Friday, 20 March 2020
An Bille Sláinte (Caomhnú agus Cosaint agus Bearta Éigeandála eile ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail), 2020: An Dara Céim - Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020: Second Stage
As we all know, this is extraordinary legislation but it is to support people whose lives are gravely impacted by Covid-19. It is almost like a dream. Every day we all wake up and say, "Oh, I remember that." It still goes on as if one is half-asleep during the day. Who could ever have dreamt this?
I would like to cover many areas, which, as other Senators have said, will be addressed in the amendments. Some women have voiced concern to me over abortion consultations. Can abortion medications be taken at home? I have received questions about essential travel. I know it is all still up in the air but we need to consider it all. Senator Ruane is absolutely correct in what she said about capacity in the health services. I am also thinking about those with enduring mental health issues and those with intellectual disabilities. Those services almost certainly will be diluted to service public physical health. However, we need to ensure we still have those community outreach teams and do not leave them bereft and on a very dodgy thread.
From a professional perspective, I have diagnosed the world as having anticipatory anxiety. Those suffering enduring mental ill health or other issues will feel it so much more. We need to look after the well-being of us all, but in particular those who are more vulnerable, including children with autism who now have to stay at home. That routine is all disrupted now, with parents trying to calm them down in new routines that are very difficult to stick to.
Only one medic is required to order involuntary detention in contrast to the Mental Health Act which requires two medics. We need to be cognisant of that.We need to be cognisant of every single thing we agree today because it must be and will be overturned once this crisis goes away.
The Minister, Deputy Coveney, talked a lot about young people. Yesterday I was outside a local pharmacy and the customers were all 2 m apart. Older people were going in to get medications. They worry that the medications will disappear from the pharmacy stock. Pharmacists are under an awful lot of pressure. There were about 15 boys aged 14 to 15 years of age standing there joking and laughing. I thought at first I would love to give them a clatter across the ear. Then they started playing tag with the older people and running away shouting "Covid-19". They kept going. I burst out crying because it was only older people there. I told the boys in a nice way to leave people alone and have a bit of respect, but they were not for listening. We must reach out to the parents. We become a little hip ourselves: we use TikTok and Instagram. We do national adverts. Young people are vectors; they are in most cases not victims. We need to address that. It is almost like someone has written a revenge horror movie: the youth's revenge on the elderly. It was very scary there yesterday for quite a while. Gardaí did come along and disperse the boys, but this will keep going if we do not raise the social conscience among everybody that it is completely and utterly unacceptable to congregate in streets and terrorise people.
I am not friends with the banks. I would love us to take this opportunity to get rid of the vulture funds, to burn them in the way we did not burn the bondholders, which we should have done. Let us burn the vulture funds. Look at the accommodation now coming up on daft.ie. Properties on Airbnb are not being rented. Those who listed them are now looking for tenants to rent them. The recent regulations on Airbnb need to be enforced. They have not worked. We need something more stringent that gives people homes because homelessness will continue through and after this pandemic if we go back to those ways of allowing these vultures to gobble up much-needed homes and property from our people.
I have a lot more to say but we will go through it bit by bit in our amendment. An all-Ireland approach is more necessary now than ever. This concerns not just healthcare staff but also porters and people such as the maintenance guys in Dublin City Council who, after I pleaded with them, went out yesterday to an older person's home to fix a collapsed ceiling. They are absolute heroes without capes. I have tabled one amendment dealing with the health service staff who are answering the call. It seeks to support swiftly their posting. I am still awaiting approval of my registration, which I applied for on 9 March. That seems like a long time ago. Then I will have to go back to the hospital and they will tell me where I need to go. I also have to get cleared by the Garda. That will take a minimum of six weeks. I know extra resources have gone into the Garda vetting bureau, but the process still takes too long. We need to get people out into their posts to be able to give what they can to this country.