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Dr Tony Holohan returns to steer us through second wave

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Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Dr Tony Holohan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who returns to the helm in the Department of Health on Monday, faces the task of steering the country out of the dangerous waters of a second wave of Covid-19.

Dr Holohan took leave in July to look after his wife Emer, who has terminal cancer, and their two children.

He revealed his wife suffers from the cancer multiple myeloma and at that point had entered palliative care.

At that stage, Ireland had emerged from the darkest days of lockdown.

There was almost a relative return to normal during the summer, but the country was still under the shadow of the virus, and many restrictions remained in place.

Dr Holohan won the trust and admiration of the nation during some of the worst months for infections and deaths.

There were times, however, that his decisions were challenged as being too cautious.

During his absence, his place was taken by his deputy, Dr Ronan Glynn, who stepped into the role and has been pivotal in delivering news about the second-phase of restrictions, including those in Dublin and Donegal.

Dr Holohan is expected to demand strict adherence from the public to anti-Covid rules but he will also have to battle the fatigue and frustration which has set in, not just in young people, after months of sacrifice. He is also returning to his job under a new Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly.

HSE chief Paul Reid yesterday welcomed news of his return and said "it's good to see him back".

Serious

Meanwhile, at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster raised serious concerns about the "overcharging" of residents in private nursing homes under the Nursing Home Support Scheme - the Fair Deal.

She was questioning Mr Reid of the HSE, Colm O'Reardon, acting secretary general at the Department of Health, and others examining the special report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) into the operation of the Nursing Home Support Scheme.

She raised the matter of residents in private nursing homes having to pay for items that they are entitled to free of charge under their medical cards.

She also addressed the practice of applying increases to residents' bills as a result of a change in their medical needs, despite this being prohibited by the legislation for scheme-supported residents.

She said: "The facts of this appear clear to me - by law, private nursing homes should not be charging patients for items such as incontinence pads, wound dressings, sore creams and medications that residents are entitled to free of charge under their medical cards.

"If they were living in the community these items would be free of charge under their medical card.

"However the C&AG's investigation showed that five out of six of the sample contracts examined include reference to a change in fees if residents' level of dependency changes."