67% of refugees health screened
The number of asylum-seekers who opted for health screening last year was 67 per cent in the Dublin area and 76 per cent in the Southern region.
The period covered for the Dublin area was January 1st to November 30th, 2001, according to Department of Health and Children figures.
The service is offered to asylum-seekers on a voluntary basis, as part of the reception process during their stay at reception centres. None of the health boards plan to make health screenings mandatory.
A Department of Health spokesperson said efforts were continuing to improve the uptake.
Other health board spokespersons confirmed there were no plans to seek mandatory health screening. A spokesperson for one of the biggest health authorities in the country, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, said it had not made any moves to seek such measures and there were no plans to do so.
A spokesperson for the Mid-Western Health Board said it certainly had not approached the Department formally but it could become a significant issue.
The Department spokesman said communicable disease screening had been offered on a voluntary basis to asylum-seekers since May 2000, as part of the initial reception process during their stay at reception centres in Dublin.
Health boards in other parts of the country were requested to ensure that screening was offered to asylum-seekers in their area who had not availed of screening during their stay in Dublin.
The approach to communicable disease screening for asylum- seekers was reviewed on an ongoing basis by a group representative of the Directors of Public Health and the Department of Health and Children.
The guidelines issued in September 2001 recommended that screening be offered for tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, polio, and varicella zoster. The document was intended to provide advice on public health screening and did not preclude any additional screening, diagnostic tests or treatment considered necessary for clinical purposes.