Cystic Fibrosis row: No work yet on ward that should be finished

The stand-off between a cystic fibrosis charity and a Cork hospital over the ringfencing of beds means work is yet to begin on building a ward which should be complete by now.

Build4Life raised €2.3m to fund a 20-bed adult respiratory ward at Cork University Hospital, but the charity refused to hand the money over when management said it would not be ringfencing any beds for CF patients.

Instead it suggested the “development of a clinical operational policy on the usage of these beds” that would “allow skilled staff to be available continuously to treat CF patients”.

Earlier this week national charity Cystic Fibrosis Ireland (CFI) waded into the row, arguing it could be resolved through a written agreement and “good operational procedures”.

However, Build4Life founder Joe Browne said within weeks of a new dedicated CF unit opening at St Vincent’s Hospital, where such a written agreement was in place, CF patients had been denied access because of the demand for beds caused by a outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.

At a subsequent meeting of the Oireachtas health committee, St Vincent’s Hospital Group chief executive Nicholas Jermyn admitted that while the hospital “did sign an agreement with everybody that we would flex the beds up [for CF patients]... We have run into difficulties from which we will learn.”

Mr Browne said what had happened at St Vincent’s had convinced Build4Life that ringfencing beds was the only way forward.

Yesterday, CUH said it was “in the process of convening meetings with all parties involved in the inpatient unit” and hoped that “a timely resolution” could be found. Mr Browne said he had not been contacted in relation to a meeting. Neither was he invited to a meeting held between CFI and CUH management last week.

CUH chief Tony McNamara said it was not in the best interests of patients or resources to ringfence beds which may not be occupied at maximum capacity on a continual basis.

“We have to ensure a maximum bed occupancy with equivalent staffing levels and not have empty beds with surplus staff. The clinical operational policy will allow priority access to CF patients to the beds in the inpatient unit.”

Dr Barry Plant, a respiratory consultant and lead for CF at CUH, said the hospital’s clinical operational policy would ensure that CF patients “can get immediate access to these beds when necessary”. However, Mr Browne said CF patients could not be placed in a room immediately after another patient because the rooms had to be physically cleaned down and a device used to kill all bugs, which he said took several hours.

Willy Bresnan, a Tipperary man with CF who had a double lung transplant in 2011, said ringfenced beds were essential.

“I started going to CUH when I was 17 and the services were very bad.

“I always got my own room but it could be anywhere in the hospital so often the nurses knew very little about my condition.

“It’s bad enough spending weeks on end in hospital so at least if you were in a ward where the staff know about CF and in a single en suite room, there’s less stress and you can relax a bit.”

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