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Column What exactly does a senator do in a day?

Professor John Crown, independent senator, answers the question with a timeline of a typical day in the life for him.

THE REFERENDUM ON the future of Seanad Éireann is to be held on this day next week.

While opposing sides argue both for and against abolition of the upper house of parliament, we asked independent senator and oncologist John Crown to describe a day in his life to bring some clarity to the question: What does a senator do?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

08:30 Had a lie-in this morning, late night last night. We were debating the Seanad abolition referendum in NUI Galway last night. The right side, the Reform side, won.

Then had to drive back to Dublin, on a foggy night, got home at 2am.

08:40 Shower, coffee, and then to St Vincent’s. Heavy week this week, one of my colleagues is out sick, so I’ve to cover more patients, then this weekend I’m off to the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference in Amsterdam.

08:45 The Seanad Referendum campaign is looking pretty lacklustre, going to try and inject a bit of life into it over the next few days. Phone the long-suffering Justyna Kloda, our Operations Manager at the Clinical Cancer Research Trust, ask her to change the flights to give me more time here in Ireland. Also ask her to organise the pulling together of slides for my lecture on Friday.

08:50 Public Ward rounds begin, met with junior doctors and nurses. Saw ten patients in the new in-patient ward. The oncology public ward has thankfully been upgraded.

These days each of the public patients have their own private room. Several patients are on exciting new drugs like Ipilimumab. Others are in for infections that they have developed from chemotherapy treatments, these days though, we are able to treat most cancer patients as out-patients.

Delighted to send one young lady home. She came in a month ago, very ill, but has made a great turn around. It is great for the trainee junior to see too. Oncology is a speciality where the news is so often bad, and every success is such a struggle, that you have to cherish the cases where there is a dramatic improvement in the patient’s quality of life. It is great for the morale of the other patients, and the staff on the wards.

No private clinic today, but the days that I do have them, I hold them at night.

11:00 Research teleconference on the status of a couple of trials which are being run in various centres across the country.

11:20 Get into the House in time for the end of the Order of Business in the Seanad, it is a short one today, no procedural votes.

Noon Meeting to try and pull together some of the independent voices in the Oireachtas, and some of the rebel forces, to see if we can get a more concerted effort at work during the last few days of the Seanad Referendum campaign.

12:40 List of names drawn up, on to the phones to see if we can get them onside.

14:00 Minister Howlin is putting the “Protected Disclosures Bill 2013” before the Seanad.

Delighted to see it, I was involved in a situation, many years ago, where I suffered for blowing the whistle on others. This protection in law has been missing for far too long.

14:30 Return to St Vincent’s to see three newly diagnosed public patients who need to start treatment.

15:45 Leinster House again, back to chasing parliamentarians down, getting a good response across the board.

17:00 Back to Vincent’s, quick ward round in the private hospital to see eight patients there.

18:15 Arrive late to a Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland lecture being given by the brilliant Professor Richard Kennedy from Queens University Belfast on the use of predictive biomarkers in breast, colorectal and ovarian cancer.

Give the doctors, and scientists there an update on how our efforts with the National Cancer Research Centre of Ireland is going.

Get Dr Norma O’Donovan’s slides from Justyna for Fridays lecture in Holland, they are lifesavers, both of them, I don’t know how I’d cope without their help.

19:00 Meet up with my assistant from the Seanad, Shane Conneely, and then out to Blanchardstown for a meeting on smoking cecessation with local GPs.

On the phones on the way out there, manage to nail down commitments from a couple more people on the way.

19:40 Bump into Joe Higgins, try to lure him back to the path of the righteous on the Seanad, but the TD is not for turning.

19:45 Meeting with the local docs on the tactics used by tobacco companies to subvert the political and legislative processes in their campaign to keep killing their customers.

There can be no industry which is as cynical, nor as close to the very epitome of evil, as the tobacco industry, an industry whose business model can be summed up in five words: “Addict children to carcinogens”.

21:20 Arrive home, with a couple of delicious pizzas from Base, in Ballsbridge. My first meal of the day. Have a brief run over the government’s pseudo-arguments with Shane.

USA has had a miracle victory over the New Zealanders in the Americas Cup, there’s a joke in this.

21:45 Off to RTE for the Late Debate, and to eat my second meal of the day, Minister Varadkar.  The pugnacious Leo might be a bit of a brawler, but at least he is willing to have a debate, unlike others from his party.

22:50 Drop Shane off, and meet up with a buddy for a wind down and a beer, but it is no good, hours later still pumped full of energy and adrenaline. Good day, good fun.

Read other columns by Professor John Crown>

10 things I learned in my first term in the Dáil>

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