Seanad debates

Friday, 20 March 2020

An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

11:00 am

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 15, line 7, to delete "14 days" and substitute "72 hours".

I will be honest with the Minister, this is an amendment which I would press in other circumstances.It pains me very much not to do it. I and many others need assurance from the Minister on this issue. Both of these amendments relate to the periods of time for which people are to be detained under the legislation. It is a real concern that at the moment, under the Bill, if people are detained under the powers of the Bill based on an appearance that they may be - it is quite wide - potentially a source in respect of Covid-19, they are guaranteed to see medical examination within 14 days. Effectively we are looking at two weeks in which somebody can be detained without a test, without a medical exam, without any contact from a medical person, simply on the basis of the powers of this legislation. I absolutely agree detention can be appropriate where there is a medical risk but this is effectively detention without evidence for a two-week period. I understand the pressures on the health system. That is why I suggest 72 hours, knowing the pressures we may be under. The Minister has already described this as an extraordinary and, he hopes, little-used power of detention. I want to know that he guarantees he is going to be putting regulations in place to ensure that those who are detained under this legislation are seen promptly in terms of testing and in terms of medical intervention. It is really crucial. I have been contacted by some of the older persons advocacy organisations. They are concerned that the powers may simply be used effectively to move large blocs of people to other places where we want. Older people in particular are very concerned about that. These powers are there for a reason and should be used for those reasons only. They have to be evidence based, as the Minister has said, so let us make sure that detention is evidence based.

On the same issue, the term "practicable" is quite wide in terms of people seeking a review. A three-day period is very reasonable for people seeking a review of an order made in respect of them, people who may wish to have a medical person assess whether they are actually a risk. We will come to amendment No. 23. On those advocacy groups, as I have said before, it is really important that there is advocacy for people facing detention, particularly all those with mental health concerns whom we spoke about previously. I hope I get to speak to that amendment but I want to just note that point.

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