Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016: Second Stage
The health of our nation will be well supported by the issue of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015. I hope that Bill will return and will be passed. As a nation, we have a relationship with alcohol that needs to be changed and addressed. There is the issue of the price of alcohol and we all support minimum unit pricing. At least I hope Sinn Féin will support it since they had a minority report in the report from the Joint Committee on Health and Children two years ago. There is the issue of how we make alcohol available, price it and promote it. We also have an issue with availability. The abolition of the groceries order by Deputy Micheál Martin was a huge mistake because alcohol is now to be found in shops, petrol stations and forecourts. I visited the United States before Christmas and in certain states, one could walk into supermarkets with no alcohol in them, which is good. Obviously we are not going to go back to that but I am just making the point.
The other point we need to consider, which is arising frequently in my office is the issue of the fair deal scheme and how we can make it accessible. If we can tweak it any more, it would be important to do that. As a former Chairman of the Committee on Health and Children, I had the huge pleasure - I use that word deliberately - of dealing with the Irish Medicines Board, now the Health Products Regulatory Authority. The people who worked there and who appeared before our committee were of the highest calibre.
I listened to Senator Higgins's remarks on the whole issue of regulation. We need regulation and to have a robust, strict regulatory regime regarding medicines and medical devices. That is my worry in the context of the new regime in America and the new President. If one listens back to his remarks with leaders of business, he spoke about the cost of medicine the other day at a press briefing. We cannot allow a situation to happen where regulation is diminished in the areas of medicines, products and devices. The Minister of State is doing a wonderful job and is really setting a high standard for other Ministers in terms of health promotion. I will make one final appeal on the issue of vaccination and vaccines.As a nation, we need to be proactive, whether it is on the flu jab, the HPV vaccine or whatever. There is a job of work for the Minister of State in association with others in the health promotion areas of the HSE and the Oireachtas. There is a great deal of misinformation out there and populism is rising. We have a job to do to counteract that and to address some of the concerns people have in a real and tangible way.