Cystic fibrosis patients 'turned away'

Tue, Nov 27, 2012, 00:00

Five cystic fibrosis (CF) patients have been turned away from a dedicated unit to treat sufferers of the life-threatening disease, it has been claimed.

The Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland (CFAI) said just 27 beds at the specialist facility are occupied with CF patients, despite health chiefs committing to set aside 34.

Philip Watt, chief executive, said five patients have been sent home from the new wing at St Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH) in south Dublin and told to wait until someone is discharged.

“Over the past week there has been up to seven waiting for a room,” he said.

“This is completely unacceptable and is jeopardising the health of our patients.”

CF is an inherited disease that primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system.

Ireland has the highest proportion of patients in the world, with one in 19 people said to carry one copy of the altered gene that causes it.

The battle for the new unit started in 2000, with 100 isolation rooms finally opening in the new Nutley wing of the hospital in August.

Mr Watt said the management of the hospital signed a written agreement with the CFAI, Department of Health and Health Service Executive that up to 34 beds would be provided for people with the condition when needed. Most CF patients spent two to four weeks, or longer, in hospital at a time.

“At present there are 27 in-patient rooms occupied by CF patients and five on the waiting list,” he continued.

“This is causing anxiety to those waiting for admission. This situation is likely to worsen as the winter progresses and needs to be sorted now.”

CFAI claimed there is at least one general ward lying idle elsewhere in St Vincent’s, while there are also rooms free in the old private patient hospital.

“These rooms and ward space should be opened for non-CF patients to alleviate the pressure on the Nutley wing which is where our patients need be accommodated in single ensuite rooms for reasons of treatment and cross infection,” he added.

“When there are no in-patient rooms available, hospital staff have little choice but to refer patients to accident and emergency.

“This means long waits with no guarantee of a room and the potential exposure to infection from other patients also waiting in A&E.”

Campaigner and Independent TD Finian McGrath said he was dismayed and shocked that CF patients were being sent home.

“These patients need support yet there were no beds in the new €22 million cystic fibrosis unit,” he said.

A spokesman for St Vincent’s confirmed management will meet members of the association to review the allocation of CF beds at the hospital.

"In the meantime, the hospital will continue to prioritise CF patients for admission based on their clinical need and will ensure that critically ill patients are admitted in a timely manner," he said.

“There are 29 CF patients in the hospital at present and one non-urgent patient awaiting admission.

“Due to infection control reasons, admission of certain categories of CF patients has to be very carefully managed and the hospital will again address this issue with the CFAI as part of the review process.”

The hospital published the agreement between the parties which states a minimum of 20 inpatient beds will accommodate CF patients in the new wing, but that the figure can be flexed up to 34.

St Vincent’s said facilities throughout the hospital were being used to their full potential.


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