'Deeply unpleasant' | 

New booze rules could make Irish A&E crisis worse, Dr Ciara Kelly warns

“You become desensitised to the level of violence, and you become desensitised to the level of drugs and drink that presents to those departments”

File photo© Getty Images

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Allowing clubs to stay open until 6am, while pubs serve alcohol to 12.30am seven days a week could come back and “bite us in the ass”, Dr Ciara Kelly has said.

Speaking about the proposed changes to the licencing laws, the Newstalk Breakfast host who previously worked as a doctor, said it could have a disastrous effect on the health service, particularly emergency departments.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee is currently examining the Sale of Alcohol Bill that. could see clubs staying open until 6am, while pubs would also see their closing times extended to 12.30am.

It has been argued that the changes wouldn’t only be a big boost to Ireland’s night time economy, but would also see fewer people on the streets at the same time.

But Ciara said Ireland's relationship with alcohol is different to other countries.

"I worked in (St) James's Emergency [Department] in Dublin and it is a job like no other," she said.

"You become desensitised to the level of violence, and you become desensitised to the level of drugs and drink that presents to those departments.

"I'm not sure this is a brilliant idea, to be honest.

"I'm not sure that our civil rights are disabused by not being able to drink until 4am in the morning - I'm not sure any of us suffer unduly because of that.

"I'm not sure that this isn't putting the cart before the horse - as in, it would be great and I know other countries do it... but they seem to drink in a different manner to us.

"They seem to have more of a café society relationship with alcohol, whereas we're a bit more like the UK - we have drunken disorderly on the streets."

Ciara said this could all come back to haunt us.

"We should bear in mind that eight pc of our health budget, which runs [to] probably about €2 billion, is spent exclusively on alcohol," she said.

"Then it's almost €1 billion - there's the guts of €1 billion - spent in security and public order.

"So we're spending about €3 billion of the national coffers every year on trying to control our alcohol.

"We did extraordinary things to protect the health service during Covid; we closed down the country to protect the health service.

"I suspect by doing this we're probably throwing the health service under the bus.

"Certainly A&E, the staff in A&E, but also the other vulnerable patients who are there because they're sick rather than drunk in A&E.

"It is a deeply unpleasant place to be, and I worry.

"I wouldn't be protesting about this or railing against it - but I think be careful what you wish for.

"This could come back and bite us in the ass," she added.

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