Directive for the immediate suspension of all obesity surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital

[Speaking in the Seanad]

An Cathaoirleach: I have notice from Senator Crown regarding a motion he wishes to raise under Standing Order 30. I call Senator Crown to give notice of the motion before I give my ruling.

Senator John Crown: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I call for an urgent debate, on something which I believe is a national emergency. I am proposing the suspension of the House to allow for this matter to be debated:- the notification which St. Vincent’s Hospital received this week that one of only two centres in the country performing urgent weight loss surgery, the centre which has a waiting list of several years and which has many patients waiting for surgery, has with immediate effect to cancel all remaining operations in this area. This is a national emergency because it is a national centre.

An Cathaoirleach: I have given careful consideration to the matter raised by Senator Crown, which I do not consider to be contemplated by Standing Order 30. I regret, therefore, that I have had to rule it out of order.

Senator John Crown: I would like to propose the suspension of the sitting under Standing Order 159 which states:
(1) Any Standing Order or Orders of the Seanad may be suspended for the day’s sitting, and for a particular purpose, upon motion made after notice.
I believe this should now be considered as a Standing Order 159 matter.

An Cathaoirleach: I have not received notice from Senator Crown in relation to the suspension under that particular Standing Order.

Senator John Crown: It is the same motion that the Cathaoirleach received earlier.

An Cathaoirleach: I have received notice under Standing Order 30.

Senator John Crown: My understanding was that in the event of the adjudication on Standing Order 30 being made adversely, I could immediately ask for it to be heard under Standing Order 159.

An Cathaoirleach: I did not advise Senator Crown on that. If Senator Crown continues to raise it under that Standing Order, the Leader of the House must be present. I ask the Senator to give us some time to contact him..

Senator John Crown: I accede to that request.

******* **** ******

An Cathaoirleach: Before I call Senator Michael D’Arcy, I understand that Senator Crown is seeking the suspension of Standing Orders for today’s sitting.

Senator John Crown: I move: “That Standing Orders for today’s sitting be suspended.”
I apologise to the Minister again for the interruption. I welcome the Leader of the House, Senator Maurice Cummins, back to the Chamber. I would like to propose the suspension of Standing Orders under Standing Order 159 so that we can deal with an urgent matter that has arisen; namely, the issuing of a directive that will bring about the immediate suspension of all obesity surgery at the national centre. This directive has been issued without any explanation being given.

An Cathaoirleach: That satisfies Standing Order 159. Is the Leader opposing the motion?

Senator Maurice Cummins: I am opposing the motion.

Senator John Crown: I would like to ask for a vote on that.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator can make a statement first.

Senator John Crown: I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Leader. Everyone recognises that obesity is clearly the second leading cause, after smoking, of preventable premature death and ill health in this country. It is also a colossal drain on the Exchequer. This subject should be of interest to the Minister, Deputy Coveney. It has been shown that in extreme cases where conservative measures do not work, this life-saving surgery adds years to the lives of people who have dangerous levels of morbid obesity. The saved health costs associated with looking after people whose diabetes has been prevented or ameliorated – I refer to the avoidance of heart attacks, chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease and gangrenous legs, etc. – mean that this form of surgery repays all of the costs associated with it within three years.

In the history of bad and stupid decisions, this must be the worst and most stupid decision I have ever heard of. The national centre that does most of this surgery in the country was finally opened in October as part of the Minister’s much-trumpeted reorganisation of hospital services into groups. Within a few months of the opening of the centre at St. Vincent’s Hospital, having moved from St. Colmcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, a memorandum has been sent by e-mail this week from the administration of the hospital to the surgeon in charge, giving no excuse for the decision to suspend the service immediately other than to say that sufficient money is not available to retain it. Those costs will now be found mounting in kidney dialysis, heart attack and other units. This outrageous decision needs to be dealt with urgently.
An Cathaoirleach: Is there a seconder for the motion?

Senator Feargal Quinn: I am happy to second the motion.

An Cathaoirleach: Does the Leader have anything to add?

Senator Maurice Cummins: No. Given that the matter was covered in this morning’s newspapers, it could have been raised on the Order of Business. The Senator can attempt to raise it as an Adjournment motion tomorrow if he wishes. Therefore, I am not proposing to suspend Standing Orders.
Question put.

The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Senator John Crown: In view of the extreme gravity and life-threatening nature of this matter, under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means. Members need to look into their consciences and ignore the Whips on this.
Senator Thomas Byrne: Senators van Turnhout and Mac Conghail control the balance in this division as well.

Question put: The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 23.


Barrett, Sean D.
Bradford, Paul.
Byrne, Thomas.
Crown, John.
Cullinane, David.
Daly, Mark.
Healy Eames, Fidelma.
Heffernan, James.
MacSharry, Marc.
Mooney, Paschal.
O’Brien, Mary Ann.
O’Donovan, Denis.
O’Sullivan, Ned.
Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Power, Averil.
Quinn, Feargal.
Walsh, Jim.
White, Mary M.
Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl
Bacik, Ivana.
Brennan, Terry.
Burke, Colm.
Coghlan, Eamonn.
Coghlan, Paul.
Comiskey, Michael.
Cummins, Maurice.
D’Arcy, Jim.
D’Arcy, Michael.
Gilroy, John.
Henry, Imelda.
Keane, Cáit.
Kelly, John.
Mac Conghail, Fiach.
Moloney, Marie.
Moran, Mary.
Mullins, Michael.
Noone, Catherine.
O’Keeffe, Susan.
O’Neill, Pat.
Sheahan, Tom.
van Turnhout, Jillian.
Whelan, John.

Question declared lost.

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