The health minister has described as “regrettable” the row between a Cork hospital and a cystic fibrosis charity that has halted the development of a €2.3m ward for patients with respiratory illness.
James Reilly was replying to concerns raised by 11 members of the Oireachtas about the stand-off between Cork University Hospital and Build4Life which has led to the Munster-based charity’s refusal to hand over funds for the adult ward.
The row erupted after the hospital backtracked on plans to protect up to 10 beds on the ward for CF patients. Build4Life and its founder, Joe Browne, had agreed to fund the entire project on this basis.
In a written reply to the 11 TDs — some of whom called on him to intervene — Dr Reilly said he understood the HSE and Build4Life were “now in a process which I hope will bring about a resolution shortly”.
While he said he understood there would be 10 beds designated for patients with CF, he appeared to contradict himself when he said he had “been assured that patients with CF will have priority access”.
Build4Life has said it wants ring-fenced beds and not just “priority access”.
Dr Reilly said ring-fencing of CF beds had been an issue in other hospitals but it had been resolved “through written agreements and good operational procedures”.
Cystic Fibrosis Ireland made the same claim last week in the Irish Examiner, saying an agreement at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin had worked in favour of CF patients after “an initial glitch”.
However, Órla Tinsley, a CF rights campaigner, subsequently contradicted the claim. Despite the existence of a dedicated CF unit at St Vincent’s, Ms Tinsley said CF patients with life-threatening illnesses were “still being housed on the opposite side of campus to their actual unit and team”.
She said she hoped this “complicated mess will not happen to Cork”.
Subsequently, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland launched a Facebook survey calling on all CF patients admitted to St Vincent’s to outline details of their experience to determine if they “are happy with access to in-patient rooms”.
Talks to resolve the row at CUH are continuing.
Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher has asked the minister if he will give a commitment that his department will foot the bill for the unit if a resolution cannot be found.
He also asked for a breakdown of personnel to be assigned to the unit but the minister said that was a matter for the HSE.
Build4Life has repeatedly expressed concern that the hospital has failed to identify the number of staff needed even though a staff member sat on the project group for two years for this purpose.