Thursday 18 October 2018

Three of us a day are dying from drink

Liver specialist urges us to lobby politicians to pass alcohol bill

Professor Frank Murray, one of Ireland’s leading liver specialists spoke at Sligo event
Professor Frank Murray, one of Ireland’s leading liver specialists spoke at Sligo event

Sorcha Crowley

One of Ireland's leading liver specialists is urging the people of Sligo to lobby our local and national politicians to ensure the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is passed, despite strong pressure from the alcohol industry - because three of us a day are dying from alcohol.

Professor Frank Murray told The Sligo Champion that Ireland's crisis with alcohol "is costing 1,000 lives a year, three per day" and has increased dramatically in recent years.

"We're now drinking about two and a half times what we were drinking 50 years ago.

"The consequences of that have been a doubling or tripling of the death rates from cirrhosis in Ireland. There are about three deaths a day from alcohol - two from an illness/chronic disease and one of them from an episode of drinking, an incident or accident or suicide or violence," he said.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2017, will set a minimum unit price for alcohol, prevent shop owners from displaying alcoholic drinks and aims to impose stricter guidelines on ads for alcohol.

"It should be passed, oh my God yes," said the Beaumont Hospital gastroenterologist after giving a talk at Sligo Hospital's annual research conference.

Prof. Murray is also the chair of Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland.

If anyone is qualified to talk about the devastating social and medical impact of our culture of binge drinking, it's him.

"When I look at the wards where I work now, the consequences are catastrophic. We're seeing many patients in the hospital with liver failure from alcohol, many of whom are going to die.

"Just this week we had to get palliative care involved. There is nothing we can do for them, young men in their forties.

"We also have a patient on the ward who has a form of Korsakoff's psychosis a form of cognitive impairment or gross brain dysfunction as a result of alcohol. He is in his fifties and is going to need long term care, institutionalised.

"That's what we're seeing on the wards. It was interesting here, meeting one of the anaesthetists who said the ICU here is full of people with alcohol related problems. It's a pervasive problem, it's not a Dublin problem, it's affecting many people here in Sligo also," he said.

Prof. Murray is "very hopeful" the Bill will get passed. "I know that the Alcohol Industry has lobbied very, very heavily in relation to this. They're very heavily financed. The advocates such as myself, are largely speaking unfunded so it's a huge struggle for us to influence the important decision makers in relation to this.

"I do believe the Minster of Health and many senior figures in Government are behind this Bill," he said.

The conference which brought Professor Murray to Sligo was organised by the Research & Education Foundation (REF) at Sligo University Hospital, a registered charity for over 20 years.

The REF seeks to support education, personal development and innovation in research whilst providing seed funding for research, training, organising and supporting core skills programmes in the Sligo region.

Their annual Research conference is the highlight of their year and was supported by Kinsgbridge Hospital, Café Fleur and Red House Productions.

Sligo Champion