Work begins on Susie Long unit in Kilkenny hospital

 

Some 5½ years after plans were presented to Kilkenny woman Susie Long for a new diagnostic unit to prevent the sort of delays that eventually cost her her life, work is finally under way on a new project which will bring that concept to fruition.

The sod was turned yesterday in Kilkenny on a €13 million development at St Luke’s General Hospital which will include a day procedure unit named in memory of Susie Long. It features colonoscopy and endoscopy units aimed at providing early diagnoses of certain cancers.

The consequences of long waiting times for these tests were highlighted by Ms Long, whose bowel cancer diagnosis was delayed while she waited seven months for a colonoscopy.

She died in October 2007 at the age of 42, but not before highlighting a two-tier health system that saw her having to wait months for a vital test because she was a public patient while a patient she knew with private health insurance was scheduled for the diagnostic test within three days.

Her husband, Conor Mac-Liam, and her daughter, Áine, were at yesterday’s sod-turning ceremony, officially performed by Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan.

Mr MacLiam recalled the day in May of 2007 when original plans for a colonoscopy/endoscopy unit were presented to his late wife in St Luke’s following the public outcry about her case after she spoke on RTÉ’s Liveline.

He never thought it would take more than five years for construction work to actually start. “Absolutely not. She was presented with the plans at the time, which were then completely revised. It’s a larger unit now ... When Susie was here there were six trolleys in an ad hoc area and no toilet facilities, which for people having bowel problems was really bad.”

Work on the €13 million development is expected to be complete in 18 months and includes the construction of a new emergency department, acute assessment unit, hospital entrance and library/education unit. Hospital general manager Anne Slattery said it was a “long-awaited day” for St Luke’s and its catchment population “but worth waiting for”.