Beaumont epilepsy unit opens but Cork sister site lies idle

Health Minister James Reilly with Prof Norman Delanty and Hannah Alam at Beaumont Hospital. Picture: Colin Keegan

A groundbreaking epilepsy monitoring unit that could save hundreds of lives over the coming years has opened in Beaumont Hospital — but a sister site for Cork is still lying idle.

Health Minister James Reilly yesterday opened the €700,000 state-of-the-art unit in Dublin, promising that it will make a life-changing difference to those affected by the brain condition.

The facility works by monitoring the exact point in the brain where epileptic fits occur, depending on the patient involved, which leads to far more effective, individually tailored treatments.

The specialist four-bed unit also means patients, who are kept under close monitoring for five to eight days in hospital, will no longer need to travel abroad — and year-long waiting lists for up to 200 people nationwide will be significantly reduced.

However, while the opening of the Beaumont service has been widely welcomed by doctors and the estimated 37,000 living with epilepsy in Ireland, those involved have raised ongoing concerns about major delays to a sister site at Cork University Hospital.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the second €500,000 unit facility has lain idle for over a year due to ongoing staffing issues and questions over where money set aside for the site has been spent.

Epilepsy Ireland chief executive Mike McGlynn has said the issue is “a matter of life and death”, and has criticised CUH management for diverting money set aside for the unit to other parts of the hospital.

It is understood the Department of Health was told by senior management yesterday that the second unit will finally be open to patients by the end of March.

Medics remain sceptical. Beaumont-based specialist consultant neurologist Norman Delanty said: “It will be irresponsible if there are continued delays [to the CUH unit]. We’ve talked about the increased mortality and morbidity associated with epilepsy and I think it would be very hard for the system and CUH to stand over any further delays.”

Approximately 100 people are currently on waiting lists of over a year for the CUH service, with others regularly travelling to Beaumont for treatment.


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