Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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686. To ask the Minister for Health the number of persons tested for Covid-19 in each residential centre for persons with a disability in CHO9; the number of persons that tested positive for Covid-19 in each of these settings; and the new measures in place to reduce infection and protect staff and residents. [5802/20]

Photo of Finian McGrathFinian McGrath (Dublin Bay North, Independent)
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The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities. 

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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687. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic issues will be addressed on an all-island basis to the best possible extent; the level of cooperation in place at present between the authorities here and in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5803/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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A Memorandum of Understanding was formally agreed by the Chief Medical Officers of the Department of Health and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland on Tuesday 7 April to strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MOU focuses on facilitating greater co-operation on areas such as: public health messaging, research, programmes of behavioural change, ethics, evidence base/ modelling, and public health and non-pharmaceutical measures. Other areas will be considered, such as procurement, where this is of mutual benefit.

 Minister for Health Robin Swann MLA and I  agreed the document along with our respective Chief Medical Officers, Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Michael McBride.

There has been significant engagement between us, our Chief Medical Officers, and our Departments throughout this pandemic. The MOU ensures timely and responsive communications and decisions in a fast-moving environment, and that both administrations will seek to adopt similar approaches, where it is appropriate to do so on the advice of respective Chief Medical Officers.

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
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688. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to ensure that suspected cases of Covid-19 in nursing homes are given priority and that tests and treatment be made a priority for these vulnerable persons; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that patients in nursing homes tested two weeks ago have not received their results to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5804/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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A significant programme of testing across Long Term Residential Care Facilities, including nursing homes, commenced on 17 April following a NPHET recommendation. This programme is part of a range of measures and supports that have been put in place for this sector. The programme of testing for nursing homes involved the testing of all staff and residents in facilities where there was an outbreak and the testing of all staff in facilities that had no cases.

In addition, current guidance requires the testing of all staff and residents when a new case emerges in a facility that has not yet had a case. Analysis from the current mass testing programme will help inform and guide future testing strategy for long term residential care facilities. I understand that this will be considered by NPHET in the coming week. It is important to note that testing should always be informed by a public health risk assessment and directed by Public Health.

Up to 13 May, the HSE advise that over 90,900 tests have been completed under the residential care facilities mass testing programme which includes nursing homes. It also advises that testing under this programme has now been completed in nursing homes (577 sites). Turnaround times have improved significantly but there remain examples of delays which is unsatisfactory. I am confident that the HSE is putting in place the measures to reduce turnaround times and we’re seeing continuing improvement. It continues to streamline the process and to automate where possible so as to reach its target to have an average turnaround time of 1-3 days from referral to result.

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