Back to the Future day

14-09-23 John Screen Grab

I bring to the attention of Members that yesterday was Back to the Future day. It was the day depicted in the famous 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox, following the intervention of Christopher Lloyd and a DeLorean encapsulated time machine. If Marty McFly had been Dr. Marty McFly and had been transported from the Irish health service in 1985 to the health service in 2015, he would have said not to call it “Back to the Future” but rather “Just Staying the Same”. Some 30 years later, figures have recently emerged that show we have an 11,000% increase in the number of people on waiting lists for inpatient or day-care treatment for more than 18 months and some 13,000 individuals have been waiting more than 18 months for an outpatient appointment. I was in the accident and emergency department in St. Vincent’s University Hospital on several occasions recently. It was jam packed with trolleys throughout all the corridors. We have had an increasing focus in the past few days on the emigration of medical personnel. I emigrated in 1985, the year of Marty McFly. Thankfully, I came back. Two thirds of my classmates in medical school emigrated and most of them did not come back. Figures released in the past few days show that, in addition to being the largest exporter of doctors in the world, Ireland is also the largest importer of doctors. At the same time, we have the highest number of medical schools per head of population. If anybody here can make sense of it, will he or she, please, explain it to me? What I can say is we need to have either a debate in this House or perhaps a public consultation forum on the issue of medical manpower and the structure of medical careers. The only way we can get to grips with this 30 or 50-year festering problem is to recognise that we churn out large numbers of Irish doctors who then expect to find an adequate number of training positions as junior doctors, but, in many cases, as they are not available, they leave. On the other hand, we have a health bureaucracy that wants them to stay here, not because it wants to train them but because it wants them to continue as cheap labour as opposed to appointing them to appropriate career level positions. There is an urgent need for us to tackle these issues.

I wish to parenthetically drop in one quick side message. Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the death of the only doctor to die in the Northern Ireland conflict – Professor Gordon Hamilton Fairley. His family will be holding a private service tomorrow. They have been great champions of the peace process since their husband and father was murdered on a street in London in an IRA bombing in which Caroline Kennedy was very nearly killed. He was a founder of cancer immune and would have been very happy to have seen it advance.

I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that No. 51, Seanad Reform Bill, be taken before No. 2. There is clearly a large number of Bills on the Order Paper that will never see the light of day during the current Oireachtas. It is ludicrous that Members go to the effort of writing Bills to try to improve the Statute Book knowing that not only will they not be passed but that they will also never be debated and either accepted or rejected by the system. I ask the Acting Leader that, instead of having endless motions and statements, we make this the first Oireachtas in the history of our republic to clear the Order Paper. I am sure those of us who have Bills pending will be anxious to them either accepted or rejected. It is my intention between now and then to make sure they are given the light of day. Two of them are mine and at least one is in the name of Senator Feargal Quinn. There are other Bills which have been tabled by the Opposition or Government sides. I am making the proposal that we amend the Order of Business to take the Seanad Reform Bill today, particularly on Back to the Future Day when we think that it was in 1979 when a referendum was held to amend the Constitution to reform the Seanad. Reform has never taken place and the Taoiseach said last week that it would not happen before the next general election.

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