“Our campaign for the new facility was not about the discomfort of being in hospital, it was about the danger associated with being there,” said Darragh, a cystic fibrosis sufferer.
People with CF, he said, suffer a lot of chest infections and every infection permanently damages the lungs so they really need to be in an isolation unit when they are sick.
Darragh, 28, from Dalkey, Co Dublin, who is doing a postgraduate course in statistics in University College Dublin, has been a patient of St Vincent’s Hospital for almost 10 years and was devastated when he learned that the building of the new unit was postponed.
“I have the disease all my life. I completely accept that. But what I don’t accept is that when I fall ill and need to be admitted to hospital that I am treated in conditions that speed up the deterioration of my lungs and shorten my life further,” he said.
The HSE confirmed this week that funding for the new facility, which would have about 30 single rooms for CF patients, would not be available until 2011, at the earliest.
Darragh said CF patients’ lives were under threat every time they went into hospital.
And while the eight single rooms provided at the hospital last August were welcome, it was still a gamble as to who got the rooms because at any one time there were between 25 and 35 patients with CF receiving treatment.
“The way it works is the person with CF who is most unwell will get the single room, which is obviously the fairest way to do it,” he explained.
Darragh spent five months from August to January in the hospital and considered himself lucky enough to get one of those new single rooms.
“But I had to wait up to two months in a six-bedded room before I was transferred into a single room. I was then transferred back to a communal room throughout my stay if someone was admitted who was sicker than I was.” Darragh said, “We know there is not enough money to go round. People with CF are rational thinkers but we do believe we should be prioritised by the Government, as we spend our entire lives going into hospital. To put up with this shambles of a health system is really frustrating.”