Wednesday, 29 July 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I second Senator Higgins's proposed amendment to the Order of Business in respect of the Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Bill 2020. I would also like to join with Senator Fitzpatrick in her condolences to several people living in homelessness who lost their lives in the last week. Unfortunately in the last few months a lot more people have lost their lives. It is not making it into the news that many of those who took their own lives were moved out of treatment so that the beds in the treatment centres could be used as isolation spaces for Covid. There were no measures to put any other supports in place. Two men took their own lives the second they left that treatment centre. It takes a lot for someone to decide he or she is ready and wants to go into treatment. They make that decision, go into treatment and then the Government says "No, out" and nothing else is put in place. It is State negligence, in my view, that people who went to those efforts to get help were moved from their beds so the beds could be used for Covid-19 isolation spaces. I wanted to add that to the contribution Senator Fitzpatrick made.
I would also like to acknowledge that yesterday was World Hepatitis Day. We did not have an Order of Business debate yesterday or I would have mentioned it then. Hepatitis C is curable and can be eliminated. Many years ago when I worked in the addiction sector, people were made believe that they had to be alcohol-free to be able to go on interferon, the drug treating hepatitis C at the time. That was untrue. It was a cost-saving measure. They wanted to use only the smallest amount of the drug on the smallest number of people so they made sure only those who were alcohol-free could access the drug. Thankfully that has changed. The drug is free. It is accessible. The only problem is that there are a lot of people we have not been able to reach to test. We also need to change the culture for them to understand that they can now access treatment even if they are not alcohol-free or drug-free.Getting into the prison system, which we have not been able to do so far, is a big part of that puzzle. If the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality made efforts to get into the prison system, they would be able to test for and stop the spread of blood-borne viruses within it.
I wish to acknowledge World Hepatitis Day. I encourage Members to look into the advances we have made in that area and spread the word that people can be tested for and cured of hepatitis C.