Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Health
787. To ask the Minister for Health if St. Michael's Ward in Beaumont Hospital is planning to resume providing inpatient detoxification and stabilisation services in 2020; and the stage of the Covid-19 restrictions at which the HSE plans to reopen inpatient detox and stabilisation services. [6712/20]
788. To ask the Minister for Health when appointments for public or private consultants can begin to be scheduled again, in particular for consultants who deal with cancer patients in view of the fact an early diagnosis is of utmost importance to ensure it is treated successfully; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6714/20]
The National Action Plan on Covid-19 identified the continued delivery of cancer care as a priority, through ensuring the delivery of national specialities and maintaining urgent activity (including cancer rapid access clinics). In line with this, cancer services have continued following consideration of the risk:benefit ratio of treatment for individual patients, the prioritisation of time-sensitive treatment and the review of the location of the delivery of cancer services.
Medical Oncology services are continuing, some in private facilities. The National Cancer Control Programme reports that attendance remains relatively high. Radiation oncology is continuing at approximately 80% capacity. There will continue to be challenges to capacity for some time due to the ongoing need to ensure physical distancing and the clean-down of machines between treatments. The focus in relation to cancer surgery has been on maintaining urgent time-sensitive surgeries. In many cases the location of surgery has been moved to a private hospital. Rapid Access Clinics for breast, lung and prostate cancer continue to operate and people are being encouraged to visit their GPs if they have any concerns in relation to cancer or other health issues.
In relation to the arrangement between the HSE and the Private Hospitals Association, consultants who work wholly in private hospitals have been offered temporary locum public patient only (Type A) contracts for the duration of the arrangement. The patients in the hospitals will be treated as public patients and will be prioritised based on clinical needs, as with any other public patient. The patients will remain under the care of their existing consultant, if the consultant is a whole-time private practice practitioner who accepts the HSE’s offer of a temporary contract, or if the consultant is already employed by the HSE.
If a patient’s consultant does not accept the HSE’s offer, the patient will have the option of being transferred to the care of another consultant as a public patient.
789. To ask the Minister for Health the reason outpatients attending for ongoing hospital treatments as they become available are being advised that under no circumstances should they attend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6730/20]
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer all non-urgent elective scheduled care activity, including outpatient clinics. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for COVID-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the World Health Organisation, and the National Action Plan published on 16 March. The NPHET has now recommended that steps be taken to resume non-urgent scheduled care in the context of the safe care guidelines set out by its Expert Advisory Group.
The HSE has advised my Department that hospital staff are in contact directly with patients who require urgent or time-dependent appointments and procedures and are progressing care and treatment in a safe and appropriate way. The HSE further advise that the delivery of cancer care, urgent surgery and trauma services are areas in which care continues to be delivered, often in alternative locations and using innovative methods of care delivery. Where possible, hospitals are working to provide services in a different way, which includes virtual clinics for some out-patient department appointments.
Information relating to hospital service disruptions, including information from specific hospital sites around continuation and disruptions to specific clinics is made available through the HSE website. This information is reviewed regularly to ensure the most up-to-date information is available for patients, family members, and visitors. The information is available here: