Minister ‘confident’ of breakthrough in row over CF beds

Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch has said she is hopeful of a breakthrough in the protracted dispute between a Cork hospital and a cystic fibrosis charity that has stalled the development of a €2.3m ward for patients with respiratory illness.

“We have started discussions and had a meeting last week,” said Ms Lynch, reflecting on the stand-off between Cork University Hospital and Build4Life. It has led to the charity’s refusal to hand over funds for the adult ward.

“The meeting was cordial and very constructive. We are meeting again on Friday of this week and I am confident that we can conclude discussions then.”

Ms Lynch said she would not be making any proposals to help solve the dispute but would be acting as facilitator to any resolution.

While reluctant to forecast an immediate resolution of the dispute, she expressed confidence an agreement can be reached between CUH and Build4Life.

“I am a great believer that most things can be solved and I believe this can be, too. There is a history there, of course, between the two sides, but there comes a time when you have to move on. We will be looking at what was perceived to be the agreement by all parties and go from there.”

Her expression of confidence of an early agreement was echoed by Health Minister James Reilly who responded to concerns expressed by Oireachtas members by saying he understood the HSE and Build4Life were “now in a process which I hope will bring about a resolution shortly”.

Complimenting the charity’s fundraising achievements, he said his understanding was the new unit would have 20 beds, 10 of which would be designated as ‘priority access’ for patients with CF. However, Build4Life has said it wants ringfenced beds and not just ‘priority access’.

Build4Life raised €3.5m for CF services at Cork University Hospital, with €2.3m to fund a 20-bed ward for respiratory patients. This was on the understanding that eight of those beds would be reserved for patients with cystic fibrosis.

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.

Mr Browne has the support of Orla Tinsley, one of the country’s leading campaigners for improved cystic fibrosis service nationwide.

Ms Tinsley, who has CF, and who began campaigning almost a decade ago, said the ‘priority access’ that the hospital is offering to CF patients was “not security”.

Tweeting about the row, Ms Tinsley said Joe Browne “shouldn’t compromise until the 10 beds are designated ringfenced”.

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