The Government has lost a vote in the Seanad on a Fianna Fáil motion calling for the immediate filling of the only pancreas transplant surgeon post in the country.

Fianna Fáil was joined by all opposition and independent Senators today to defeat Fine Gael and Labour 24 votes to 23.  The house was suspended while the Government scrambled to find a Minister to address the motion.

Fianna Fáil Seanad Leader Darragh O’Brien said, “We have been trying to get answers from the Health Minister for some time now on behalf of patients whose lives are at risk as Ireland remains without any surgeon qualified to carry out pancreas transplants.

“In a gesture reflecting the fact that this issue should cross the political divide, Fianna Fáil drew up a motion last week that we left open for all members of the house to sign.  It received the backing of opposition and independent Senators but was opposed by Fine Gael and Labour Senators.  The Government failed to have the numbers in the Seanad today and the motion was passed.

“I cannot understand how Fine Gael and Labour can justify opposing this motion. It calls for the immediate filling of this essential post which has been vacant since last year following the retirement of eminent surgeon David Hickey.  The vacancy resulted in the shutting down of Ireland’s pancreas transplant programme, leaving 8 seriously ill patients with no access to appropriate medical care and no hope of accessing life-saving surgery in Ireland.

“While the Government finally caved to pressure and announced that the programme will resume, moving from Beaumont Hospital to St Vincent’s, the reality is that there is still no surgeon to carry out transplants.   What we need now is for the Health Minister to come before the Seanad this evening and provide the answers that these patients have been crying out for.”