Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Ceisteanna - Questions

Cabinet Committees

5:00 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, together.

The Cabinet committee on health was established by Government decision on 6 July and it last met on 12 November. The committee is due to meet again next month. The Cabinet committee oversees implementation of programme for Government commitments in relation to health, receives detailed reports on identified policy areas and considers the implementation of health reforms, including Sláintecare. In addition to the meetings of the full Cabinet and of Cabinet committees, I meet Ministers on an individual basis to focus on different issues. I regularly meet the Minister for Health to discuss priorities in the area of health and in particular our management and response to Covid-19.

The Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with Covid-19 sets out our approach and priorities for managing and living with Covid-19 in a range of areas including, among other matters, prevention of infection and protection of vulnerable groups; health system response and resilience; and continued resumption of public service delivery, including non-Covid health and social care. It is important to recognise that many vital services have continued throughout the pandemic, ensuring that priority care needs were addressed and the most vulnerable protected even at the height of this crisis.

Winter 2020-21 will be a particularly challenging one for the health service. We recently allocated a record €600 million for the 2020 winter initiative to ensure we meet the demands in the health service in the coming weeks and months. A range of initiatives have been developed, and as these continue to be rolled out, we will see further service resumption and increased capacity across the community, including primary care; mental health; older persons; disability services, and the acute hospital system. This includes implementing new initiatives, new ways of working and ehealth solutions to keep people safe and out of the acute hospital system, for example, epharmacy, eprescribing and virtual clinics.

At the beginning of this month, a range of measures came into effect that will make day-to-day healthcare more affordable for more than 1 million people across the country. Under the new measures, the over 70s medical card income limits have increased to €550 per week for a single person and to €1,050 for a couple, benefiting up to 56,000 people. There has also been a 50 cent reduction in prescription charges for all medical card holders, which will benefit over 1.58 million people with medical card eligibility. The reduction in the drugs payment scheme threshold to €114 per month has the potential to benefit all 1.38 million people eligible under the scheme.

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