Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Photo of Réada CroninRéada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein)
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338. To ask the Minister for Health if budgetary provision is being made for the medical need of persons with long-Covid; the way in which his Department is planning for same; if his Department is liaising with other Departments on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23995/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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COVID-19 is a new disease so information on it, its features, incidence and its course are still emerging. The natural history, clinical course and consequences of COVID19 are still not completely understood. It is recognised that most patients with COVID-19 return to baseline after acute infection with SARS-CoV-2, but a proportion report ongoing health issues.

The number of people that are affected with longer term sequelae after acute COVID-19 remains unknown, but published reports indicate that approximately 10– 20% of COVID-19 patients experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Patients with persistent symptoms following COVID-19 infection may be followed up by their GP or in hospital settings as clinically appropriate. Those who are concerned about Long COVID, should engage with their GP in the first instance for advice and referral, if needed.

The HSE has developed an interim Model of Care for Long COVID which aims to build on existing service provision, in addition to establishing new services across a number of health care settings including GP, community services and acute hospitals. There will be a phased implementation with a focus on establishing, Post-Acute and Long COVID clinics nationally as initial priority. This will involve expanding the resources at existing clinics where required and development of new clinics in line with the Model of Care.

The HSE has advised that funding of €2.2 million has been allocated within the HSE for Long COVID service development in 2022. Access to these services will be in line with the current approach across health and social care services.

In line with current policy, those without the means to access services, including Long COVID services, may be eligible to apply for a medical card to assist with access. Under the Health Act 1970 (as amended), eligibility for a medical card is based primarily on means. The Act obliges the HSE to assess whether a person is unable, without undue hardship, to arrange general practitioner services for himself or herself and his or her family, having regard to his or her overall financial position and reasonable expenditure.

The issue of granting medical cards based on having a particular disease or illness was previously examined in 2014 by the HSE Expert Panel on Medical Need and Medical Card Eligibility. The Group concluded that it was not feasible, desirable, nor ethically justifiable to list medical conditions in priority order for medical card eligibility. In following the Expert Group’s advice, a person’s means remains the main qualifier for a medical card.

However, every effort is made by the HSE, within the framework of the legislation, to support applicants in applying for a medical card and, in particular, to take full account of the difficult circumstances in the case of applicants who may be in excess of the income guidelines. The HSE may exercise discretion and grant a medical card, even though an applicant exceeds the income threshold where they face difficult financial circumstances, such as extra costs arising from, the social and medical impacts of an illness.

The Disability Allowance and Illness Benefit Schemes do not fall under the remit of the Department of Health, however information on the scheme and how to apply can be found at www.gov.ie/en/service/df6811-disability-allowance/ and www.gov.ie/en/service/ddf6e3-illness-benefit/

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent)
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339. To ask the Minister for Health if he will continue and increase funding for services urgently needed to support people with long-Covid who are extremely ill with severe symptoms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23998/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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COVID-19 is a new disease so information on it, its features, incidence and its course are still emerging. The natural history, clinical course and consequences of COVID19 are still not completely understood. It is recognised that most patients with COVID-19 return to baseline after acute infection with SARS-CoV-2, but a proportion report ongoing health issues.

The number of people that are affected with longer term sequelae after acute COVID-19 remains unknown, but published reports indicate that approximately 10– 20% of COVID-19 patients experience lingering symptoms for weeks to months following acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Patients with persistent symptoms following COVID-19 infection may be followed up by their GP or in hospital settings as clinically appropriate. Those who are concerned about Long COVID, should engage with their GP in the first instance for advice and referral, if needed.

The HSE has developed an interim Model of Care for Long COVID which aims to build on existing service provision, in addition to establishing new services across a number of health care settings including GP, community services and acute hospitals. There will be a phased implementation with a focus on establishing, Post-Acute and Long COVID clinics nationally as initial priority. This will involve expanding the resources at existing clinics where required and development of new clinics in line with the Model of Care.

The HSE has advised that funding of €2.2 million has been allocated within the HSE for Long COVID service development in 2022.

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