I wish to emphasise my very strong belief that we need to address the Covid-19 pandemic issues to the greatest possible extent on an all-Ireland basis. Having a memorandum of understanding between the health Departments North and South is welcome, essential and needs to be built upon.
Perhaps we need more measures to be implemented at sectoral level through the North South Ministerial Council to give out a clear message on the value and importance of the all-island approach across different areas of our daily lives. The gradual re-opening of the economy, North and South, which we will all welcome, will entail more movement of persons, goods and services, with attendant risks. In Border areas such as Cavan-Monaghan, my constituency, the people need to be assured of the similarity of approaches and implementation of strong measures, North and South, to deal with this pandemic for the benefit of all on this island. That message could help to emphasise the continued need for a prudent and diligent approach.
I raised previously the need for a compatible app system for tracing purposes, North and South, between the HSE and the NHS. For some weeks, unfortunately, Cavan has recorded the highest incidence of Covid per head of population and Monaghan the third highest; this has been a trend since the third week of April and continues at present. There is a considerable difference in incidence rates between my constituency and the two counties with the lowest rates, Waterford and Wexford. An investigation, which I have called for through parliamentary questions and in other debates, should be carried out by public health officials to determine the reasons for the virus rates occurring in the Cavan-Monaghan area. If particular deficiencies are identified in healthcare provision in this area, I would appeal to the Minister to ensure that the necessary resources are provided to the public and private healthcare providers to address such deficiencies.
I appreciate the good reasons for the cancellation of routine hospital work at the onset of this pandemic. With more speed now, we need to see both public and private hospital capacity being put to much greater use, as referred to by my colleagues, Deputies Donnelly and Butler. I spoke to clinicians who are very concerned that they have been unable to attend to patients who need assessments or treatment. They believe very strongly that a balance can be found between increasing hospital capacity very substantially and retaining a necessary complement of beds for Covid patients. Again, I welcome the Minister’s reference to the cancer screening services, but we need a timeframe for all of those services to be restored.
I ask that the Minister would answer the questions of the last two speakers before I come to mine.
I might write to Deputy Butler with more detail on screening so as not to use up her colleagues’ time. I know how important this issue is and how many times she has raised it. The national screening service is holding daily meetings on this. I am very satisfied with the work being done by Dr. Caroline Mason Mohan, who is the interim director of CervicalCheck and a public health doctor as well. She is leading the working group and I think it is appropriate that this is led by clinicians. I believe, however, that they need to link in with the advocacy groups and inform them as well. I am hopeful we will have more news on that very shortly.
In response to Deputy Smith—–
The Minister can communicate with me in writing.
I will do that. I agree with the Deputy in regard to the importance of cross-Border measures and I can send details on what we are doing. I will also write to the Deputy in regard to the statistics on Cavan and Monaghan.