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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — HSE Waiting Lists

There are a few things the public expect from the Government. It is not too long a list and the demands are not too unreasonable, by and large. They include a roof over their heads and a reasonable hope their children may have the same, a job that is able to put food on the table and a functioning healthcare system. At different times and in different ways, the Government of this country has struggled to meet these modest criteria. I am not going to go into detail regarding the foundational issues plaguing our healthcare system. They are well known and have been put on the record of the House by me and others. However, it must be remarked that, last week, the Irish Dental Association annual conference tabled and passed a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, and the Department of Health officials who they feel have failed to enable the sector to operate at an acceptable level.

The conference showed that almost 40% of our patients have to wait an average of up to three months for an elective appointment, including orthodontics and oral surgery. This is the direct result of ongoing recruitment issues and a capacity crisis across the sector. More than half of the dentists surveyed said they have tried to hire a dentist for their practice in the past 12 months, with almost 60% of those unable to find a suitable candidate. As a result, patients find it increasingly difficult to access essential care across the private and public sector. I call for a debate with the Minister for Health on what targeted measures may be taken to alleviate the strain being put on dentists nationwide.

Speaking of healthcare, I urge everyone to read the recent letter from the bishops' conference regarding the Government's abortion review as it concisely and succinctly lays out the opposition of many to the process and its results. Some of the highlights are the fact we were given not a review of the Act but only a review of how it operates, which is regrettable in the extreme. It narrowed the scope of the review in a manner that has negatively impacted our ability to tailor the legislation. Over the three-year period covered by the review, 2019-21, almost 18,000 pregnancies were terminated in Ireland. During the same period, there were 175,000 children born in Ireland. For every ten children born alive, one was aborted. Some of us noticed that at a certain point the "rare" portion of the pro-abortion slogan "Safe, legal and rare" was dropped. Even its supporters knew this was never going to be the case. Finally, we now know that over a quarter of all women who presented at a medical consultation for abortion chose not to go ahead with it. That opportunity was afforded to them by way of the mandatory three-day wait period. Of course, we are now being told it should become completely advisory. The intentional weakening of the essential protection of women and the unborn child must be strongly opposed and I hope the merits of such protections will be given sufficient airing in the Chamber, the Lower House and Government Buildings.

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