Scores of transplant patients have been told they must go to overcrowded emergency departments for care following the closure of a specialised outpatient clinic in Beaumont Hospital.
The Irish Kidney Association says 80 patients who have had combined kidney and pancreas transplants are at high risk of infection in an emergency department and many feel abandoned by Beaumont.
The patients were attending a post-transplant clinic in the hospital until recently but the association says this has ceased following the retirement of David Hickey, the country's only pancreatic transplant surgeon.
Following criticism by Mr Hickey, the hospital said in April pancreas transplants would henceforth be carried out in St Vincent’s hospital. However, it remains unclear who will perform this work.
The patients were told by Beaumont that post-transplant care will be taken over by nephrologists in their local areas. Not all nephrologists are willing to take on this extra work but the association says it has received assurances Beaumont will step in where this occurs. It says the dispersal of these patients brings uncertainty and stress due to “vague” hospital communications. It said: “They are now required to do the one thing they were previously told never to do – ‘go to A&E if you feel unwell’.”
All transplant patients are immune-suppressed to avoid rejection of their donated organs and need to attend outpatient clinics every three months. They are at far higher risk of infection and cancers than the general population.
, whose partner Elaine has received a pancreas transplant and may need another in the future, said people on the waiting list were being left to die because of the lack of a surgeon. “There are people waiting for a phone call that could change their lives, but that call will never come due to the mismanagement of the HSE and Beaumont Hospital. Their dream is a pipe-dream because Ireland no longer has a pancreas transplant surgeon.”
A spokeswoman for the hospital said discussions about pancreas transplants with St Vincent’s were ongoing and a date for commencing the service would be agreed shortly.
The hospital originally said three transplants had taken place so far this year, since Mr Hickey retired.
Asked about this, it said this was a “clerical error” and none had been performed. The spokeswoman said Beaumont will continue to care for the transplant patients where appropriate.