A ministerial sod-turning ceremony yesterday heralded fresh hope for an improvement in the quality of life of Katie Drennan, 21, and her brother, Jordan, 20.
Both siblings from Ennis, Co Clare, have cystic fibrosis and are continually in and out of hospital. Katie had to halt her business studies at UL due to her condition and is awaiting a double lung transplant.
Their torment is exacerbated by the fear of picking up potentially life-threatening hospital infections due to the lack of adequate isolation beds.
When completed early in 2014, a new facility being built on the Mid-Western Regional Hospital campus in Limerick will incorporate a nine-bed in-patient CF suite, a five-room outpatient suite and a dedicated gym for CF patients.
After Finance Minister Michael Noonan shovelled a new tree into place on the site of a new €13m six-storey health facility yesterday, Katie said: “This could change my whole life. Today is a tremendous day for CF. It means we can be closer to home when we have to go into hospital. The new unit, when it is completed, will facilitate a lot more CFs.”
The new unit will also provide enhanced facilities for treating patients with breast cancer, skin disease, strokes and Parkinson’s.
Katie and Jordan travel a number of times a year for care at St Vincent’s in Dublin when they get ill.
Katie said: “You are not always guaranteed getting into an isolation unit when you go to Dublin. There is a big risk factor. When this new unit here in Limerick is completed it will give great peace of mind from the cross-infection point of view. CFs are very open to cross-infection and the new isolation unit being built here will mean we won’t have to worry about this . . . I have deferred from UL last August when halfway through my business course I became too unwell to return to college and I am currently waiting to be assessed for a double lung transplant.”
The new six-storey unit will also provide advanced facilities for patients being treated for breast cancer, skin disease and strokes.
Most of the funding has been donated by the JP McManus Foundation.
Dermatologist Bart Ramsey, who for the past 11 years has been the sole skin specialist for the entire Mid-West, said: “This new unit will make a massive difference for patients. Until now, the service has been very fragmented and this will bring it all together on one site. It will allow patients get more rapid access to treatment. I was on my own for the past 11 years but, since January, I have been joined by two other dermatologists. The waiting list will diminish greatly.”
Meanwhile, another €35m block in the hospital grounds will open later this year providing additional intensive care beds, high-dependency care beds, a new coronary care facility and 19 isolation rooms.
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