are telling them now that the labs are not accepting the smear tests. I fully appreciate this was not the Minister's intention when he gave the advice but they are being told that the labs are not accepting the smears. In some instances, the GPs are taking the test and saying they will hang onto it until such stage as they can send it forward, while others are telling women they appreciate they are symptomatic but there is nothing they can do because the labs are not accepting the smears. I ask the Minister please to investigate this because as we have discussed before, some 21,000 screening tests are going to be missed. There has to be a catch-up programme but in the intervening time there has to be help for these women.

We have 41 days left on the private hospital deal. Where do things stand at the moment? It is an extraordinary deal. I do not necessarily think it is going to represent great value for money in the outturn but I fully understand why the capacity was needed.

Will the Minister indicate how many surgeries or procedures have been carried out in private hospitals, broken down by specialty? I have asked for this previously. It is important that we see this information.

I received figures on the average occupancy of these private hospitals. According to the information I have, the Bon Secours Hospital in Limerick was occupied for an average of 1% since the deal was signed. I put it to the Minister that there are people on trolleys in University Hospital Limerick. That cannot be allowed to continue when there is spare capacity just down the road. Will the Minister outline the information he has on that matter?

I welcome confirmation that advice will be forthcoming with regard to air and sea ports. That guidance and advice will be very welcome. NPHET has recommended, however, that passenger locator forms are filled out. I am not sure how diligently this is being attended to. My information from people working in the airport is that it is a little hit and miss. We are aware that people do not have to fill out these forms. Has the Minister been apprised of how many people are filling out these forms? Is he aware if the follow-up phone calls, as mentioned by NPHET, are taking place? How many such phone calls have been made? Is the information communicated to his office or to the HSE?

Will the Minister consider working with managers in local authorities to source and supply mobile homes for self isolation for preventative accommodation for members of the Traveller community? I ask this because we have just been made aware that there is a very high rate of infection, with one in every four Travellers tested being Covid-19 positive. These people urgently need accommodation to self-isolate if required. They want to do the right thing - and the Minister is aware that they have said this publicly - but they cannot do so without assistance. I ask that he work with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and with local authorities to ensure this assistance is provided.

Money is still owed to nurses in Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Limerick and the south east. This is money the Minister has agreed to pay to them. In addition, the expert group on pay for nurse managers, which is due to report at the end of the month, has not even held its first meeting. It is all very well to stand here at 8 p.m to give them a round of applause, which is very much appreciated, but those nurses went on strike and won the money that is now withheld from them. It is not fair and it is not tenable. We have already spoken about the upstairs-downstairs attitude that sometimes exists. Members of this House received a pay increase. I did not accept mine and I think many, most or all of my colleagues did not accept theirs. Our pay increase came as a matter of course. The nurses won this money. Will the Minister please ensure it is paid to them without delay?


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