Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald, a coroner in North Mayo, said of the inquests she attended last year, approximately 50% of the deaths were alcohol related.
“If these were diseases such as asthma or cancer there would be an outcry,” she said. Dr Fitzgerald, speaking at the AGM of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) in Killarney, Co Kerry, was discussing a motion calling for alcohol detoxification units.
The motion, proposed by the IMO GP Mayo branch, called for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to be obliged to provide adequate facilities nationwide foralcoholic detoxification.
It also called for rehabilitation units and counselling for recovering alcoholics who did not have the financial means to avail of private facilities.
Dr Declan Bedford called on the Government toreduce the legal limit for driving with alcohol to 20mg/100ml blood. Dr Bedford said it should not be reduced to 0mg, because mince pies, medication or mouth wash could give an alcohol reading. He said the economic cost of each life lost on the road was approximately €2 million.
Dr Bedford said there was a need for a public awareness campaign, to include night time visibility, toreduce pedestrian carnage on the roads. He said since the introduction of random breath-testing last year, 10 lives had been saved.
Dr Fenton Howell proposed a motion calling for legislation to facilitate the introduction of reducedignition cigarettes, “meaning cigarettes that go out if you don’t smoke them”. He said it would help reduce the number of deaths due to fires started by cigarettes.
Dr Christine O’Malley, the outgoing president of the IMO, was critical of the HSE and of Health Minister Mary Harney, who she accused of running the health service “the Ryanair way”.
“I can hear it now: If you want an operation, you can have it, if you want it next week, you pay extra. Your operation is cancelled because there are too many punters? Well, what do you expect from a low-cost operation. And don’t tell me about it, shout at the girl at the check-in desk.”
Dr O’Malley said it was time to forget the Michael O’Leary school of management, and look instead to the Roy Keane leadership who “understood Sunderland was a team that could achieve greatness”.
“Motivate people. Treat them properly. Give them the facilities they need. Yes, spend some money, but spend it very carefully,” she said.