- 08 Sep 18
Minister Catherine Byrne must update the public, the addiction specialist says writing for Hot Press.
Legislation was passed for Ireland’s first medically supervised injecting centre (MSIC) in May 2017. It took six months for the HSE to put the operation of the proposed facility out to tender and it was announced in February of this year that Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) had won that tender.
It is September 2018, some sixteen months since the legislation was passed, and there is complete silence from the Department of Health. There has been virtually no press coverage about the facility or how advanced the building is progressing. We have no details on staffing, funding or even where in MQI the facility will actually operate. The cynic in me says that the inordinate delays represent a half-baked political will to make MSIC happen. When the Government wanted head shops closed they didn't waste any time or when they plugged the loophole in the law a few years ago, which made speed legal for 24 hours. All done with minimal delay.
We know from the mountains of evidence in other jurisdictions such as Vancouver and Sydney that MSIC reduce fatal overdose risk, save lives and reduce the transmission of blood borne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C. They also significantly reduce the discarding of potentially dangerous drug using paraphernalia in streets, lanes and alleyways. The overwhelming response from local businesses and residents, initially sceptical when these centres opened, has been positive and that MSIC have improved the aesthetics of the city by taking injecting drug use off the streets and into properly equipped medical facilities with trained staff on hand to help drug users inject as safely as possible and with some dignity and respect.
We know MSIC works and the Government by passing legislation and awarding a tender clearly agree. Then why is it taking so long for MQI to get this centre up and running? If, as has been suggested in some media quarters, there is a problem with planning permission at Merchant’s Quay why did the HSE and Department of Health not flag this issue during the tendering process? Why has the Minister not updated the Public on the progress (or lack of) to date and given reasons for the delays?
MSIC is an essential service and arguably should have been set up in tandem with needle exchange when services were established in the early 90s. Whilst there have been many prominent objectors such as Independent Dublin City councillor Mannix Flynn who once said that injecting centres “will deal in death”. Strangely I agree with him. Injecting centres most definitely deal in death. Preventing it.
The public need an urgent statement from the Minister’s office detailing the stage of progress of MSIC, the reasons for the delays and, most importantly, an announcement of when the centre will open.
DR. GARRETT McGOVERN